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Rickard erased dozens of beautiful renderings of extinct species in a project that lasted over a year.

Lucienne Rickard, graphite pencil illustration of a xerces blue butterfly. Part of Extinction Studies (2019-2020) at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. Courtesy the artist.

In late January, Lucienne Rickard erased a large graphite drawing of the endangered swift parrot. It was the 38th meticulously drawn animal illustration she disappeared during Extinction Studies, her 16-month project at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), Hobart.

Rickard said she was 'motivated by the unfairness of extinction'. Among the extinct animals she wiped out on paper were the Chinese paddlefish, a small bat called the Christmas Island pipistrelle, and the big eared hopping mouse.

'The species hardest to erase was a butterfly called xerces blue,' Rickard told Ocula Magazine.

Lucienne Rickard erasing her graphite on paper illustration of the swift parrot. Courtesy the artist.

She spent approximately 360 hours over three months to complete the illustration, which includes an estimated 113,000 individual scales on its wings, but it wasn't the time she put in that made it so hard to erase.

'It was because xerces had provided such a fantastic, beautiful conversation with visitors to TMAG,' Rickard said. 'I would ask people who stopped to talk to me if they'd ever seen a macro photograph of butterfly scales, if they even knew they had scales at all.'

'I got to see kids, and adults, have that moment where other worlds open up to them,' she continued. 'I knew I was going to miss that and that's what made it the hardest.'

Lucienne Rickard's partially erased graphite on paper illustration of the extinct Chinese paddlefish, which grew up to 7m long.

Rickard used just two sheets of paper over the course of the project, which still suggest the ghosts of erased species.

'I'm not planning to sell them, and I never intended to come away with aesthetically resolved works,' Rickard said. 'It was always more about the process of drawing and erasing and starting conversations with people. But I'd like for at least one of the pieces of paper to stay at TMAG. It was home to the project so it belongs there.'

Rickard said that while she has no plans to extend the project, she will continue to draw from nature.

'Currently I'm working on a series of drawings for Beaver galleries to be exhibited in March this year,' she said. 'I'm drawing Tasmanian endangered dwarf orchids which I render 1:1 scale. They're incredibly small and detailed, some being only the size of my thumbnail. But they're obsessively executed with needle sharp pencils. I sink about a month into each one.' —[O]

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