Before you draw conclusions from my recent post that I am some bitter photography-hater, I want to set the record straight. I am not a photography-hater (although I reserve the right to be a stock-photography-stealing-good-illustration-opportunities hater), and to prove it to you, I want to introduce you to the future of photography.
Pierre Brassault. Tillie Cheddar. Luk Khang. What do these artists have in common? Their work is open source, and completely open to reproduce without copyright protection.
Confession time. Illustrators are people, too. And by that I mean they bring assumptions to the table at the outset of every project. There’s no avoiding it - no matter how educated and experienced you are, you can’t know it all.
Scumble: "A painting technique in which semi-opaque or thin opaque colors are loosely brushed over an underpainted area so that patches of the color beneath show through."From The Artist's Handbook , by Ray Smith.Welcome to the first Science-Art Scumble here on Scientific American!
Scientific illustration is an artistic enterprise built with standard models, a history of discarded models, and conservative visual language. Conservative visual language is necessary: faced with complex systems, like say, the respiration system of a healthy human, the scientific illustrator clears away the visual noise of too much blood, muscle skin and even organs to highlight the necessary parts of the body a respirologist or surgeon needs to be concerned with.
One of the things that fascinates me most about the current state of science-based art, are the roots we can retroactively look to in pre-scientific eras.
By far the most common question I get when I tell people that I am a scientific illustrator is one variation (some more tactful than others) of, “They still use illustrators?
Don’t talk about “Art”There’s often a lot of confusion when talking about art. “Art” is a word that can be conflated to mean many things: but most often what people mean when discussing visual art, (oh look I’m already putting a qualifier on the term) is Fine Art.For example, scientific illustration is not fine art: you may find people trying to justify astonishing images from the Hubble or an electron microscope as being worthy of an art gallery, and indeed they are.
If you're old enough to remember when people actually read paper newspapers, you might remember when The New York Times switched from a black and white newspaper to a color newspaper.
STAFFBehind the scenes at Scientific AmericanRead
Anecdotes from the Archive
Anthropology in Practice
Exploring the human condition.Read
Insights into intelligence, creativity, personality, and fulfillmentRead
Everything you always wanted to know about raising science-literate kidsRead
Critical views of science in the newsRead
Dark Star Diaries
Explore the science behind the dog in your bedRead
News and research about endangered species from around the worldRead
Frontiers for Young Minds
Science by and for kids ages 8-15Read
Commentary invited by editors of Scientific AmericanRead
Climate science in a changing worldRead
Illusions, Delusions, and Everyday DeceptionsRead
Discussion and news about planets, exoplanets, and astrobiologyRead
MIND Guest Blog
Commentary invited by editors of Scientific American MindRead
Not bad science
New discoveries in animal behavior and cognitionRead
Opinion, arguments & analyses from guest experts and from the editors of Scientific AmericanRead
More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our livesRead
Roots of Unity
Mathematics: learning it, doing it, celebrating it.Read
Adventures in the good science of rock-breaking.Read
STAFFIllustrating science since 1845Read
STAFFA science blog, sans blagueRead
Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinctRead
The Artful Amoeba
A Blog About the Weird Wonderfulness of Life on EarthRead
Exploring and celebrating diversity in science.Read