Orion Magazine – This self-taught scientific illustrator likes to draw insects

Editor’s note: You’ll recognize Joe MacGown’s work in our latest anthology, The book of insects.


Joe A. MacGown is a self-taught artist originally from Maine but later moved to Starkville, Mississippi, where he worked as a research technician/scientific illustrator at the Mississippi Entomological Museum from 1988 until his retirement in 2020. The Allure of Insects was too much, and he returned to work part-time at the museum.

Asian Hornbill (Eriotremex formosanus)

MacGown’s work at the museum has consisted of taxonomic studies of insects (particularly ants), web design, outreach, macro photography, and scientific illustration. His illustrations are often done in an older traditional illustrative style using inks on various surfaces, or sometimes with mixed media such as watercolor and ink.

Lobiopa undulata (left) and Yellowjacket hover fly (Milesia virginiensis) (right)

When not working as an entomologist, MacGown spends much of his time creating surreal fantasy art that can be heavily influenced by his microscopic studies of insects and other organisms. His works range from energetic surrealist paintings to highly detailed mixed media and pen drawings. MacGown’s work has been shown locally and internationally.

Asper of Omorgus

Coastal tiger beetle (Cicindela hamata) (left) and beetle (Astylopsis) (right)

Learn more about Joe MacGown at http://www.joemacgown.com.