Minibeasts, Mark-making and Me
: Contemporary Embodied Drawing Approaches to Multispecies Worlds

  • Kay McCrann

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Against the background of a biodiversity crisis and the ongoing debate around invertebrate sentence, this practice-based PhD investigates and contextualises the untapped potential of subject visit approaches to drawing and mark-making within human-invertebrate encounters. The thesis adopts a multispecies-centred autoethnographic, open-ended, experimental, diffractive, practice-based methodology to investigate the lived experience of human-minibeast encounters using an embodied drawing approach. A focus on the domestic sewing was developed during the Covid-19 pandemic as a response to identifying the various limitations of encountering preserved insect specimens within natural history museums and butterflies housed within tropical butterfly houses and to the national lockdown. Minibeasts that were encountered living within the house and garden included snails, slugs, spiders, butterflies, bees, woodlice, and beetles. Specific non-containment drawing and mark-making techniques are presented as part of an ethically responsible practice, which seeks to explicitly investigate agency within human and nonhuman encounters. Developing a structured, in-situ, embodied approach to working alongside the minibeasts encountered, the drawing prompts Meeting Places, Feelings, Sounds, Bodies, and Movement evolve into a framework of practice alongside three drawing processes. Three main drawing and mark-making practices are presented as DES (drawing with eyes shut), DMB (drawing moving the body), and DWL (drawing without looking at the paper). These are used to explore minibeast encounters as dynamically as possible using all the senses. Drawings, reflective autoethnography, written records and videos of practice were co-ordinated and curated for an exhibition and a visual blog. This research aims to widen the practice of natural history drawing from the dominance of objective illustration focussed on anatomical accuracy to include more subjective and abstract responses to minibeast encounters. The practice is analysed using a multispecies autoethnographic approach within a diffractive framework which combines drawing prompts from the developed model of practice with post-humanist and feminist new materialist concepts. Recommendations are made as to how this model of practice might be applied within schools and environmental education settings in the future to enhance an awareness of ecological interconnectedness and gently critique the ethical, experiential, and educational dimensions of current practices including minibeast hunts.
Date of Award7 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorLouis Netter (Supervisor), Marius Kwint (Supervisor) & Simone Gumtau (Supervisor)

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