Paintings by Justin Pickard
My scientific background is research about fungal plant pathogens impacting field crops and my illustration style is a mix of traditional ink and watercolor paintings influenced by Japanese woodblock printing methods.
Watercolor painting is a reflection of variability found in nature; it’s giving color to static images painted in ink. Lichens add subtle notes of color to our long-weathered, rocky environment. Lecanora sp. contributes small blue patches to tiny forgotten areas alongside the Palouse river and the local graveyards. The bright-yellow Xanthoria sp. that form on gravestones will have outlived everything else in the graveyard by the end of their life cycles.
Lichens are a unique form of fungi that inhabit the most desolate of environments. Lichens are modestly called the farmers of the fungi world, cultivating their chlorophyllic crops on river rocks, tree bark, and gravestones,using algae and cyanobacteria to produce energy. Lichens found in Pullman tend to be of the Nitrogen-tolerant, and are therefore typical of most city environments. Cushion Xanthoria sp. is an example of this. Excessive nitrogen in the air shrinks the habitat for non-tolerant lichens, reducing the number of unique species. A higher amount of lichen biodiversity is a measure of cleaner air quality. In fact, Lichen are known air quality indicators. One USDA analysis refers to these micro organisms as the canary in a coal mine.[FN]
FOOTNOTE: “Lichen Bioindication of Biodiversity, Air Quality, and Climate: Baseline Results From Monitoring in Washington, Oregon, and California,” by Sarah Jovan. Nitrogen-sensitive species (such as Usnea or “bearded” lichen) do not fare well when pollutants are present in the air. In this sense, as “bioindicators” they absorb Nitrogen and Sulfur-based air pollutants that act as environmental stressors.
Check out the links below to see images of the lichen that inspired Justin Pickard's art: