Blind butterflies & Kaleidoscopic eyes

Blind butterflies & Kaleidoscopic eyes

or how to draw like an insect

– Dedicated to Maria Sibylla Merian. Naturalist and Scientific illustrator –

For this workshop, I joined forces with the team behind ITP’s  Drawing + Club leading one of their session (Wednesday 11th) with Blind Butterflies and Kaleidoscopic eyes. Their sessions usually go for two hours, so I took the opportunity and made my workshop a little longer than planned and try the two parts o the original workshop. Around 15 people participate, all of them ITP students. Some joined from the beginning, others after the break, some couldn’t stay for long or went to office hour and came back.


15 min | Participants taking their places

15 min |Getting familiar with the ink and brushes|. Think of one insect, any kind…now, think of the stroke of your brush as the traces your insect makes. How does your insect walk? Where does it live? What is its enemy? What it’s your insect defence mechanism?

10 min |Insect self-portrait| Your insect is actually you. How would you look like? 

10 min |Insect self-portrait name|  Give your portrait to someone else, once you have a drawing that is not yours, look at the features of this insect and name it! What is the name in Latin? What does it eat? 

1o min |Observe nature and blind butterflies| Now that you are more familiar with the brushes and strokes, draw any object (flowers, sticks, seeds) in front of you.  

10 min |Exquisit corpse insect| Think about a part of an insect, you have 30 seconds to draw it. Time is up! Pass your drawing to the person on your right until you have your original drawing with you. 10 seconds!.. 5 seconds!

10 min |Break|

 10 min |Kaleidoscopic eyes and Maria Sibylla Merian| Why is this workshop dedicated to her?…Draw any object (flowers, sticks, seeds) in front of you but looking through the Kaleidoscope.

15 min |Kaleidoscopic eyes insect|  Draw any insect from the screen as detailed as you can. Once you’re finished, use your Kaleidoscope to look at your insect. Draw what you see.

10 min |Rorschach technique for drawing insects|  Demonstration on how to create your own Rorschach insect.

5 min |Cleaning up|

Materials: Indian ink, washable paint, watercolour,  water cups, brushes, paper, sponges, kaleidoscope, kitchen paper, tree sticks, branches, flowers, leaves and seeds.


Blind butterflies session

|Getting familiar with the ink and brushes|Insect self-portrait|Insect self-portrait name| Observe nature and blind butterflies||Exquisit corpse insect|


|Once the participants arrived, I introduce myself and explained the idea behind the workshop, that even though it was inspired by scientific illustration we were not going to do technically skill drawings. How for the first part of the session, we were going to get familiar with the materials and then through some exercise, nature observation we would start our free drawings.

|Getting familiar with the ink and brushes|

While they were drawing I  ask them if they wanted music, they were all very into the idea and under Kathy’s suggestion, we went for Plantasia, followed by some [Herbie Hancock] jazz funk and [Miles David] jazz-rock. It set the mood nicely and participants enjoyed. 


|Insect self-portrait|Insect self-portrait name|

| Observe nature and blind butterflies|

The exquisite corpse for insects was one of the best moments of the workshop, any fears around skills vanished from the participants. Once they started changing other peoples images and see the outcome of their intervention. For this activity, I started giving them a little time (30 sec) and once the rhythm was there the time was 10 seconds and then to 5 secs. Some interesting new specimens came along the rapid-fire and I found myself less nervous and communicating better

|Exquisit corpse insect|


Kaleidoscopic eyes session

|Kaleidoscopic eyes and Maria Sibylla Merian|Kaleidoscopic eyes insect|Rorschach technique for drawing insects|

|Kaleidoscopic eyes and Maria Sibylla Merian|

|Kaleidoscopic eyes insect|


|Rorschach technique for drawing insects|

Final drawings


Participants thoughts and feedback 

“Nathier I just wanted to say that that was like the BEST DRAWING+ CLUB SESSION EVER!” – David.

 ” It was really nice how made us get out of any sort perfectionism with the time movements. That was my favourite part, having to move really quickly (…) not think too much or being too precious “- Camilla.

“It was a well-developed aesthetic I felt, the music and the way the room was set up with the flowers and the paper, and the environment felt very unique and plantlike, which suited the theme” – Sam

“In my case, I learned a lot about insects and their environment and how to look at them. I also found the dynamics of the workshop well designed.” -Nicolas

” I thought that the Kaleidoscopic aspect was brilliant (..) the title and the fact that you dedicated it to someone I felt was awesome” – Jesse

“It was nice that you started first with doing and then you took this moment to talk about your connection and the connection of art history, feminist history and so forth (..) It was very engaging… You created a really collaborative environment which I think is harder to do that people might think” -David

” I love insects and taking them out of the negative context was such a happy moment for me (…) I loved the fact that you were using real things, real trees, real flowers that people could see and try to get the texture out of it” – Shreiya

“There wasn’t much time to reflect on results, they were a lot of surprising stuff cuz you’ll get back that you work on and it was really exciting, but we were moving really quickly onto the next thing” – Andrew

“I liked the idea of the communal aspect of the workshop. We had to keep on passing our work (…) I think that it really spark a huge interest in me because it reflects on the idea of how community building is, and that resonated with me quite well” – Ridwan

“They were some interesting emerge designs happening through the collaboration and the rapid-fire exchange (…) If I could ask for something it would be for more instructions on how to use the paintbrush” – Sam

“I felt like maybe I could have used just a little bit [directions] but at the same time is also cool completely go off without directions” – Jesse

“Bending the paper to make an efficient way to draw an insect was a very nice thing and the kaleidoscope made me realize the fact that insects have geometrical patterns. It was a good surprise and a beautiful moment” – Nicolas

“The room was welcoming and inviting with the paper and all the tools, and this is unusual to see in general and I think it was great. I realized I was in a space well thought off and well considered. For the first moment, I felt this is a serious thing. I learned from that” – David

“It was fun to rediscover insects” – David















I really appreciate this kind of experimentations we do in class. I used a small microscope that is intended to phone cameras, it’s wasn’t the easiest to use or the one with high quality but it did the trick regarding it costs about $5 dollars.

It took a while but even with such small pieces of leaf, the microscope was able to show the cells. The closer the lens was to the object, the image was better although sometimes my phone was having issues focusing on the close-ups.

Getting microscopic images for my project would be valuable, especially with the bacterias that will appear on the biosensors. Can’t wait!

Final project proposal

Blind butterflies and Kaleidoscopic eyes

or, how to draw like an insect 



Some time ago there was a movement called “The age of reflection” which was an intellectual movement that incorporated romanticism to science and humanities. and advocated for the increase of scientific knowledge and the importance of sharing any new discovery with the world. Alexander Von Humbolt dreamed with a community where artist and scientist could grow from each other, and it happened. Humbolt’s expeditions inspired writers and artist alike, he is sometimes considered the father of ecology, as being the first to saw relationships between organisms and their environment, but before Humbolt, there was a German naturalist and scientific illustrator who saw this connection long before Humbolt himself. Maria Sybilla Merian is considered one of the founders of ecology. Insects were her leitmotif, she looked and depicted the natural world as no one did before, she went on expeditions to South America and financed her publication long before it was fashionable. This workshop is dedicated to her.

“Merian documented, many years before the naturalists of the time, the life cycles of butterflies, moths, and other insects. Her work is exquisite from an aesthetic perspective, but what interests me more is that as a woman in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, she was able to make scientific contributions that would have been impossible in virtually any other field, simply by virtue of using the specimens from her own garden. She eventually traveled to Surinam to study the brilliantly colored insects of the steamy jungle, but that was after her interests had been firmly set. Although she, like many other women scientists and naturalists, faced opposition for her unfeminine activities, the accessibility of her subjects meant that she could keep doing the work she loved.”

Marlene Zuk,

Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love, and Language from the Insect World







-This is a drawing workshop, inspired by insects. It requires no drawing skills-

Materials will be provided

10 People max

One hour


Blind butterflies and kaleidoscopic eyes, or how to draw like an insect is a drawing workshop, inspired by insects and dedicated to the work of naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. This workshop will explore the creative process of drawing through fast strokes, unexpected compositions and different techniques. Mistakes are embraced as part of the finals compositions of our own plates. A scientific illustration is one that communicates visually the structure and specific details of biological subjects, this workshop aims to develop skills of close observation and plastic exploration.

There will be two main parts to the workshop. One will be focused on drawing through insect eyes (not scientifically accurate), with exercises that challenge preconceived notions of drawing. The other will develop different techniques to illustrate insects, from exquisite corpse methods to create our very own specimens.

Living Canvas Update #3

<<<post under construction>>>




My materials got lost in the NYU mail, some Petri dishes and the laboratory agar which trigger a quest all through the Asian and natural markets to get at least edible agar powder. I wanted to have M(y)Crobes sensors on use as soon as possible. It took me almost a day and seven stores later to find just two boxes of agar, but I had my material nevertheless. Then… I melted my sensors trying to sterilize them.




Biosensors necklaces and in situ




Toys and centrifuges



Lately, I’ve been thinking about having a pet, I’ve been a little obsessed with it and after yesterday’s quick and dirty thesis show, Sebastian Morales thesis got my attention. It was a project where viewers were able to see living microorganisms through a website and bots generated by the number of visits had an impact on the living conditions (food) of this organisms. It got me thinking on my living canvas project, especially the part of times of data that could be recollected and its physical influence on the project and in water beards [Tardigrades], how cool would be to have water bears as pets, if the can survive in outer space they might survive clumsiness. The problems are that you’ll need a microscope to see these micro animals, but getting a foldscope might be an option if I really really wanna see a Tardigrade.

Manu Prakash inventions are brilliant that is for sure, I’ve been wanting to have a foldscope for so long but I particularly appreciated his blood centrifuge and, the economics behind it. It is easy to imagine the impact of such objects in places of the world where economics, infrastructure or geographic isolation can make the diagnosis of life-threatening diseases almost impossible, and to think is inspired in a very simple toy! Between Prakash low-cost medical inventions and Mine Kafon project, the difference that they could make in countries like Colombia. After the peace negotiations that ended a conflict of 5o years with our biggest and oldest guerilla organization, some territories were open to the government. Demining has been a non-stop endeavour, some places are still dangerous and difficult to reach as the population that lives nearby. I wasn’t expecting Mine Kafon to be open source, and thinking about it with ITP on my mind where we breath open source, most of this invention that have a huge social and medical impact should be.


Living Canvas Update #2


Thanks to Stefani who shared the files of M(y)crobes, a project made by The Cotard Syndicate which she is part of. I started 3D printing/laser cutting the biosensor, to track the individual biotic micro-system of some ITP members.



At the moment I’m waiting for some materials to arrive on the floor. Some Petri dishes to take samples of specific places from ITP, substrates and others. Also, I want to test the growing processes of different materials like bacteria, fungus [mycellium] and plants [microgreens] for this project. See how far I can affect the growth rate and path; see which materials work under the idea of an art installation, and the physical computing that I might need. I booked some office hours with Daniel Rozin this week to show him this project.


Living canvas update #1

How can we make the invisible visible? How can we make our approach to microbes and bacteria more amicable and meaningful? How to spark a healthy discussion? Art could help take away the “ick” around this organisms and change the way we relate to them.


Living canvas is a map that explores [ITP] cohabitation and the impact of a shared microbiota. Its main purpose is to visualize the invisible organisms and recognize patterns through data, sample collection and [bio] material.

M(y)crobes project for an individual track of ITP members biotic micro-systems


              What if each member was just one microbe?





“There is no love without shared microbiota”