If someone asks Rosemary Lombard what she does, one answer might be: “I teach turtles to draw.”

The Hillsboro animal behaviorist will bring some of her turtles to the monthly Spoken Word Series at the Walters Cultural Art Center next Tuesday evening to demonstrate a different stroke of art. by: COURTESY PHOTO - Diode the turtle's artwork will be showcased at the Walters Cultural Arts Center Tuesday along with that of her other tortoise friends.

Diode, a box turtle, and several African pancake tortoises will demonstrate their painting techniques, which include light pens, computer screens and beaks dipped in beet juice.

Lombard has been helping her turtles create art for decades.

Diode “has a particularly long neck, so she can slide long strokes along the paper,” according to Lombard.

The program will also consider art by other species — elephant and chimpanzee artwork has received a fair amount of publicity — and the varying degrees and types of human participation in such art. Lombard said art has been used in zoos for decades as an enrichment activity for certain animals.

Lombard’s turtles and tortoises have demonstrated steering, balloon play and drawing at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry regularly in the last few years.

Lombard taught at Loyola University and Roosevelt University and has spent the last 30 years exploring the cognitive abilities of turtles, giving lectures at University of California Davis and San Francisco State University. Lombard studies how captive animals use art to enrich their lives.

She works with turtles in her Hillsboro lab and is writing a new book, “Diode’s Experiment: A Box Turtle Investigates the Human World.”

During her lecture, she will address how animal art can be evaluated, how it can act as a window into their mental interests and abilities. Lombard believes animal art-making can reveal a good deal about motivation, creativity and enrichment of animals’ lives.

The free event starts at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St. in Hillsboro.

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