Zoe Keller

Making the Drawing

  Photo of Santa Cruz Island from a research hike

Photo of Santa Cruz Island from a research hike

  One of over 3000 reference photos taken on SCI

One of over 3000 reference photos taken on SCI

Pre-Drawing Research
In preparation for Limuw | Santa Cruz Island, I spent  two months reading scientific texts and four days exploring and photographing the island itself. The narrative arcs in this piece were teased from journal articles and books, and many details of the final drawing - the texture of rocks along the shore, for example - were informed by photographs taken on Santa Cruz Island (SCI). My time spent on SCI is very precious to me; my pre-trip research provided an intellectual architecture for my experience that heightened my emotional reaction to this incredible place. There were exhilarating moments of recognition, when I stumbled upon a rare plant species that I had read about in a journal article, and moments of incredible beauty that no amount of reading could have prepared me for: the tiny adrenaline rush of a bat, illuminated by headlamp,  just inches from my face, or the joy of watching comical, clumsy pelicans diving for fish in the kelp forest. Moving forward with my artistic practice, I hope to continue to weave together the information from scientific texts with my personal experiences in wild places.

 Standing in front of the sketch for  Limuw | Santa Cruz Island  during Caldera's Open Studios Resident Artist talks. 

Standing in front of the sketch for Limuw | Santa Cruz Island during Caldera's Open Studios Resident Artist talks. 

Sketching the Drawing

The drawing was sketched during my month long Artist Residency at Caldera in Sisters, Oregon. This residency was made possible by the Ford Family Foundation’s Golden Spot Award
Each of the over 60 species in the drawing were lightly sketched on their own individual piece of tracing paper. I delicately cut out each of these sketches, so that I had over sixty small pieces of tracing paper shaped like flowers, foxes, birds and fish. Each piece was carefully labeled with the species' Latin and common name so I wouldn't forget what they were. I rolled a giant piece of tracing paper out onto the wall of my studio as my background. Then I taped all the species pieces up onto the tracing paper background and moved them about until they were roughly where I wanted them to appear in the final drawing, creating a giant species collage. I rolled a second giant piece of tracing paper across the wall, over top of all of the taped up pieces, so I could still see the collage underneath. Then I sketched out the drawing in its entirety, finessing the places where species overlapped, finalizing the poses of each of the plants and animals, and adding in background elements. I photographed this sketch and transferred it to my final drawing surface using a grid system. 

SCI Drawing Process.jpg

Completing the Drawing

The drawing took over 300 hours to complete in my Portland studio using Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils and Pentel Graphgear 500 mechanical pencils. 

Exhibition at Light Grey Art Lab

Limuw | Santa Cruz Island was included in my 2017 solo show "Studies and Stories" at Light Grey Art Lab in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition to Limuw | Santa Cruz Island, this show included Return, a similarly large drawing exploring the California Floristic Province, and eleven studies from my residency at the Wrangell Mountains Center in Alaska. 

The Digital Tour

Using Q42's ultra-res storytelling platform Micrio, I constructed a digital tour of the drawing that labels and discusses each of the over sixty species in the piece. The tour may be viewed here

The Book

An 18 page book was produced to accompany "Studies and Stories." The book includes a center fold-out page of the entire drawing, closeup detail of sections of the piece, labels for each species, and extended text covering the drawing's narrative themes. Purchased details here

Educational Partnerships   

I would love to have the opportunity to partner with non-profit groups to use this drawing for educational programing. If you would like to discuss opportunities further, please email me at zoekellerdraws [at] gmail.com