Natural Science Illustration – A Student Perspective
Graduate Laura H. speaks with us about her experience in the Certificate in Natural Science Illustration. Laura was awarded the Bartels Science Illustration summer Internship at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Congratulations Laura!
What inspired you to earn this certificate?
Art and the natural world have always been a part of my life. I have been drawing since I can remember and have always been a natural science enthusiast, endlessly intrigued by the behaviors and diversity of plants and animals. After pursuing my interests in French and Film Studies at Earlham College, I decided it was time to refocus my attention on my primary passion: art. I began looking for programs in a variety of artistic fields and mediums and was fortunate to stumble onto the University of Washington’s Natural Science Illustration Certificate program. The program’s peculiar fusion of art and science appealed to me greatly, especially after viewing the very impressive work of its alumni.
What did you hope would result from the experience?
At the beginning of the program, since I had not been actively drawing for several years, I was mostly hoping for technical expertise and practice. As the program progressed, my expectations were fulfilled and surpassed.
What discoveries did you make during the program?
The emergence of my own creative voice and the development of my artistic aesthetic were two crucial discoveries I made during the course of the program. I now feel much closer to paving my unique path as an artist, both technically and creatively. Additionally, through the process of intense examination and precise rendering of living things, I have discovered a deeper appreciation for the beauty and complexity of biological structures.
What did you benefit from most?
I benefitted most from the outstanding expertise and dedication of the program’s instructors and the collective knowledge and support of my peers. Together these elements created an educational environment that was truly remarkable for its artistic encouragement and intellectual curiosity.
Click thumbnails for larger images and see more of Laura's work on her Web site.
What sort of technical skills did you learn?
The application and assessment of shade and form in all mediums. The difficulties and rewards of carbon dust. How to use watercolor, color pencil, and a combination of the two. How to properly examine and render a specimen in scientific detail. How to create scientific posters and digital illustrations. The art of wildlife composition using multiple sources, and much more.
How did this experience improve the quality of your work?
Because of this program the quality of my work has improved in a variety of ways. Most basically, I feel much more confident in my drafting and painting skills. I am now able to draw from life both animate and inanimate specimens with greater accuracy and ease. With this confidence I have become more fearless in approaching a project and more likely to experiment. Also, as someone who is more naturally drawn to abstract work, I now feel my eye is more trained to analyze and understand detail, which is always a useful skill!
Has the program inspired you?
This program has absolutely inspired me to pursue a career as an artist and to continue my personal investigations into natural science. The enthusiasm of my peers has motivated me to work harder, and the encouragement of my instructors has inspired me to push myself creatively and intellectually. Leaving the program is bittersweet. I am ready and eager to begin the first chapter of my artistic career, but I am also saddened to leave such a supportive and stimulating experience behind. The program has been the highlight of my academic career and extremely rewarding in every way possible.