Drawing inspiration from a creepy, crawly career

Hopped up:?Otte’s illustrations are now on view at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

As a child growing up in South Africa, Dan Otte didn’t give much thought to insects. His imagination was focused on much bigger game. “In first grade, our teacher said once we finished our lessons we could draw,” Otte recalls. “I always drew antelopes jumping over bushes or fences.”

It wasn’t until his undergrad years at the University of Michigan that Otte, now the senior curator of entomology at the Academy of Natural Sciences, caught the bug for bugs. He’s since been traveling the world for over 40 years to collect and study insects, becoming a leading expert on grasshoppers and crickets. And his early predilection for sketching animals has paid off in the detailed drawings he’s made, which are now collected for the Academy’s new exhibition, “Dual Nature.”

Sketches would seem to be passe when photography can capture these insects in all their living glory, but as Otte explains, “Oftentimes, specimens come back from the field in a jar of alcohol or dried on pins — and they’ve lost some of their color. I’m trying to show how the species would have looked if it were alive.”

Seeing his artwork hanging in the institution where he’s worked and studied since 1975 is “a real honor,” Otte says. “They were never intended for hanging on a wall. It’s lovely.”

‘Dual Nature: Science
Illustrations of Dan Otte’
Through Dec. 4
Academy of Natural Sciences
$10-$12, 215-299-1000


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