Where art and nature intertwines

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by Faith Rahman

If you’re Canadian, chances are you’re familiar with Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. They are some of the most renown landscape artists who have depicted Canada’s great outdoors through paintings that are still inspirations for people around the world today.

Megan Hiebert, a fourth year student in the School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability, found inspiration from them as well. Her canvas comes in the form of rocks, birch bark, bracket fungus, turkey feathers, and wood, with her paintbrush being a wood burning pen. The absence of a conventional canvas seemingly doesn’t pose any problems or form any barriers for an artist like herself. Rather, she embraces nature’s raw differences and interweaves its roots with her threads of creativity to create a tapestry of environmental art.

Hiebert especially admires the details and patterns found within nature’s beauty and pristinity and is fascinated by the way everything works together. “If you draw one bird and shift its face, everything changes,” she explained. “All the shadows, all the iridescence on the feathers.”

As a middle schooler, Hiebert recreated art by Robert Bateman, a Canadian naturalist as well as “one of Canada’s foremost artists” according to his website: The Robert Bateman Centre. From there, Hiebert discovered her talent and a passion for bridging the gap between the natural world and the artistic one.

“I love doing paintings of places that people relate to,” Hiebert said.

She expressed that it is both educational and inspirational. Hiebert noticed when she hung up her painting in her cottage, people would recognize the location depicted in her art and begin to connect and grow attached to the parallel location in reality, somewhat humorously wanting to preserve it to look like the painting.

Similarly, when she creates her pyrography, or wood burning, she finds that people are curious about the type wood and the process or story behind it. For example, she had painted a yellow-bellied sapsucker bird onto a piece of wood that had previously been drilled by one.

Now, not only is Hiebert’s artistic skill reserved for personal projects, but her art has been published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology to accompany an article that highlights the lack of bird banding use for migration monitoring and her drawing of a chimney swift bird was published in a report that showed the bird’s status. Her sketches of water invertebrates and a labelled tree cookie can also be found within the pages of UW’s ecology lab manuals.

As for aspiring nature artists, “find places that you love,” she said. “[People] hold onto that romantic image of something. It paints a picture of how something should look like and how they think it should [remain].”