Wild-Animal Painting in the Jungle

It’s not obvious how to draw a snake. Here, let Isabel Cooper tell you about it, in a 1924 article she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly. For instance, there’s no such thing as a school of snake artists, so when the problem of making a portrait of a snake presented itself I had to think […]

Death in the Line of Treasure Hunting

A treasure hunter recently died near the Rio Grande in New Mexico. His body turned up in the backcountry after he was reported missing. This is the second death of a treasure hunter looking for an ornate bronze chest said to be hidden somewhere between Santa Fe and Canada by multi-millionaire artifact collector Forrest Fenn. […]

Redux: Physician, Screw Thyself (Or, Um, Not)

The internist I’ve been seeing my entire adult life recently retired. This essay, which originally appeared here in 2014, was not about her. But it did concern the sometimes—maybe always—precarious relationship between medical professional and medical naïf, one that I will now need to renegotiate with a new internist while bearing, believe me, this experience in […]

Sketches of Panels

Every year, Johns Hopkins Medicine runs a boot camp for science writers in Washington, D.C. They cover some topic in science. For science writers, it’s a free introduction to a hot area of science (with breakfast, lunch, and tasty snacks). For Hopkins, there’s a chance someone will decide to use one of their experts in […]

Color Your Way to Climate Reality

I often write about subjects that are hard to read about—climate change, extinction—so I think a lot about how to draw people toward information that mostly makes them want to run away. Musician, artist, and programmer Brian Foo has pondered the same problem, and his solution is simple. Present your readers with terrifying data, then ask […]

Moby Peep: A Peeps Diorama

I have a bit of a thing about whales. The shelf above my desk at home is full of whale art, and a National Geographic whale poster hangs in a frame above that. Along with that, I have a thing about Moby Dick, which is a book about whales. So when it was time for […]

Where is here; here is where

Isaiah grins at me across the dining room table and more than 1,000 miles. In my nephew’s small, pale hand is an outsized Crayola marker, to match the pencil in my more gnarled fingers. We both lean over rectangles of paper—his in Colorado, mine in Oregon, now occupying the same virtual space, thanks to a […]

The search for thirsty blue

There’s a particular shade of blue that I’ve tried to replicate with pigment for much of my life. I think it’s blue, anyway. There’s gray in there, too. Indigo. Violet. Black. Flickers of gold. This blue is luminous, despite its darkness. This blue is heavy and satisfying as a thirst, slaked. I can’t point to […]