The inter-disciplinary course is now in its second year. It is co-organised by Andrea Roe (artist and lecturer, Edinburgh College of Art) and Andrew Gardiner (senior lecturer, Royal [Dick] School of Veterinary Studies), and introduces students to the rapidly expanding field of Animal Studies, where insights from the arts, sciences and social sciences inform contemporary thinking about animals.
After working on some sketches of the dogs at play, students were asked to consider some physical and digitally-modelled dog skulls, both supplied by the Vet School, and artist Cath Keay (Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow) demonstrated how to use paper clay to create their own.
Students were warned not to be too precious about their models, however, as they would shortly be crushing them in a vice, to demonstrate the effect of human modification on some dog breeds. The welfare of brachycephalic (squash-faced) breeds is topical currently, with the British Veterinary Association and other animal welfare groups calling for restrictions on the selective in-breeding that modifies dogs in ways that can interfere with normal structure and function. Many brachycephalic dogs suffer breathing difficulty, dental problems and, in Cavalier King Charles spaniels, an unpleasant neurological condition caused by the brain being compressed.
In another part of the Making Animals Studies course, acclaimed watercolourist Darren Woodhead introduced students to the use of rapid painting techniques to capture animal behaviour and movement. Darren exhibits widely as a painter of birds and nature and has been artist in residence on the BBC Autumnwatch and Winterwatch programmes.
Other activities planned for the course this year include visiting National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo, and the Royal [Dick] School of Veterinary Studies.