We’re wrapping up the daily sciart posts today. We hope you’ve enjoyed them! Stay tuned tomorrow for a round-up of the month’s artists and images.
Typically, illustrators are called in towards the end of a project. The text is largely written, and the author and/or art director have developed a clear idea of the illustration/s they would like to accompany it. They contact an illustrator whose style they think will work well and give them very specific details about the number, style, and content of the illustrations they are seeking. I don’t know how many projects buck this trend, but I can say that working with Neil Shubin on his two books, Your Inner Fish (2008) and The Universe Within (2013) was thrilling for precisely this reason: we turned the conventional process of developing text and illustrations on its head.
The process was most striking in Your Inner Fish, in which Shubin actually started writing each chapter by approaching me with a list of figures he wanted to use to explain how we carry the record of evolution in our bodies. Given the graphic nature of the anatomy Shubin was ultimately explaining, he approached writing the book much as one would begin to create an anatomy lecture: by gathering images he could use to move his story forward. We would begin working on the figures and the text naturally followed from the conversations we were having.
Once established, this process took hold in Shubin’s second book, The Universe Within, released in January of this year. The most rewarding illustrations to create were ones in which he approached me with a concept – Carl Sagan’s famous line, “we’re made of star stuff,” or the concept that the atoms and molecules that make up our body are on temporary loan from the universe so even the most egregious consumers are doing their part to recycle whether they like it or not. The dialogues we had while hashing out the particulars of the illustrations helped shape the direction of the text. It was a thrill to be involved in the making of both books at such an early, impressionable stage.
More science illustration by yours truly: Kalliopi Monoyios portfolio
Neil Shubin’s author page
Every day in the month of September, we are serving up a different science artist for your viewing pleasure. Have you gotten used to our daily sciart fix this month? Never fear, you still have the month’s round-up to look forward to tomorrow. And you can always jump in your time machine and check out how Glendon closed up the series on this day last year: with Hyperdimensional Suffering by Salvador Dalí.