I've recently returned to Nashville from Santa Cruz, California, where I took two courses in science illustration. The Science Illustration Program was part of the Science Communication department at UCSC, which also includes a Science Writing program, but the Illustration program has recently moved down to CSU Monterey Bay, where it resides during the school term and, after this summer, where the summer courses will also be held.
I studied digital illustration and marine science illustration with Amadeo Bachar, who's a truly freakishly gifted illustrator. See his work at his site, abachar.com. It's a treat. Especially check out the time-lapsed video of him making a painting. The actual painting took seventeen hours to complete.
One of the things I enjoyed about the digital illustration class is that it made the wall of lovely web world that I associate with computers become a movable feast to me- I now feel like I can alter, change, color, and amplify my own images on the computer, and generate truly painterly stuff with the incredible technology of Illustrator and Photoshop. I'm delighted to have moved out of the analog-girl-in-a-digital-world stubbornness, and into a world where what I do with my hand on paper, and with my stylus on computer, can be interchangeable. There's a lot more room for experimentation when you can hit Command Z and your last stroke of paint disappears.
One thing I loved about the Marine Science Illustration class, which was basically a technical watercolor course, was the intimacy I got to have with animals in a very different way than when I'm bent over a lab bench or studying their reproductive habits. It's a respectable science in its own right, to figure out not only how to render the animal artistically such that its forms and features and their functions make sense in regard to the whole image, but to also understand what the interaction between paint and water, and paint and paper, will do to an audience's understanding of how an animal works. I had to think about how a dolphin swims, and honor the perfection of their curves as best I could by hand (scanning the image and altering the curve in Illustrator did it more justice.) I thought about the placement of each organ as the body grew across the page, how they breathed, how their eyes were positioned and why. I got to spend more time thinking about dolphins than I have in a long time. It reminded me of the innocence and attention with which I approached my love for them in childhood.
I scanned my Pacific White Sided Dolphin into the computer and tried to render its echolocation structures digitally. This is my rough draft. I'm so pleased to have gotten a crash course in digital drawing, and to have learned new watercolor techniques. The staff at the SciIll Program are really wonderful and have offered to be soundboards for my portfolio development throughout the year.