Danielle de Coster
Senior, Stamps School of Art & Design
Graphite drawing, digital design
Bithéagsúlacht, based on the Gaeilge word for biodiversity, is composed of graphite drawings of flora and fauna found in the Burren of western Ireland. Utilizing a net and pooter, small anthropoids such as Weeviles and Poplar Hawkmoths were temporarily taken from a small grass field next to the Burren College of Art for reference. The physical shapes of the animals were angled and morphed to mark letters of the Irish alphabet, with flowers as diacritics for the vowels to complete Bithéagsúlacht and the surrounding composition. The piece highlights species’ biodiversity, particularly easily overlooked creatures of smaller size and unassuming habitats.
In Western Ireland, along Galway Bay, the Burren is a dynamic and distinct landscape hosting diverse ecosystems and flora. The region has forests, bogs, karst cave systems, glacial deposits, tidal flats, beaches, and extensive limestone pavements. In addition, human activity is seemingly sparse but has influenced Burren’s landscape, visibly seen in stone fences and houses, water-catching systems and wells, and fields raising cattle, sheep, and horses. In tandem with the cracked pavements, Burren farming practices such as ‘winterage’- moving cattle seasonally up in elevation–create the physical space for smaller flora, like bee orchids, to grow as the cattle graze and manage the hazel in the winter. During my four-week study, Dr. Tamaru Hunt-Joshi and Professor Hugh Pocock primarily led us through the region. Professor Hunt-Joshi educated us on ecosystems, and Professor Pocock guided us on art and local knowledge.
With constant exploration and learning of the landscape, I was inspired from the micro to the macro with myriad environments and interconnected systems focusing on organic forms, patterns, and textures and Gaeilge as a nature-descriptive language. The piece, Bithéagsúlacht–translating to biodiversity in English, is an extenuation of this time, highlighting–rather than the genetic and ecosystem diversity in the area but the species variations in a small field near the studios at the Burren College of Art. Coming from a non-ecology background, the variety of the region was impressive, but just as remarkable, if not more so, was the abundance of anthropoids and creatures in the area of tall grass. My process involved utilizing a pooter, a white bin, and a net to temporarily take creatures out of the field to observe them and put them under a microscope to take photos, attempt identification, and sketch their forms. They ranged from a couple of millimeters to a couple of centimeters; they included the Fourteen Spotted Lady Bettle (R), Common Red Soldier Beetle (T), Poplar Hawkmoth (H), Green Shield Bug (O), Garden Tiger (L), Harvestmen (M), Weeviles (P), and more.
Inspired by older carbon dust scientific illustration rendering styles, I illustrated the local creatures with graphite. I morphed the physical shapes of the animals into a set of letters for an Irish alphabet, primarily using Latin and Celtic-inspired script. While some letterforms like “T” and “M” have more distinct components with antennae and legs, other letterforms like “e” utilize the division of the thorax and abdomen as a letter stroke. Included with the arthropods the Common Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris), Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris), Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), and Hop Clover (Medicago lupulina) are placed above the vowels to create diacritics (accents). Compared to English, Gaeilge has fewer consonants in the typeface and construction. The other letterforms created with the alphabet are bordering the “Bithéagsúlacht” at the center of the piece, reminiscent of collecting them in the white tray.
Bithéagsúlacht intends to highlight biodiversity by featuring various species, especially those often overlooked due to smaller habitats and size.