The woman who makes the ibis look beautiful

Samantha Bayly poses for a portrait holding her illustration of an Australian White Ibis (Bin Chicken), and wearing one her prints on a t-shirt. Samntha studies Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle and is one of two recipients of a new $10,000 scholarship inspired by the 19th century scientific illustrations of Harriet and Helena Scott.
Samantha Bayly poses for a portrait holding her illustration of an Australian White Ibis (Bin Chicken), and wearing one her prints on a t-shirt. Samntha studies Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle and is one of two recipients of a new $10,000 scholarship inspired by the 19th century scientific illustrations of Harriet and Helena Scott.
Samantha Bayly poses for a photograph surrounded by her work and wearing one her prints on a t-shirt. Samantha studies Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle and is one of two recipients of a new $10,000 scholarship inspired by the 19th century scientific illustrations of Harriet and Helena Scott.

Samantha Bayly poses for a photograph surrounded by her work and wearing one her prints on a t-shirt. Samantha studies Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle and is one of two recipients of a new $10,000 scholarship inspired by the 19th century scientific illustrations of Harriet and Helena Scott.

There is already a bee woman and a snake lady in her university course, but scientific illustrator, Samantha Bayly, 21, wants to be known as the ugly animal painter, depicting beasts that only "a mother could love".

Drawing an ibis revealed that its plumage included beautiful shades of pink and greys that not everyone noticed.

"Everyone hates an ibis, they are boring, brown and usually smelly, and they don't get much loving. They are misunderstood and so sad, hideous and in everyone's bins, but that's that because their real habitat is being destroyed. "

Ms Bayly and a fellow student Lucia Garces are the co-winners of the inaugural $10,000 Scientific Illustration Scholarship from the Australian Museum. It was awarded this month to commemorate the legacy of 19th century natural history illustrators Helena and Harriett Scott and encourage the next generation of scientific observation.

The two women have been undertaking a Bachelor of Natural History Illustration - described as the bridge between art and science - at the University of Newcastle.

For Ms Bayly, who grew up on five acres outside of Port Macquarie, the course was a natural fit. "I've always loved drawing what was in front of me as accurately I could. I would sit in my room, and draw that, and then sit in the lounge room, and draw that."

Outside, she moved on to draw the family's donkeys, Frida and Fabio, a Shetland horse, a miniature pony, rabbits, cows, dogs, birds and fishes.

Even in in the modern age of high resolution imaging and wildlife genomics, said scientific illustration was still an invaluable resource to the natural sciences, and a skill our scientists value highly in peers and collaborators, said Dr Rebecca Johnson, director of the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI),

"This scholarship is a fantastic recognition of Harriet and Helena Scott and the critical role they played in some of the earliest documentation of our NSW fauna," said Dr Johnson.

Ms Bayly studies a few kilometres away from where the Scott sisters drew butterflies and insects in the wetlands near Ash Island, Newcastle. She found a field trip to the island where they drew 170 years ago to be "inspirational".

She is now concentrating on finding the beauty in ugly animals, and using illustration to highlight why they are that way. Last year, she drew a California condor, a "hideous pink bald bird" which she loved because of its ugliness.

The Museum's scholarship was open to men and women. While women were in the minority 170 years ago, they now dominate the course.

The Scotts were banned from studying at Sydney University because of their gender.

Around the same time, Elizabeth Gould - who illustrated 84 plates in the now famous Birds of Australia by her husband John - was also drawing furiously in between raising six children.

John Gould was known as the bird man of Australia, yet he was not an artist, said State Library of NSW curator Margot Riley.

During the Gould's 12-year marriage, Elizabeth drew and lithographed 600 ornithological illustrations.

But her "exquisite work became almost totally eclipsed by the fame of her husband," said Ms Riley. " But John Gould was not an artist - though he designed the plates and carefully supervised their production, after Elizabeth's death he would entrust this artistic work to others," she said.

The State Library of NSW this month digitised a rare edition of the book, the prototype that was used to guide the army of artists used by Gould after Elizabeth died.

It is available online for the first time.

This story The woman who makes the ibis look beautiful first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.