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Who's Your Muse?: A Discussion of Scientific Illustration

Sorry for the lack of content yesterday, I'm dealing with a bit of a cold... I suppose it's that time of year. I'm also working on a little bit of a larger piece for tomorrow, so I spent some time on that. Today, I want to talk very briefly about an underrepresented and under-appreciated branch of science: scientific illustration.

Art undeniably allows us the opportunity to connect with people, places, and things of all kinds; it's important to our development, our individualism, and our imagination. Scientific art is no different, and without it, I think we'd lose a lot of our connection to the natural world, but still we often ignore its importance, why?

Scientific illustration is a difficult field, pieces are often harshly criticized (this is particularly prevalent in the field of paleoart), especially with the rise of photography and DNA-image generation programs. As a result, breaking into the field can be intimidating and finding success can seem impossible. Additionally, it's a bit of a hot topic right now as to whether or not scientific illustration is a field that will survive in an increasingly technical world. In my opinion, its prevalence is necessary. Science and art are inherently connected, some of the oldest known examples of art are illustrations of animals and plants! Without scientific illustration, we will lose a lot of our (already fairly limited) creative allowance in STEM.

As for my experience with scientific illustration: I got into it in 2017 (my first work is the cover of this post!) and quickly found I enjoyed painting the most. I mostly paint birds, but I've done insect commissions as well. If you're thinking about getting into the field of scientific illustration, I highly recommend grabbing some paper, and pen and heading outside. You don't have to have any prior experience, or any expectations... Everyone starts somewhere. Draw anything that inspires you, all it takes is some practice. I'm still working on my skills, my pieces are not as accurate as I'd like them to be, and art will likely never be my area of expertise, but I will continue to revisit and refine as long as I'm enjoying myself and creating something useful for the scientific community.

I highly recommend the piece that is hyperlinked to "harshly criticized," it's quite interesting and fun!

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