"Queen Betty" (Joe MacGown)

This Self-Taught Scientific Illustrator Likes to Draw Bugs

Joe MacGown has been drawing insects for over 30 years.

Editor’s note: You’ll recognize Joe MacGown’s work in our latest anthology, The Book of Bugs

Joe A. MacGown is a self-taught artist originally from Maine but later relocated to Starkville, Mississippi where he worked as a Research Technician/Scientific Illustrator at Mississippi Entomological Museum from 1988 until retiring in 2020. The allure of insects was too much, and he returned to work part time at the museum.


Asian horntail (Eriotremex formosanus)

MacGown’s work at the museum has consisted of taxonomic studies of insects (especially ants), web design, outreach, macrophotography, and scientific illustration. His illustrations are often done in an older traditional illustrative style using inks on various surfaces, or occasionally 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 fantastical surreal art that may be heavily influenced by his microscopic studies of insects and other organisms. His works range from energetic surreal paintings to highly detailed mixed media and pen drawings. MacGown’s work has been featured locally to internationally.

Omorgus asper


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

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