SONSI Exhibit 2013

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SONSI (Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators) is holding their annual group show at the Richview Public Library Art Gallery in Toronto from February 2nd to 24th. I have three pieces in the show:

Blue Jay. Gouache, 2012

Blue Jay (Cyanocirra cristata). Gouache, 2012

Grave goods associated with infant burial 17456 at Çatalhöyük. Gouache and Adobe Illustrator, 2011

Grave goods associated with infant burial 17456 at Çatalhöyük. Gouache and Adobe Illustrator, 2011

Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). Gouache, 2010

Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). Gouache, 2010

Stop by if you can!

In Progress: Adornment at Çatalhöyük

Male Adornment Preliminary Drawing

Male Adornment Preliminary Drawing

If a good fairy or mad scientist suddenly appeared in a puff of smoke and offered you the ability to time travel, where and when would you go?

My first stop would probably be Neolithic Çatalhöyük. I’d love to see what the place and the people really looked like. 9000 years is a long, long time ago and while we can recover broad information on topics like architecture, animal husbandry, agriculture, daily practices, etc., we’ll forever be missing the smaller details. There is no Pompeii effect at work at Çatalhöyük; the site was not preserved due to a cataclysmic event that froze everything in time, but through slow accumulation and the perseverance of certain materials such as stone, mudbrick, bone, and fired clay. This means we know they hunted aurochs (wild predecessors to cattle) and kept domesticated sheep and goat, but we don’t know exactly how they used all the skins they must have collected. We know they made all sorts of things out of carved bone, stone, and clay, but we only have hints of what they made from botanical materials such as wood, flax, and reeds. We know the average height of males and females occupying the site, but we can only make educated guesses about their hair and eye colors. It’s my job to illustrate scenes with all these small harder-to-uncover details filled in.

I could use a good fairy right about now as I am working on some images for Milena Vasic’s chapter on adornment at Çatalhöyük which will be published in an upcoming project volume. Most of the direct evidence for adornment here consists of beads; beads made of stone, clay, shell, and bone. They are sometimes found in burials, clustered around necks, wrists, and ankles, but also singly all over in contexts such as middens and room fill. More rare are bone rings, alabaster armbands, and bone hooks and eyes. Most rare are materials made of soft tissue and plants such as leather, linen textiles, and wooden objects. While we sometimes find residues or small charred scraps of these materials, most of the evidence for them is indirect. For example, objects found in burials that would have been attached to cloth or leather, such as hooks and eyes, indicate that these materials where once present. Depictions of humans in figurines and wall paintings are another line of indirect evidence for cloth and leather, as well as jewelry and hairstyles.

Drawing indirect evidence from figurines and wall paintings has its own set of issues. This evidence is two or three times removed from what the people of Çatalhöyük wore. First, the people of Çatalhöyük had their own style of representation and ideas about what was important to represent. This filters the information we are getting. Second, in the case of wall paintings, James Mellaart recorded these paintings in the 1960s and as he re-drew them he interpreted what he saw, filtering the information again. Finally, I am looking at Mellaart’s drawings of Çatalhöyükians’ drawings of what Çatalhöyükian’s wore and putting my own interpretations on it based on my own experience of the site, other people’s interpretations (see John Swogger’s reconstructions), and my own society’s adornment norms.

All these different lines of evidence provide information on what the people of Çatalhöyük were putting on their bodies, but what did those bodies look like? For this kind of evidence I turn to the site’s bioarchaeologists who study the skeletal remains. Dr. Clark Larsen (Ohio State University) and Dr. Christopher Knüsel (University of Exeter) lead the current Human Remains Team. This summer I had a meeting with Dr. Knüsel and Scott Haddow, a Human Remains Team lab supervisor, during which we discussed what we know about the Çatalhöyükians’ phenotype. Based on skeletal analysis, we know their average height and that they were robust with strong facial features such as wide jaws and heavy brows. Unfortunately, no DNA has been successfully retrieved from skeletal remains so we have no information on their nearest living relatives or coloring. Dr. Knüsel has suggested that they may have had olive skin with dark hair and eyes based on common adaptations to similar climates. We can also hypothesize that they would have had well-weathered skin and callused hands and feet from spending so much time outdoors on daily tasks.

So far I have completed a preliminary drawing for male adornment (see above). The bone rings on the man’s left hand are from Feature 212, a male burial in Building 1. His necklace is also from a male burial in  Building 1, Feature 38. The bone hook closing his cloak and the leather pouch with flints are from the male burial Feature 1709 in Building 50. The head dress and loin cloth are drawn from the male figurine on the left (from the Mellaart excavations) and the surrounding painted male figures, which are part of the Hunting Shrine FVI wall paintings (also from the Mellaart excavations). Only one leopard bone has been found on site so it is possible the spotted fabric/leather has been painted to mimic leopard skin.

I’ll be completing the final art for this reconstruction, as well as a companion piece on female adornment, this month so check back!

Envisioning Çatalhöyük

Going to the Society for American Archaeology‘s 2013 annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii? If you are, and can tear yourself away from the beach, you should check out the “Envisioning Çatalhöyük” poster session.  The session takes place Thursday morning, April 4th, starting at 8 am. It is organized by Josh Sadvari (Ohio State University), James Stuart Taylor (The University of York), and me (Killackey Illustration and Design).

The session abstract:

“Over the last 20 years, the Çatalhöyük Research Project in Turkey has developed into a large-scale, interdisciplinary research endeavor featuring hundreds of different excavators and specialists from around the world who connect with, conceptualize, and envision the site in different ways.  In association with the ‘Assembling Çatalhöyük’ paper symposium, this poster session will showcase, in a visual format, the work of those excavators and specialists who are tasked with re-assembling this Neolithic community and the lives of its past inhabitants through the site’s physical deconstruction.  The sheer size of the project and the varied theoretical perspectives of its many researchers stimulate the building of both conflict and consensus as diverse datasets are analyzed and interpreted.  Key among the factors required for resolving such conflicts and constructing cogent narratives is collaboration among different excavation and specialist teams.  Collaborative efforts that facilitate our ability to envision Çatalhöyük’s past as well as its future, including methods developed for recording and preserving data, practices employed in the conservation of the site itself, analyses based on the convergence of a variety of specialist datasets, and techniques utilized for visualizing and disseminating information to the wider archaeological and public communities, are the focus of this symposium.”

I’m presenting one poster, “Drawings and Dialogues: Illustrating Landscape at Çatalhöyük” and my illustrations are part of another poster presented by Milena Vasic (Free University of Berlin), “Adornment at Çatalhöyük”. Here are the abstracts.

Drawings and Dialogues: Illustrating Landscape at Çatalhöyük:

“This poster presents the process of illustrating the landscape surrounding the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük. The reconstruction is the result of the site’s illustrator, geoarchaeologist, and archaeobotanists collaborating from 2010 to 2012. Most people only see an archaeological reconstruction in its final form, presented in a publication or in a museum display. While a completed reconstruction serves a role in visually transmitting ideas to academic and public audiences, the process of visualizing can be just as valuable. The reconstruction starts as a partially formed image in the mind of the archaeologist and through a series of drawings and dialogues becomes increasingly solid and detailed. This process provides a space in which to explore and test hypotheses, helping to flesh out ideas, uncover contradictions, and identify gaps in knowledge. At the same time, the illustration process is one of elimination, the whittling down of alternative hypothesizes and making concrete one of many options. By presenting the entire process here, the viewer can see the series of decisions that lead to this final image of Çatalhöyük’s Neolithic landscape.”

Adornment at Çatalhöyük:

“Increased material exploitation is a phenomenon seen during the Near Eastern Neolithic, including the Neolithic occupation of Çatalhöyük. The intensified production and use of items of personal adornment are some of the manifestations of various shifts witnessed during this period, indicative of the increased concern with external display and individual and communal identities. The aim of this poster is to reconstruct the external display of Çatalhöyük inhabitants by looking at the evidence for adornment across different media. Mellaart`s excavations and the current Çatalhöyük Research Project yielded more than 25,000 beads made of shell, stone, copper, wood, bone, and clay, as well as other ornaments such as pins, collars, and armbands. Furthermore, textiles and traces of leather pouches have been found in several burials, as well as pigments that may have been used for colouring the textiles and for body painting. Additionally, some of the wall paintings and figurines depict hairstyles and attire. Not only does Çatalhöyük contain an abundance of ornaments and their representation, but there are also a number of inhumations containing these items in primary contexts, making this assemblage an ideal dataset for studying Neolithic external display. This data is summarized here through infographics and reconstruction illustrations.”

The complete list of “Envisioning Çatalhöyük” poster presenters:

Grant Cox and Graeme Earl; Lindsay Der; Lisa Guerre; Scott Haddow, Christopher Knüsel, Joshua Sadvari, Nicolò Dell’Unto and Maurizio Forte; Justine Issavi, Maurizio Forte, Nicolo Dell’Unto and Nicola Lercari; Kathryn Killackey; Ashley Lingle; Camilla Mazzucato; Allison Mickel; Sharmini Pitter, Nerissa Russell, Ian Hodder and Richard P. Evershed; James Taylor; Milena Vasic and Kathryn Killackey.

You can see the SAA’s 2013 Annual Meeting preliminary program here.

Life Drawing, a little vacation from science illustration.

A 10 minute sketch in conte pencil.

Life drawing is a great break from science illustration. It’s all about observation, you draw only what’s right in front of you, nothing microscopic, nothing long gone in the past. You exercise the connection between your hand and your eyes. There’s no background research involved, long discussion about content. There’s a time limit, usually from 1 minute up to 50, so you’ve got to work fast and let go of agonizing over every line. It puts me in a sort of trance state and the time flies by. I’ve been trying to do more life drawing, both to improve my ability to draw people (lots of those in archaeological reconstructions), and also to keep up my observational skills. I’m currently taking a class at the Dundas Valley School of the Art. Today, besides the usual short gesture drawings, we worked on reduction drawings.

A 40-ish minute reduction drawing with vine charcoal.

This technique consists of coating your paper with charcoal and then picking out the lighter tones with a kneaded eraser. You can then go back in with charcoal to adjust things a bit and add more darks. I really like this technique as it very forgiving, much more so than working with pure lines. You can go back and forth between adding and subtracting values forever (or until the model’s foot goes to sleep).   So I’ve had a lovely morning sketching. And now back to painstakingly cleaning up and laying out chipped stone illustrations for a Çatalhöyük publication.


The first proposed mural at Mt. Williamson Motel in Independence, CA.

Jane Kim is a science illustrator and creator of the Migrating Mural. The Migrating Mural is “a series of murals that showcases — along roads, towns, and cities — endangered migratory species and the need to protect them” (Jane on Kickstarter). Jane was in my CSUMB Science Illustration cohort and I remember her talking about ideas for these murals in class.  Now, through an incredible organizational and creative effort, she is making it happen.  The first chapter in her mural series features the life of the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.  There are currently only 400 sheep left and these murals will bring attention to their conservation.

Another view of the proposed mural in Independence, CA.

Jane is currently funding her murals through Kickstarter.  She’s already raised enough to paint the first mural and any additional funds are going towards three more.  You can learn more about her project and donate here (the project is up for 6 more days).  She also currently has a solo show of her science illustration and her work with the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep at the Bone Room in Berkeley, CA (on through Oct. 30).

Jane at the opening of her show “The Art of Conservation” at the Bone Room. She’s standing in her installation of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep skulls, “Disappearance Reappearance”.


John Swogger, the illustrator at Çatalhöyük from 1998 to 2006, has a guest post up at Comics Forum entitled “The Sequential Art of the Past: Archaeology, comics and the dynamics of an emerging genre“.  He discusses his and others’ use of comics to transmit archaeological knowledge to a range of audiences. John has been advocating for the use of comics in archaeology for a while now, including at the Visualisation in Archaeology’s 2011 conference, the Society for American Archaeology’s 2012 conference. He’ll also be at next year’s Society for American Archaeology’s conference in Hawaii.

– Kathryn

Summer Programming

My work space at Çatalhöyük

For the next two months I will be sitting at the desk to the left, illustrating artifacts and creating reconstructions for the Çatalhöyük Research Project. Çatalhöyük is a 9000-year-old Neolithic site on the Anatolian plain in Turkey. James Mellaart first excavated the site in the 1960s and excavations continue today under the direction of Dr. Ian Hodder. The site is a large mound composed of about 1000 years of house building and re-building in the same spot. The site has provided evidence on early sedentism, the domestication process, and ritual and religion. This is my tenth season on site, four spent as an archaeobotanist and six as an illustrator.

Illustration of an incised bone point

I usually spend each season doing a variety of things, illustrating any artifacts being sent to the local museum in Konya, creating reconstructions for publications, recording any special features or wall paintings that come up on site, and dealing with requests from excavators and lab teams. Free access to the site, excavators, and specialists is one of the great things about this job. Anytime I’m stumped on how to proceed there’s someone to talk to. I can walk over to the faunal lab, ask a question, and borrow a sheep skull if need be, or run up to site and talk through a building with an excavator.

Reconstruction of Burial 16601 at Çatalhöyük

This summer I’m also playing catch-up. For the past three summers there has been two or three other illustrators on site, (me, Mesa Schumacher and Lyla Pinch-Brock). We’ve been working hard on creating all the illustrations for three new Çatalhöyük volumes. That’s about finished now and everything has been submitted to the publisher but my not-for-the-publication-so-deal-with-later pile has gotten quite large. It’s just me on site this summer so I’m doing lots of inking, double-checking of labels, and in general making sure everything is properly organized. I’m also working with Jason Quinlan, the site photographer, to integrate all the illustrations into the photography database so they are searchable and accessible to all.

I’ll be posting new illustrations and photos of the excavations throughout the summer.



Welcome to my newly minted blog.  I’ll be using this space to share completed illustrations, works-in-progress and, like a magpie, anything sparkly that catches my eye.