25 November 2020

#DrawnToGeoscience: Chemistry in Nature

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#DrawnToGeoscience is a series of posts by artists who draw about science and explain their process and inspiration while also showcasing their pieces. Learn more about contributing. This week, Brandi Bundy.

Bufothionine is found in the skin and bufotoxins secreted from the parotoid gland of Asiatic toads (Bufo bufo gargarizan cantor). Credit: Brandi Bundy

I have always loved art since I was little, you could find me alone drawing away somewhere or in class doodling. I wanted to be an artist at a young age but vividly recall my mother telling me “No, artists don’t make money.” From that point on I had no idea what I would do with myself, but it wasn’t being an artist. I still continued creating art but struggled in school, especially with math and science. My freshman year of high school I was set on the idea of dropping out and becoming a tattoo artist. I was failing all of my classes and saw no point in continuing with school.

Eventually, I moved to Washington where I barely finished high school. By senior year I was making up math and science classes from freshman year while attending the regular ones. I also had to go through this program called “Collection of Evidence” to prove I was competent enough to graduate even though I failed all the math state exams multiple times. My GPA was a 2.2 which meant I could at least enroll into a community college, so I did. Art has always been my escape from a dysfunctional home.

In 2015, I transferred from community college to Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) in Lewiston, Idaho. I started as a Biology major and after my second semester I switched to Chemistry. I realized quickly that to succeed in my studies I needed to forfeit many other things in life – one of these being art. Through 2015-2019, the only art I produced was for LCSC’s Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society. I produced the current logo for this chapter and a series of wildlife pieces for fundraising. When I took organic chemistry I thought the structures and crystals were beautiful, there were so many relationships in chemistry that I found artistically inspiring…so I tucked these ideas away. My last two years, I decided to double major and study Earth Science because my second love had always been rocks. I fell hard (a 10 on the Mohs scale) for thin sections when I took Earth Materials I. I saw a lot of microscope art focusing on biology things but not much for minerals, so this was another project idea I had in mind. My last work before graduating was creating a t-shirt illustration design that encapsulated our Division of Natural Science and Mathematics. After graduating, it was hard for me to fulfill my hunger to learn so I started this ‘Toxic Molecule’ Series.

As an undergraduate I had always been fascinated by alkaloids and toxins. Herpetology and entomology were my favorite biology courses, especially learning about the various chemical defense mechanisms. I found that connecting my love for art and chemistry was the best way to satisfy this curiosity. I would research a bunch of natural product molecules and their history to find where they were first isolated from and collect reference images of these species then start drawing on my iPad.

Brandi A. Bundy is a Quality Assurance Technician at Swire Coca-Cola USA. Find her on Twitter or Instagram.