Art & Design blog

Insect study drawings, by Jessica Albarn

Artist / designer:   Jessica Albarn
Article author:   Ricky Thakrar
Published:   Sat, 8 Jun 2013

Like DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, Jessica Albarn’s insect study drawings juxtapose geometric order with the seemingly arbitrary forms of nature.

Great Yellow Bumblebee

Growing up with two artists as parents, and immersed in the culture of ballet and piano at a young age, it’s no wonder that much of her early creative work was focused towards children. ‘Brainbow’, an installation for young children that was “a bit like a multi-sensory flying saucer”, got through to the final of the Inventor of the Year award, and Jess spent time touring it around the country at places such as Brighton Festival and the Museum of Childhood in London. ‘Boy in the Oak’ was a dark fairytale that Jess wrote and illustrated, inspired by her children.

The influence of her father’s body of work on her own is obvious: “We both have a passion for geometry – he on a cerebral level, me on a more intuitive level.” Conversely, it is more through their love of nature that Jess’ work connects to her mother. “I spent a lot of time with my Mum as a child, as she taught me to ride horses and look after farm animals. Looking back, I think I was most happy when drawing or working with them.”

But it is insects, rather than farm animals, that are the subject of Jess’ current studies. It was on a holiday in Majorca that her love affair with insects began, when a friend’s son found a Death’s-head Hawkmoth. “I work with dead things that I find – especially insects – because they hold their form as they dry out, rather than rot away. I’ve amassed a large collection of dead bees to study and draw, but I also work by studying live bees too – usually taking photos of them with my macro lens. I look to draw out the beauty in what I see – the macabre and the alien – and drawing is my way of prolonging something and breathing some life back into it.”

Drawing in progress

Jess is exhibiting a print of the great yellow bumblebee at the Art Car Boot Fair in Brick Lane this weekend (9 June 2013). “The bee sits on a Flower of Life, which also features the sacred geometry of the Tree of Life. The print will also be part of an exhibition in Scotland for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, who kindly sent me a yellow bumblebee specimen once!”


Jess has done a lot of work supporting bees both for charity as well as her own personal study, and hopes that her work will connect people with the subject of bee and butterfly decline. “What’s happening with the bees and the decline in butterflies and other species of wildlife is something that is happening at an alarming rate. We have made some small progress with the bees recently with the ban on pesticides, but I have just come back from 10 days in Devon deep in the countryside, full of flowers, and I only saw two or three butterflies.”

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