Artist Taina Litwak makes insects look beautiful. Or at least better looking.
Litwak is a scientific illustrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Systematic Entomology Lab, where she paints type specimens of newly described insects. When USDA scientists come across a new species--collected in the field or at a port of entry, or found in preserved material--the tiny bug bodies make their way to Litwak's desk at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
"They never die beautifully," Litwak says. "Their wings might be bent, or a part might be missing. A lot of times I am making a specimen look much better than the dead guy they give me. "
But while the insects might look better, the goal is scientifically accurate illustrations. Litwak says she starts with a line drawing (made while looking through a microscope) to get the basic features in place. From there, and always in consultation with the collecting scientist, she uses photographs and scanning electron micrographs to add the tiniest details to the image, which is created using Photoshop.
Litwak paints a few dozen "new-to-science" specimens a year, in addition to the many line drawings of "tiny parts" she does for scientific manuscripts. You can see more of her work here