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Archeological Illustration Club promotes observation, drawing skills

Student club founded in 2017 encourages illustrators to see objects differently

Every Thursday, the Archaeological Illustration Club meets at the Joukowsky Institute to meticulously draw ancient and contemporary objects.

Archeological illustration is the process of observing and drawing items in detail, a skill often used on archeological digs. “There’s something to be said for this quite old-fashioned method of paying close attention through object illustration,” said Sophie Moore, who founded the group in the fall of 2017 during her time as a Joukowsky Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in Archeology and the Ancient World.

Now a lecturer in Archaeological Theory at Cardiff University, Moore explained why she decided to start the club.  “It’s something that wasn’t being taught and something that wouldn’t fit within my class structures. … It’s a skill that we use as archeologists in the field all the time,” Moore said.  She described her vision for the group as a community building space for faculty and students to learn and practice together. After Moore left, Carl Walsh, a postdoctoral fellow in Archaeology and the Ancient World, partnered with Flannery McIntyre ’19 to continue the club. 

“It’s a low-pressure, extracurricular way of gaining a valuable skill,” McIntyre said. The club is open to anyone from any concentration or background, and the people who attend the meetings often have no experience in archeological illustration, Walsh added. “There are a lot of non-archeology concentrators who come (and) are interested in learning a scientific style of drawing, as opposed to a more creative way of drawing, because when you do archeological illustration there’s a number of conventions you have to follow,” McIntyre said. Walsh and McIntyre teach the basic concepts to new participants, and attendees undertake their own illustrations of a variety of objects from the vault at the Joukowsky.

Even with the availability of photography and 3D modeling, Walsh and Moore believe that archeological illustration remains an important and relevant skill. “When you spend time looking at something that has a lot of detail, it provides you with so much more information,” he continued, describing how looking at and drawing an object allows the illustrator to capture its history and wear. Moore agreed, noting how focusing on items changes the viewer’s perception. Walsh also explained that archaeologists use illustration to date objects found at archeological sites, so a lot of illustration, especially of ceramics, often occurs on these sites.

Moore also elaborated on the practical and conceptual value of archeological illustration. “To be able to know that you have that skill as a student going into the field for the first time is a real confidence builder,” Moore said. “We create value by spending time with everyday objects.” Although many of the articles drawn by members of the group are ancient artifacts, they also illustrate contemporary objects. In the club’s exhibition at the end of last year, titled “Learning to Look,” one of the illustrations on display was a crumpled tin can, drawn by Walsh. Moore drew her field glasses and Ella Rosenblatt '21 drew a digital camera.   

Both Walsh and McIntyre reflected on the relaxing and soothing nature of the group. “The intention is for it to be completely open,” said Walsh, extending an invitation for anyone to participate when the club meets on Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Rhode Island Hall.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Sophie Moore was a member of the University’s undergraduate class of 2018 and that Carl Walsh is a member of the University’s undergraduate class of 2019. In fact, they are both postdoctoral fellows and were not undergraduate students at the University. In addition, the article stated that Sophie Moore drew a digital camera. In fact, Ella Rosenblatt ’21 drew the digital camera. The Herald regrets the errors.


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