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ScienceOnline2012 Sci-Art Show: The Winners

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Already announced by Karyn Traphagen on the ScienceOnline2012 blog, I’m taking another look at the winners of the first ScienceOnline Science-Art Show.

Artwork at a science communication conference in many ways should be a no-brainer: visuals are often left as frills and afterthoughts in blog posts, books and articles. But a strong image can viscerally commubicate, educate and inspire. I’ll write more about the impact all these artists and an art show had on ScienceOnline in coming days.  For now,  I’ve included some commentary that represents my own thinking about each piece, and what made these stand out.

With $100 prizes generously donated by Rob Dunn and the Your Wild Life Lab, the winners are: 

Most Innovative

© Kalliopi Monoyios

Kalliopi Monoyios for Science Cover

Here we have the visualization process that takes place in science all shown in one image.  Kalliopi simultaneously shows the nuts and bolts of creating an image from evidence, through the sketch to the refined head of Tiktaalik, and wove the mystery-animal-coming-into-focus story into the composition itself.


© Alicia Hunsicker

Alicia Hunsicker for Transfusion

Hunsicker gives is the branches of thought, the branching arteries and systems of the body and the botanical branches of the environment all together: Is the figure transfused with a sense of nature? Is a dead body transfusing nutrients to the forest?  Mysterious and haunting – or joyful?- this painting asks us to ask questions.


Best able to convey complex ideas

© Lynn Fellman

Lynn Fellman for Crossing Beringia

The story of humans crossing the land-bridges from Asia to North American is one we can discover anew, through genetic comparison. Lynn Fellman combines maps, DNA sequences, a sense of prehistory’s flow in the colours, and above all, a human face. These were people who made the journey, and Fellman prompts us to remember that while teasing out genetic clues to one of the greatest journeys of our species. 

© Perrin Ireland

Perrin Ireland for Brain Atlas 4

Research notes that would’ve made da Vinci proud.  Perrin Ireland’s sketchnotes were a massively popular activity at the conference, and this example from her Brain Atlas project makes it easy to see why: science is communicated in accessible, energizing illustration and living text that compels you to read it. Reeeead it.

Best science art having to do with daily life

© Nathaniel Gold

Nathaniel Gold for Anarchy

Nathaniel Gold, who regularly illustrates Eric Johnson’s The Primate Diaries here on the Scientific American Blog Network,  creates the ultimate in teenaged apathy and anger in this piece, Anarchy. The figure is in a casual posture, belying the shirt and title, and like a chimpanzee or an real teen, that mood can shift in an instant: the anarchy of being on the cusp of maturity.

© Emily Damstra

Emily Damstra for Earthworm Dissection

Raise your hand if you’ve actually done one of these before.  Emily Damstra makes the messy neat and the icky clinical in this sharp, realistic unlabelled scientific illustration. It’s the complexity inside every worm seen on the way to work in the spring, every one on a hook. And Damstra made it beautiful.
* *


After viewing and judging the astounding array of artistic astonishments, we decided to to create the Judges Special Awards, for works that really stood out but did not fit into the categories above. These winners will be receiving artwork from me, that I donated to the conference.

Judges Special Awards

© Diana Marques

Diana Marques for Chameleon

The detail is amazing, the chameleon is charming.  Marques, along with Monoyios and Damstra above, are some of the heavy-hitting professional scientific illustrators who submitted to the contest, and this chameleon astounded me. I even kinda like the watermarks in the background, and I’m no fan of big watermarks.

© Susan Ashley

Susan Ashley for Eclipse

Susan Ashley’s submissions caught me off-guard. One of many people chosen for the gallery who was completely not on my radar before  I saw her submissions, this one was created in part by using LED lights, which is something you don’t see in a typical folksy assemblage.


© Kaitlin Beckett

Kaitlin Beckett for Pilotfish

I’m tempted just to say Kaitlin Beckett is one of my favourite living artists in any genre or capacity and leave it at that. But what makes Pilotfish stand out is the sinister charm of these coldly unethical bioengineers clearly bent to a purpose – a purpose that leads them to leave the water and take to the grim skies. I for one, bow to out Pilotfish overlords.

You can see the whole show here.

Will we do it again next year?  Change a few things?  I think the show overall came out well, and Karyn and I have already exchanged a flurry of emailed suggestions to make next years even more vital and exciting.
What do you think of the show, in person, online?
Did it suit the conference?
Are these your picks?
What’s your favourite and why?

Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite and is on Instagram. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. CogSciLibrarian 12:54 pm 01/28/2012

    these & the other submissions were beautiful. I really like your annotations here — they add some nice dimensions to the lovely images. Thanks again to you & Karyn for the idea and the curation! Thanks also to Rob Dunn & his lab for the awards — so nice when good artwork gets rewarded.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Glendon Mellow 10:04 pm 01/28/2012

    Thanks CogSci! Your photo was the perfect one to kick off the slideshow with too.

    Glad you like my off the top commentary. Going back into my image folder to get these formatted for the post, I realized again just how hard it was to make decisions on winners. I was literally emailing with Karyn at 3am the night before the announcement (while the Deep Sea News party was just hitting its stride) because of the difficulty in choosing the ones that stood out. Bloody difficult.

    Link to this
  3. 3. lynn fellman 10:00 am 01/30/2012

    I enjoyed watching the slide show at the Science OnLine conferences of all the images submitted by the artists. Even more so seeing the selections in your post.

    Scrolling through quickly I saw the variety in style and concept as well as high quality of the images. Pausing at each one to read Glendon’s comments are a wonderful addition — the works shine even more.

    Looking at art — really looking and understanding requires effort. Commentary (like Glendon’s) helped me appreciate the art and the artists a lot more.

    Link to this

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