Artistic Investigations

By Pamela Joy Trow

The Crystal Clear Pond,
The Unseen World of Water Pollution
Coloring Book and Science Game 

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NEA/Pinellas Recovers Grant update

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I’ve always believed teachers should earn as much as those guys that throw around pigskin balls for a living. Teachers can change a child’s life. My kindergarten teacher changed mine when she recognized something in me and encouraged me to “be an artist when you grow up.”

I listened to her.

But in addition to art, I had a love and propensity for science, particularly the biological sciences. It amazed me how a microscopic organism could take down a 250 pound man. So when it came time to choose a discipline, I considered medical illustration, which utilizes biological illustration to visualize and record medical procedures and anatomical knowledge. In researching schools with a medical illustration program, 10 colleges offered the degree. Being a six-year program that included two years of pre-med, I thought I should learn more about the field before I made such a massive commitment.

With the help of a friend’s father (see my Grant Story 1), I connected with the director of the Leo Goodwin Institute for Cancer Research at Nova University in Davie FL. With his approval, I spent a summer volunteering to help research scientists with their visual communication needs. I hoped to get on an electron microscope to illustrate the unseen world.
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My time at the Institute created many memorable experiences. I particularly remember illustrating a scientist’s benzene synthesizer for a medical journal. The scientist epitomized the stereotypical “mad scientist.” His research was about finding fuel alternatives.

He poured a full beaker of liquid into the start of the benzene synthesizer, a contraption reminiscent of a Rube Goldberg invention. The liquid flowed through tubes and bubbling flasks to finally exit as a small golden teardrop.

The scientist held the test tube up with the tiny drop, “THIS is the answer to the world’s gas issues. . . and politically, it will never come to be. I studied at the Sorbonne for six years to get to this point. Sigh.”

I continued creating illustrations for journals and presentations, getting to know the scientists. But out of all my experiences, the most powerful was a conversation I had with a scientist. I remember asking, “What is the commonality between art and science?” His answer had a major impact on how I approach my art to this day.

His answer was, “Both art and science require investigation.”

Aha! Of course! So much of my work uses visual metaphors – and I don’t use them lightly. Researching emotional connections and deep meanings can take as much time as creating the work.
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The Crystal Clear Pond coloring book

We’ve long considered art and science to be contrasting institutions, existing side by side. But the truth is, there is a flow, a bridge, between both disciplines. Using scientific methods, investigators work to discover ways that make for a better life and world. We artists investigate with our hearts, visualizing and touching lives with those findings. Ultimately, that makes life worth living.

Our grant project, There’s A Crystal Clear Pond, The Unseen World Of Water Pollution is an example of this. My collaborator Jeremiah Tipton and I use science to show how different materials, once in the water, can impact our environment negatively. Then, my coloring book tells a story that can touch our community, inspiring positive change.

We can’t thank our funders enough for the gift they’ve given us. We hope we’re extending this gift to our community.
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Footnote: After my summer at the research institute, I chose to go into visual communications rather than medical illustration. The profession provided a greater scope of creative opportunity. Throughout my creative career, investigation, the bridge between art and science, has always been my method of visual problem-solving.

Free workshop materials

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Please attend one of our workshops where you will get a coloring book, answer card, sticker and a box of 12 coloring pencils for FREE!

Saturday, October 15 at 2 pm – East Lake Community Library, Palm Harbor

Wednesday, October 26 at 4 pm – Gulfport Public Library

Thursday, November 3 at 4 pm – Clearwater Public Library

Saturday, November 12 at 4 pm – Dunedin Public Library 

Saturday, December 3 at 1 pm – Tarpon Springs Public Library

Saturday, December 17 at 4 pm – Safety Harbor Public Library

The Crystal Clear Pond, The Unseen World of Water Pollution
Coloring Book and Science Game
Story + Art by Pamela Joy Trow, Content Director Jeremiah D. Tipton, Ph.D.

Produced with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts,
Creative Pinellas, and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.

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Pamela Joy Trow
is a recipient of the Pinellas Recovers Grant,
provided by Creative Pinellas through a grant from the
National Endowment of the Arts American Rescue Plan.

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