Monday, 29 June 2009

Art Monday: guest-post by Jacqueline Dillard

This week, I've invited scientific illustrator and artist Jacqueline Dillard to do a guest post. I'm excited Jacqueline has taken me up on the offer, as she has a fascinating portfolio. This marks the first guest post here on The Flying Trilobite.
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My name is Jacqueline and I will be filling in for Glendon today. I don’t have quite the blogging experience that he does, so I fear that my entry may look a little more like a short essay than anything else. Glendon advised me to just write a little bit about a few of my drawings, like my scientific illustrations or some of my personal art pieces, which got me thinking about the differences between science illustration and science art. I’m sure this is a topic near and dear to both of our hearts, so I figured it would make a fine subject for my post.

I believe the main disparity that can be drawn between science illustration and science art is that science illustration is used to show the importance of art to scientists while science art is used to show the importance of science to artists. An illustration is often purely descriptive and completely devoid of any artistic freedom (lest you summon the wrath of the fussy researcher you’re working for!), yet it still maintains the ability to impress the patron. Unfortunately, most researchers don’t have a scrap of artistic talent (there are of course exceptions to the rule; see Jonathan Kingdon and Ernst Haeckel for a few great examples) so when they are confronted with an image of, say a full reconstruction of an organism they only knew from fossilized bones, it can be quite a moving experience. When I completed my skeletal illustration of the whale-ancestor-like artiodactyl, Indohyus, everyone in the lab was shocked to see that its proportions were much more whale-like than was expected. The astonishment experienced by these paleontologists may be comparable to the wonder felt by artists (or anyone else for that matter) when they are presented with drawings that elucidate the hidden aesthetics of the natural world. With a little artistic expression and a highly magnified reference photo, something as simple as a paper wasp can become a beautiful and seemingly alien creature. There’s nothing quite as great as hearing other artists rave about the shapes, textures and colors used in a drawing, not knowing that it wasn’t the artist’s interpretation, but rather millions of years of evolution (wonderfully color coordinated evolution at that) that gave us the subject matter for these compositions.

Well, that’s all I have, hopefully I haven’t disappointed all the dedicated Flying Trilobite fans out there!

-Jacqueline Dillard
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Original artwork in this post on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow Jacqueline Dillard.

Jacqueline's gallery can be seen here.


Sean Craven said...

I'm really impressed by your work -- I'm wondering what kind of training you did to develop your knowledge of anatomy, he said enviously.

I also appreciate the analysis of how art and science interact. Artistic visualization can clarify a subject in ways that even direct observation can't. I hate to imagine medical textbooks illustrated entirely with photographs.

Of course it's always possible to make an illustration in support of an untruth -- that great picture of the belly-crawling Diplodocus comes to mind.

Glendon Mellow said...

I agree Jacqueline's work is impressive, Sean. I'm blown away by people who can produce such great work in pencil crayon, as much of her work is.

Thanks for filling in for me while I was in Ohio, Jacqueline!

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