An Education in Natural Science Illustration

Ocelot by Greta Romelfanger

Ocelot by Greta Romelfanger

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle is hosting an exhibition featuring the work of recent graduates of the Natural Science Illustration program at the University of Washington until the end of October.

The certificate program is one of the few programs in the country offering education in natural science illustration. Other schools with natural illustration degrees or certificates include include RISD, California State University in Monterey Bay, and Johns Hopkins.

Ocelot skeleton by Greta Romelfanger

Ocelot skeleton by Greta Romelfanger

At UW, incoming students need to have previously taken at least one art course, have naturalistic drawing skills of animals, plants, or the human figure, and have some interest or previous education in science. In addition to refining their art skills, students also study anatomy, physiology, and cell structure. Many students are attracted to the program because it brings together science and art.

“I like the field because it’s showing nature and past with a touch that is more personal than photography,” says student Greta Romelfanger.

Another program graduate Kevin Wu works as a research engineer at UW.  “I took this course because it would be a prefect combination of my interests in art and nature. Nature is the best designer and I now look at everything which much more consideration and detail. While I am not ready to quit my day job, I definitely would like to continue drawing and painting and perhaps pick up some freelance illustration work in the future,” he says.

Tawny owl by Greta Romelfanger

Tawny owl by Greta Romelfanger

Jess Stitt is another program graduate. She previously studied environmental biology and conservation. “My interests lie in attempting to communicate scientific knowledge through visual media. What I love about natural science illustration is that it represents common ground between science and art. To draw a living subject forces an artist to observe every detail and intricacy of the form, and accurately depict that in relation to all other aspects of the subject,” she says.

Tawny owl by Greta Romelfanger

Tawny owl by Greta Romelfanger

Sea lion by Jess Stitt

Sea lion by Jess Stitt

Bat skeleton by Kelvin Wu

Bat skeleton by Kelvin Wu

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  1. Besides, RISD and Johns Hopkins, other biomedical illustration programs include the Biomedical Visualization program at Univ. of Ill., Chicago http://www.ahs.uic.edu/bhis/programs/bvis.php, the Univ. of Toronto http://www.bmc.med.utoronto.ca/bmc/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=150&Itemid=196, and the Georgia Health Sciences Univ. (formerly the Med. College of GA) http://www.georgiahealth.edu/medart/
    Also see the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators http://www.gnsi.org/
    and the Association of Medical Illustrators http://www.ami.org/