A lot of these hands-on activities allow people to look at our exhibits in new perspectives, to get different content out of it than they wouldn't always notice just going through. —Erika DuRoss
SALT LAKE CITY — Cameron McLaughlin looked up in awe, seated cross-legged on the floor, a small sketchbook open in front of him, studying the muscles visible on the shark suspended above him.
"I've never seen a shark with a point on its nose like that," said Cameron, 10. "To remember that, I decided I would draw it. It's really interesting how they have all those different muscles and stuff."
Cameron and his father, Pat McLaughlin, were on the front row among about 20 people of all ages who stayed at The Leonardo after closing Tuesday to take part in the museum's sketch night, which offers a demonstration by a master artist and time to sketch the exhibit.
The museum is currently hosting the Body Worlds "Animal Inside Out" exhibit, which features a herd of animals ranging from horses to ostriches to giraffes. Once alive in zoos and veterinary programs, the animals have been carefully "plastinated" after death and put on display. The animals show musculature, anatomy and skeletal structure in a way the art students have never seen before.
"As soon as I saw the ("Animal Inside Out") billboards, I said, 'We have to go so I can draw them,'" said Rachel Sackett, an art student at BYU.
When Sackett learned about the sketch night, she was quick to join.
"I've actually gone to draw animals at the zoo," she said, "but it's just really hard to get a whole body because they're just moving all the time, or they're hiding."
Sackett seated herself in front of a reindeer, posed mid-leap.
"This is just such a good opportunity to get this movement," she said, pencil in hand.
BYU art professor Robert Barrett, a painter, illustrator and muralist, gathered the group in front of a large bull, skinned to expose the animal's long, powerful muscles. Barrett spoke quietly with the group as he deftly outlined the bull's head, neck and shoulder, pointing out the shapes and sizes of the muscles.
From there, he answered questions about keeping a personal sketch book, urging the group to use drawings as a kind of diary to explore ideas and record experiences.
"Most of our experiences we tend to forget, but if we draw them, we remember. We can look back and say, 'I remember walking into that gross anatomy lab,'" Barrett joked, chuckling as he continued his illustration.
Cameron and his father took Barrett's suggestion to heart, spending time roaming the museum with their own sketch pads.
"I'm not much the artist. I just thought it would be fun to come," said Pat McLaughlin, who brought his son because of the boy's love of both drawing and animals. "Having a BYU art professor come and speak to us isn't something we do every day. (Cameron) takes art in school, but (Barrett) was very specific about anatomy, and it was a unique opportunity to learn."
Seeing the animals exposed to show their organs, composition and anatomical systems was both interesting and unnerving, Pat McLaughlin said.
"When do you ever get a chance to look the inside of a squid or see the skeletal shapes of the ostrich?" he said. "The horse's head that was sliced in three, I think that was a little weird for (Cameron) because it's an actual horse. But I think that if you emphasize the science part of it, it brings him back around."
Erika DuRoss, The Leonardo's director over content and learning, helps coordinate the interactive, educational events coinciding with the museum's exhibits.
The sketch nights, which will continue monthly, bring together art and science for visitors at the "Animal Inside Out" exhibit, DuRoss said.
"A lot of these hands-on activities allow people to look at our exhibits in new perspectives, to get different content out of it than they wouldn't always notice just going through," she said.
The next sketch night Oct. 16 will coincide with the Body Worlds "Cycle of Life" exhibit, which showcases the human body's journey as it grows and ages.
With the Body Worlds exhibits, events like the sketch night can help guests who may feel intimidated, DuRoss added. "Animal Inside Out" is ideal for families and is a favorite of her 3- and 7-year-old children.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: McKenzieRomero