Insect art: Illustrations by Carim Nahaboo

Looking back on my life as a kid obsessed with the natural world, I often found myself fascinated by scientific illustrations, whether they were accompanying taxonomic descriptions or not. Something about the intense level of accuracy, the neutral pose of the subject, and the fine details shown, every bristle, every pore, that made me sink my eyes into these books, even if I could not understand the language or scientific terminology at that time. At some point I started hoping that one day I too can become such an artist, drafting the various shapes and forms surrounding us. Although I did draw a lot, I eventually neglected this side of myself. I guess the passion for photography took over, as another medium for getting similar results. But my passion for natural history illustrations has not died, and today I am pleased to find myself in a middle ground between the two, as a part of “Meet Your Neighbours” project. I still have a high appreciation for well-made illustrations, so you can understand why I was excited to discover the amazing artwork by Carim Nahaboo.

If you have never heard of Carim Nahaboo and don’t know what I am talking about, I suggest heading over to his website RIGHT NOW.
Carim is a talented artist producing stunning, photorealistic artwork featuring insects, arachnids and other arthropods. He is quickly becoming one of the hot natural history artists out there.

All artwork shown here is courtesy of Carim Nahaboo and posted with his permission.

Chrysina resplendens - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Jewel scarab (Chrysina resplendens) – artwork by Carim Nahaboo

At first glance, it is easy to mistake Carim’s drawings for photographs. It clearly shows that the artist is well-immersed in the natural world and pays attention to the smallest details. Take for example the following illustration of a centipede preying on a lizard:

Scolopendra hardwickei feeding on Psammophilus dorsalis - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Scolopendra hardwickei feeding on Psammophilus dorsalis – artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Not only the anatomy of both animals is shown in great accuracy, but also their posture, and the way the light “falls” on their bodies. Excellent depiction of the shiny centipede versus the dull, scaly lizard. You can almost feel this predation is happening right now before your eyes.

Another good example is this drawing of a female Australian stick insect:

Extatosoma tiaratum feeding - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Extatosoma tiaratum feeding on Eucalyptus – artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Notice how the head area is bent forward? Only someone who knows how this insect moves in real life can get this minor detail correctly.

Nephila clavipes pair - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Golden orb weaver (Nephila clavipes) pair – artwork by Carim Nahaboo.
Hard to believe this is not a photograph.

The amount of detail Carim puts in his artwork is staggering. I cannot imagine how much work is going into color drawings of creatures such as this Death’s head hawkmoth:

Acherontia atropos work in progress - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Death’s head hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos), artwork in progress

After months of drooling over the images Carim posted online, I decided it is about time I get my own Carim Nahaboo piece. I ended up getting three. They are just too good. Deciding on the subjects was not easy, because I wanted not only something that looks good, but also something that will be personal. The first piece though was a no-brainer: it had to be Epomis. I have spent years keeping and observing these interesting beetles, in order to document how their larvae parasitize and kill amphibians. Although the larvae can be very colorful at late developmental stages, I chose a first-instar larva for the piece, because of its unique body proportions.
The first thing I noticed about Carim is that he is very fast. Hours only after sending him the reference material he had already sent me an image of the work in progress. He has an amazing talent to get the right “feel” and texture for his subject, even if it is a creature he has never seen in person. More specifically, he managed to illustrate the mild transparency of the larva very well. When the piece finally arrived in the mail (very professionally wrapped, by the way), my eyes almost popped out of their sockets. It looked even better in real life.

Epomis circumscriptus larva - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Epomis circumscriptus larva, dorsal view – artwork by Carim Nahaboo

This cropped photo shows detail on another piece I got, a lichen-mimic katydid from Ecuador (Markia hystrix):

Markia hystrix - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Markia hystrix – artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Here is a whip spider posing next to one of Carim’s drawings. Or is it vice versa? This shows the amount of precision and just how realistic these artwork pieces are. I have a strong feeling we will see a lot more of his work in the next few years.

Heterophrynus sp. - artwork by Carim Nahaboo

Heterophrynus sp. – artwork by Carim Nahaboo

You can see more of Carim’s work by following his Facebook and Twitter feeds, and you can also order prints from his online shop.

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