2018 Best in Drawing/Illustration – Anna Ferguson

A Star’s Life

As a dual-majored Art and Design and Interdisciplinary Astrophysics student, I’m constantly seeking out ways to bring my two degrees together. My work, “A Star’s Life,” is one such example of such a merger. The narrative is comprised of seven individual panels on four total pages depicting the birth and death of a medium-sized star. I was inspired by images that one may see in astronomy textbooks that similarly break down a star’s lifespan into stages through clear, annotated illustrations. Though one of my lesser goals may have been education on the subject of stellar life, my main purpose in the creation of this series was to bring out the far more artistic side of astronomical objects

Each panel of the narrative represents a scientific, namable stage in the star’s billions of years. Panel one shows a massive molecular cloud where star formation could easily take place. Panel two focuses on a specific, small area of the cloud where our star is in its protostellar phase, swirling and gathering mass. Panel three shows that as the star is forming, many millions of individual rocky bodies are coalescing into a protoplanetary disk around it. Panel four depicts the star at a similar stage to our sun today. Panel five and six show the star expanding and growing redder in color as it runs low on hydrogen, its main source of fuel. Finally, panel seven is the star in its planetary nebula phase, when it has blown off all of its outer layers, only leaving a small, dense core—a white dwarf.

“A Star’s Life” was created entirely in Adobe Photoshop, painted using the default oil and chalk brushes that come with the program. The focus of the series wasn’t realism; instead, I wanted to use a more “painterly” approach and let the natural stroke and texture of the brush come through, but to add a touch of realism, I added blur affects around the focal points of the images to create a sense of depth. When viewers see this series, I want for them to find as much wonder in astronomical objects as I do in my studies of astrophysics.