The principle task of the scientific illustrator is to prepare accurate renderings of scientific subjects. These illustrations are designed for reproduction in professional or popular journals in the field of natural sciences, textbooks, as museum exhibits, web sites, and many other applications.
Scientific illustrations in both traditional and digital formats provide a visual explanation and aid the viewer by clarifying complex descriptive information. The function of a scientific illustration, therefore, is essentially a practical one: to inform, to explain, and to instruct — in short, to communicate.
Frequently, illustrators must pictorially reconstruct a whole object from one or more incomplete specimens. They may be called upon to make a dimensional drawing or to conceptualize an informed interpretation, such as a cutaway drawing to show internal structure, or geographical features on a map. An illustration can simplify comprehension of a specimen better than a photograph by eliminating extraneous detail and clarifying relationships of structures, or depict statistical data in a more comprehensible, visual manner.
Successful illustrators are versatile in more than one technique or medium. Along with well-honed skills in traditional techniques like drawing, watercolor, acrylics, ink or oils, a thorough working knowledge of computer graphics programs and digital techniques is invaluable and expected in today’s markets. Knowledge of digital animation and interactive techniques can also improve employment opportunities. Illustrations can be created entirely in traditional or digital format, or in a blend of both techniques. A thorough understanding of techniques for both print and digital reproduction is essential. Many jobs in the field of natural science illustration are very specific in terms of their subject matter, hence one cannot possibly prepare for every specialty. It is necessary, however, to have a basic knowledge of the area in which one hopes to work.
As undergraduate degree programs are scarce, the best preparation for the scientific illustrator is both a study of commercial art techniques and a background in the natural sciences. Scientific courses that stress the anatomy/morphology of botanical or zoological specimens are especially helpful. Courses in basic art techniques, graphic design and photography are more relevant than a study of art history or nonrepresentational painting. Many art techniques are adaptable to scientific illustration. There is, however, one great difference that distinguishes this field from the fine arts: a creative artist is permitted and even expected to take artistic liberties with his subject.
This Natural Science Illustrator campaign by Ocean Quest focuses primarily in the marine and aquatic subjects. It may be a specific organism; cross section of a coral reef or a macro map (technique developed by Ocean Quest) the student shall learn techniques of observations emphasizing details and accuracy for scientific purposes. Natural Science Illustration is a vast field covering all aspects of science which is beyond the scope of this campaign. Therefore the campaign covers specifically on the science of marine and aquatic organisms and environment only. Other sciences such as medicine, engineering, astronomy, geology and microbiology are excluded from the campaign.
Ocean Quest offers workshops designed to familiarize students with a variety of the methods and materials used in natural science illustration. Macro map of a bank reefWorkshop locations and dates vary annually, as do topics and levels of expertise addressed, and are offered both as stand-alone events and as part of Ocean Quest participation in the industry expo. Information is posted on the Ocean Quest web site (www.oceanquest.global) and in the Ocean Quest articles.