Where Art, Science and Nature Meet: Scientific Illustration
A young student recently asked me about becoming a scientist. “I can’t decide whether I want to be a scientist,” he said, “I really like art, too.” I assured him that science and art are not mutually exclusive, as you might think. There are a lot of ways to find careers that incorporate both. One of the most obvious is scientific illustration.
Scientific illustrators supply drawings and paintings to help identify organisms, illustrate scientific methods, and show complex processes for scientific papers, technical books and textbooks. Nature illustrations are also extremely popular art forms right now.
Here is a wonderful example of illustrations of insects. (Scroll to the bottom of this page to find links to his other insect galleries and a somewhat technical description of how he does scientific illustration.)
Are you inspired? Why don’t you try some scientific illustrations yourself?
If at all possible, it is helpful to draw from real organisms. Go outside, find a plant or relatively slow insect and start to draw. A spider hanging in a web might be a good subject. Indoors you might want to try your sleeping cat or the fish in the fish tank.
First, observe the subject closely. Observation skills are valuable in both art and science. Count the leaves and look at their shape. Do the leaves all come off the twig at the same spot or up and down the stem? Are the flowers really all one color or are they a mix of colors? Notice the shape of the veins in the leaf. If you are looking at an insect, observe that the legs and wings of an insect come from the middle section, the thorax. The spider has two body parts, with eight legs attached to the front part. Where do the fins attach on your fish and how many fins are there? Getting the details nailed helps make your drawing more realistic.
There are many websites and books to help teach you to draw. One of my favorite books is “Draw Insects” by Doug DuBosque. It is published by Peel productions, Inc. It gives step-by-step instructions for drawing a number of different insects.
As always, relax and have fun. If a line doesn’t quite turn out the way you want, see if you can make it into a “happy accident” and turn it into something else. Enjoy!