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The Woods Hole Public Library’s Annual Meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 12 at 8 PM. Following a brief business meeting, the featured speaker will be Woods Hole resident and biological illustrator Julia S.Child. Finally!

Julie agreed to speak three years ago, but due to Covid restrictions and her expressed desire to give her presentation in person, her talk has been delayed until this summer. The Library is excited that Julie, a gifted artist and teacher, will be speaking, sharing the early history of biological illustration, which dates back to the 15th century, and also discussing her teaching.  

For those who do not know Julie, she is a Woods Hole treasure. Julie came to Woods Hole in 1945 to stay with her aunt and uncle, who lived in the Airplane House. Because they “had three boys and wanted girls,”  Julie and her sister joined them during the summers and attended the Woods Hole Children’s School of Science. 

Julie remembers always drawing. Her older sister focused on drawing people, while Julie liked drawing plants and animals. She collected butterflies and insects to draw, and some of those insects are still in her collection today! She attended Mills College in California and then received biological illustrator training at Mass General Hospital. While still a student, Julie’s first professional job was at the MBL, observing and drawing the cell-by-cell development of Ictalurus nebulosus, a species of bullhead catfish. The project took two summers to complete, and the finished project included 53 drawings, beginning with a single-celled egg and ending with a young fish. In the early stages, the cell changed every half hour. Her boss, Phillip Armstrong, director of the MBL at that time, bought her an alarm clock so she wouldn’t miss anything. Julie has fond memories of those summers. It was during this time that she met her husband, Frank, a biologist who was also keeping long and odd hours in the lab next to hers! A love of Woods Hole kept them coming back for many summers, until they retired here.  

Through the years, in addition to raising three children, Julie used her skills in a variety of ways, including doing freelance work for various scientists, teaching biological illustration at Sarah Lawrence College, and doing drawings for large teaching charts of skeletons, cells, and invertebrates. She taught at the Science School for many years and later began teaching classes in her home. Thousands of students and drawings later, Julie is still drawing. She says her favorite subjects are insects, flowers, and skulls. Her favorite medium is pencil and colored pencil. Lately, she has been drawing a lot of snapping turtles for her sister’s book about a pet turtle. 

Biological illustration requires exquisite detail and accuracy. What Julie now teaches, she calls  “Nature Drawing,” which is much more forgiving and open to interpretation. Some of Julie’s students put together a book, Julie’s Drawing Wisdom, which contains many examples of her students’ artwork. Our library assistant Ann Newbury has been a student of Julie’s for many years. In the book, Ann reflects that “each class session is a personal journey, with Julie encouraging, correcting, suggesting, demanding just a little more, pushing just a little further, and when she finally approves, we sign our treasure and experience a class ‘ta-da!’” 

An exhibit of works all completed by Julie’s students in now on display at the Library until July 22. As you can see at the current Library exhibit, Julie’s students’ work is wonderful, and most of us are amazed at what we have accomplished, guided by Julie’s expertise, quiet humor, and the twinkle in her eye. The show is open during regular Library hours which are 10 AM – 2 PM every day except Sunday, with expanded hours, to 5 PM, on Monday and Wednesday.