North Carolina’s rich land is divided into three regions, the mountains, the Piedmont Plateau and the coastal plain. Living in these areas are flora and fauna that depend on each other for survival. An exhibit currently on display through July 11 at the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo pairs art and information to illustrate predators and their prey titled “Habitat Snacks: Who’s Eating Whom in the Garden?”

The show features the work of three artists created using a combination of watercolor, colored pencil, and pen and ink. They worked closely with naturalist educator Mike Dunn with the NC Botanical Garden to ensure the species and their connections were accurate. All but a few of the works are original art with a few archival prints in the mix. There are 18 drawings/ paintings divided into the three regions with the related animals and plants showcased in those regions along with a map of each region.

For example, a brilliant watercolor and colored pencil print of a cardinal flower created by Claire Alderks Miller is followed by a watercolor of a ruby throated hummingbird by Dale A. Morgan. The hummingbird is attracted to the tubular flowers and drinks the nectar. The bird also eats insects caught in mid-air or snatched from spider webs. Following the painting of the hummingbird is Rebecca Dotterer’s watercolor and pen and ink illustration of an Argiope, a spider that naturally produces silk for its web that the hummingbird might seek for its nest only to become a meal for the bright yellow and black spider.

In another scenario, through a description of a watercolor and colored pencil print by Miller of seaside goldenrod, we learn that the showy gold plant is an important late season food source for pollinators including the Monarch butterfly as shown in a print of a watercolor and pen and ink work by Rebecca Dotterer. The butterfly seeks nectar producing plants such as goldenrod. And the final work of art in this trio is a print of a watercolor and pen an ink Carolina mantis. This green and mauve rendition, with spiked grasping forelegs can quickly snatch and hold butterflies such as the Monarch.

Other food cycles include mayapples, eaten by the Eastern box turtle and a gray fox that dines on turtle eggs and hatchlings, a duo including the highbush blueberry eaten by the black bear, spatterdock, a food source for snapping turtles, which are eaten in their juvenile stage by the great blue heron.

The work of each artist differs in approach with some graphic and linear with a bit of watercolor filling in natural color to full blown paintings of plants in their environments.

Visitors also learn about the three regions and how they differ regarding features such as the Coastal Plain consisting of open savannahs and sandy hills in the upper coastal plain and wetlands and marshy tidewater areas in the lower coastal plain. The mountains feature high, forested peaks and lower floodplain valleys in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Tall trees grow there as a result of rich soil and plenty of moisture. The trees, in turn, provide shady, cool climate for the creatures who live there. And lastly, the piedmont, found in the middle of the mountains and coastal plain, is hilly with rocky outcrops, drainages and woodlands. While it has its own plants and animals, it also shares species from the bordering regions.

Following the current show and opening on July 16 at the Aquarium is the exhibit “Sensational Sharks and Their Curious Cousins” created by the Colored Pencil Society of America, Raleigh Durham Chapter.

Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.

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