Exploring Ohio's Cave Dwellers

This illustration and infographic project came to me during the summer of 2008. I was given the opportunity to travel with a photographer and science reporter to southwest Ohio, where we shadowed a biologist for a science-section story about organisms who have evolved to live without light. I spent the afternoon on my back and belly in the mud, face-to-face with all kinds of creepy-crawlies. For this double-truck graphic, I wanted to show how this ecosystem worked, where these creatures lived, and how they looked.

The challenge was to illustrate this part of the world that is, by it's very nature, without light. After many sketches, I settled on a cutaway-style infographic. Another challenge was how to capture the organic feel of the cave. Traditional newspaper infographics are vector-based and their sharp, mathematically calculated curves, lines, and shapes can be scaled infinately. That wouldn't work here. I eventually settled on creating a sculpture from chicken wire, aluminum foil, and plaster. I shaped the structure into the cave profile, embracing the cracked and uneven surface. I photographed the sculpture, adjusting it's orientation to get the perfect balance of light in the front of the cave, and shadow in the back. All the color and composition work was done in Photoshop, and the text and images were placed in Adobe Illustrator.

To date, this is one of my proudest pieces.