Natural Science Illustration – Q&A with Instructor Bart Rulon
Instructor, Certificate in Natural Science Illustration
I always look most forward to teaching my students the importance of researching their subjects in the field. Sketching and photographing animals in their natural habitat is not only the best way for an illustrator to learn his or her subject, but it is also the best way to gather useful references to work from. This first hand knowledge of your subject is often more important than technical ability.
You just received the 2010 Teaching Excellence Award for your work in the Natural Science Illustration program. Can you describe your approach to teaching your art form and some of your previous teaching experience?
In my teaching approach I try to cover all of the things that I wish I knew when I started my career, but I had to learn the hard way. I try to teach with a mixture of slide lectures, instructor demos, field trips, and student work time in order to keep classes interesting and useful. Since many illustration techniques are time consuming it is not always possible to demonstrate them in class. Instead I usually show students these techniques through step by step slides illustrating my past artworks in progress. I save in class demonstrations for techniques that can more easily be shown in a shorter period of time.
My art career has always been a combination of creating wildlife illustrations for clients, and drawing and painting wildlife art that I later sell to art collectors. I try to include both illustration and fine art instruction in my classes because some students want to pursue fine art, and some want to pursue illustration after this program.
How will your professional work in the Puget Sound area and elsewhere influence your teaching? Do you want to talk about some of the recent or upcoming projects that you are putting together?
My professional work informs all of my teaching. I’ve been making a living in this field for 20 years, and I have learned many things along the way that I did not know when I started. I learn new things every year that help to keep my instruction current. This field, like others, is always changing and it helps to be immersed in it daily to be able to keep the students up to date both on the illustration side and the fine art side.
I was chosen to create the poster art for the 2010 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. The experience of being the featured artist for this event added first hand knowledge that I can pass along to my students in case they want to try for it in a future year. I can pass along illustration techniques as well as business techniques that helped make the experience successful for me.