VISUAL ARTIST & MARINE BIOLOGIST

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Global Ecology Lab Graphic Collaboration


Imagine trying to illustrate something that spans half the entire corridor in the biology building from the size of your computer screen, collaborating with an illustrator you've never met before, doing 19 illustrations for a separate commission, all the while you're studying full-time for a PhD. It was tough, but we did it!

I was fortunate enough to be commissioned by Professor Corey Bradshaw not only for his book, but also for his new Global Ecology Laboratory at Flinders University! Corey Bradshaw is a Global Fellow in Ecology and creator of Conservation Bytes, and as part of the new Global Ecology Laboratory, I was commissioned to collaborate a digital mural design for the outside.

This was the first mural I've done, all digitally, and was an awesome collaboration between myself, illustrator Erin Abell, and the team at Animate Your Science (Animate Your Science). Over the course of several months, I illustrated an initial concept in Photoshop that Erin vectorised and stylised my artwork further into an awesome story-book scene. Initially, I was to be the only artist on board, but I am too new to Adobe Illustrator to trust myself with a task of vectors and architecture. I contacted my good friend, Dr Tullio Rossi (creator of AYS) asking if he would like to collaborate and share the work load, which would be beneficial to us all. He said yes, and got one of his illustrators, Erin, on board for the vector process with additional creative freedom. The theme of the lab was to encapture Global Diversity + Ecology, mostly from a terrestrial perspective. The landscape is primarily Australian, but the animals within are a mix of weird and wonderful species, including extinct ones, from the world over. Over 75 animals were individually drawn and coloured, but quite a few didn't make the cut to reduce clutter and time.

The lab was officially opened on the super lucky date (well, how I felt, anyway) of Friday 13th October 2017. There was a huge turnout of researchers and staff from the biology part of Flinders University to see the prestigious lab Corey was running. I got to give a spiel about the artwork, and while sadly Erin and the AYS team couldn't make it, I made it very well known that this was not a solo effort. Nervous at first (especially because I'm intimidated by nearly every scientist I meet) I gave a good speech, stating how we all look forward to seeing the research that comes from behind these colourful walls. I mingled with a lot of scientists and staff after that, many of which I had barely conversed with apart from polite "hellos" in the hallway. It was interesting chatting to scientists about their thoughts on art and science over a glass of sparkling wine, and it became apparent to me that the two disciplines are respected a lot by the scienctific community. How humbled I felt to be speaking to so many intelligent people! 

Later on, Erin and the AYS team came to see the lab graphic in all its glory on a quiet Sunday, where we took many pictures and celebrated with wine tastings and lunch in McLaren Vale. It was a huge undertaking for Erin and I and we're super proud of the outcome! I don't think this is the end of my collaboration with those guys, and now hopefully Buildings and Property might look my way for a marine-themed mural ;) All the other labs are certainly drab in comparison!

Thanks to Flinders University Buildings and Property and Option A for the fantastic print and installation, and of course to Corey for the incredible opportunity. Serious lab envy!

René Campbell