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For Admirers of Audubon & Sibley, Two Recurring Art Exhibits

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

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If you appreciate John J. Audubon’s exacting detail and beautiful compositions and you marvel at the encyclopedic knowledge and delicate illustrations in the famous Sibley Bird Guides you may be interested to know that there are many contemporary masters following in their footsteps today. Their names may be less well-known, but their work is equally as impressive, and as a group of individuals carrying the torch of science communication through exacting depictions of the natural world, they are doing their part to inspire and awaken people to the bounty and beauty of nature. If you are interested in following this group of established and emerging artists, there are two recurring exhibits that you won’t want to miss: The Guild of Natural Science Illustrator’s Annual Juried Members’ Exhibit and The New York State Museum’s Focus on Nature Exhibit, now in its 13th year.

The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators Annual Juried Members’ Exhibit

The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators is a group of professional illustrators and enthusiasts who focus on the field of natural science illustration and its many incarnations. It was founded in 1968 by illustrators at the Smithsonian Institution who were eager to connect and cross-germinate with other like-minded illustrators at a time when realism was disdained by the art establishment and artists working in tight, detailed styles needed to band together in solidarity. Today, the Guild is a rich resource for professionals and aspiring illustrators. In addition to year-round regional activities, the Guild holds a week-long national meeting in a different location in the United States each year with lectures, demonstrations, and one-of-a-kind workshops that are open to anyone with an interest in the field. Along with the annual conference comes the Annual Juried Members’ Exhibition. This year’s exhibition is currently on view at the University of Colorado (Boulder)’s Natural History Museum through September 25, 2014, and it does not disappoint. If you’re interested in keeping tabs on this yearly exhibit and the great work this group of natural science illustrators is producing, simply follow the announcements through the GNSI to see where next year’s conference will be held.


Jeholornis prima on a Bennettitalean trunk by Michael Rothman; Acrylic on paper


Gymnanthemum koekemoeri by Alice Tangerini; Polycarbonate pencil on drafting film


Kepler-78b, First Earth-sized Rocky Exoplanet Discovered; digital illustration by Karen Teramura


Tullimonstrum; digital illustration by Gregory Johnson

If you’re planning on being in Colorado this summer, this year’s conference will be held from July 13-19, 2014. Although you don’t need to attend the meeting to view the exhibit, you may want to check out all the meeting has to offer. It is open to everyone and offers unrivaled opportunities to learn from modern-day masters. Registration is currently open; early registration ends May 30 (with a savings of $50 off full registration price).

Focus On Nature XIII

The Focus on Nature exhibit is the brainchild of Patricia Kernan and Dr. Norton Miller, who in 1990 banded together with a vision to create an exhibit that showcased “the connection between science and images” while inspiring artists and the general public to embrace natural history. Over the years, the exhibit has risen to be one of the best, most selective recurring exhibits featuring contemporary natural history art in the world. This year, from a pool of 172 artists representing 18 countries, only approximately 17% made the cut. The exhibit is housed every other year in Albany, NY at the New York State Museum; this year’s show runs through January 4th, 2015. For fans of natural history art, it is not to be missed.


Kosmoceratops (Kosmoceratops richardsoni) by James Gurney; Oil on illustration board, 2012


Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus): The Anatomy of the Beak of the Flamingo by Xavier Pita; Mixed media: digital, graphite on paper, 2012


Eurasian River Otter (Lutra lutra) by Giorgio Smiroldo; Watercolor on paper, 2011

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her 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. Halbred 8:37 pm 05/14/2014

    Love that Kosmoceratops. It’s in the recent Scientific American special issue on dinosaurs, too.

    That scale-faced Jeholornis makes me sad, though. Everything else about it is so great, and then the artist went and gave it an amphisbaenian head.

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  2. 2. Jerzy v. 3.0. 7:58 am 05/15/2014

    Many pictures are beautiful, but the otter looks more like Asian short-clawed otter.

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  3. 3. Jerzy v. 3.0. 8:07 am 05/15/2014

    BTW, one trend in illustration is to make detailed photo-like illustrations which confuse the viewers what is known and what is illustrator’s (hopefully informed) fantasy.

    Take the dinosaurs, illustrated so detailed as the nearby live bird. For only a few dinosaurs we know true colors, for few more we know shape of their body covering, for few dozens we know reasonably full skeleton, but most dinosaurs are known only from few isolated bones. To which category this Jeholornis and Kosmoceratops belonged?

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