Filtered by tag: Tools & Techniques Remove Filter

Non-Photo Blue Pencils

I’ve only been using them to sketch for about four or five years since I discovered the artwork of John Muir Laws1,2—and became more inspired after attending the 2016 GNSI Conference in Santa Cruz where John was a presenter. I really like the freedom to work rough and loose without later worrying about the blue lines competing with the final sketch. This allows me to keep my final sketch and rough sketches together, i.e., in my sketchbook instead of using a separate sheet of paper (and light box/pad) to create the final piece. You can then digitally remove the blue sketch with Photoshop as I learned from Ikumi Kayama’s excellent demo on her YouTube channel. [The video is called Photoshop Tutorial for Scientific Illustrators: Separating Out Non-Photo Blue from Graphite.]


Read More

Plenary "Visualizing Science: Illustration and Beyond"

Plenary cover Jen Christiansen, Senior Graphics Editor at Scientific American magazine, and presenter at the 2018 GNSI Annual conference has made available the transcription of her plenary talk. Visit the blog post at SA Visual, to read Jen's thoughts about her career at the intersection of illustration, design, and science. The plenary talk is also available in video format at GNSI's Facebook page.

Product Review: Handy iPad Holder

In the course of renovating my studio space, I opted to recycle my old cumbersome morgue files, as I now use the internet regularly for reference photos. Using the iPad is great, but I had no good place to set it to refer to while I work at my drawing table. Putting it on the edge of the drawing table isn't very secure (I've knocked it down several times), it's in the way, and the angle isn't very good. I have a smallish taboret of sorts next to the drawing table that is loaded up with the essentials, no room to prop up an iPad there either.

iPad holderSo I hunted on the internet for a tiny table to wedge in next to the taboret, with no luck (too big, too expensive, or all of the above). Then I came across a flexible, adaptable clamp-on iPad holder that has turned out to be the perfect solution for me.

Read More

Product Review: Faber-Castell colorful kneaded erasers

Faber Castell colored kneaded erasersI first saw these kneaded erasers a little over a year ago and ordered some from Cheap Joe's. I use kneaded erasers all the time so I wanted to test if these were - aside from their color - any different from the gray ones I've always purchased. They came as a set of three, one each of blue, red, and yellow. The Cheap Joe's website description said that the erasers will not leave a color stain on the drawing surface, and I have found that to be true. As one might expect, the bright colors do not last long; they quickly become mixed with whatever one is erasing. My latest order arrived with each of the three erasers in its own plastic box, which seems to me like excessive and wasteful packaging. My first order didn't have the boxes.

Major Disadvantages:
The Faber Castell erasers do not last as long as the traditional gray kneaded erasers. They become sticky after awhile. I went through all three in about a year. They are softer than gray kneaded erasers so they do not erase stronger marks as readily as the gray erasers.

Read More

Pocket Handbook for the Twitterilliterate

During the first week of March, the Twittersphere becomes an orgy of science-related art as the Scientific American Symbiartic blogging team (consisting of Glendon Mellow, Kalliopi Monoyios, and Katie McKissick) lead the charge for their annual #sciart tweetstorm. Some brave GNSI members took the opportunity to see what Twitter was all about with varying degrees of satisfaction. If you're still scratching your head about what all the Twitter fuss is about, this article is for you.

So what exactly is Twitter? Perhaps you have the impression that it's a way for you to update everyone who cares (is that nobody?) about what you had for breakfast, who just flipped you off in the parking lot, why you desperately need a coffee, etc. If that's your impression, I don't blame you for ignoring it! But maybe you've heard friends and colleagues who appear slightly more "in-the-know" when it comes to social media wax poetic about the power of Twitter. You trust these folks and are intrigued, but good grief, is it just another instant messaging thingie? A group texting tool? A Facebook wannabe with the weird constraint of 140 characters?

Read More

Digitizing the Collection: evaluating photogrammetry

Increased demand for access to museum collections is driving a trend toward specimen digitization. Three dimensional (3D) digital models provide researchers with rapid on-line access and augment publications. The availability of accurate 3D digital models reduces the need for museums to loan specimens, and thus reduces the risk of loss and/or damage.

Read More

Watercolor on Canvas

watercolor on canvasAs a watercolor artist, I have always wanted to create art that could be handled in the same way as an oil or acrylic (i.e., framed and hung without glass or backing). Works on paper are beautiful, and I love the way the paper and pigment interact. But when it comes to creativity, I want to stretch the boundaries so as to have as many options for expression as possible. Another consideration, for me, is the apparent value perception through which the general public views works on canvas versus those on paper. Those of us who work in the art field know that watercolor paintings are just as durable as works on canvas. We see plenty of evidence of these watercolors in museums, with over 500-year-old illuminated manuscripts, masters’ watercolor paintings, naturalist, and botanical paintings that are holding up just as well as oils. Despite this, the popular perception is that works on canvas or wood panels are more valuable, and the “Sold” price for canvas vs. paper (as reported by curators) reflects this perception.

The Ultimate Inspiration

Earlier this year, I visited the J Paul Getty Museum’s hosted exhibition, J.W. Turner: Painting Set Free. Within this exhibit, which included approximately 50 paintings on loan from the Tate Gallery and various private collections, there was a room of about twenty rare watercolors. While examining these paintings in great detail, I was amazed at the way Turner handled watercolor on paper much the same as oils on canvas. How did he achieve these visually stunning paintings?

Read More

Where Have All the Kolinsky Sable Brushes Gone?

This blog post compiles background information, history, rumors and facts about the shortage of kolinsky sable brushes. There is a lot of information and misinformation about the disappearance of Kolinsky brushes from art suppliers in the US. Here we attempted to gather everything together... read on!

Portable High Resolution Imaging System

The information below is a follow up of the article about the Visionary Digital BK Plus Laboratory System for photographing insect specimens, included in the Journal of Natural Science Illustration 2013 No. 1.

A Connecticut start-up, Macroscopic Solutions, has created a portable insect photography system, using high-quality off-the-shelf components. They also donate one system to schools and non-profit groups for each 10 they sell.

Read More

RIP: Camera Lucida

In grad school, I was assigned the task of drawing a series of teeth using a camera lucida attached to a microscope. This was the best tool EVER! I knew the measurements were correct, knew proportions were accurate… because I’d traced it. Fast and simple. Alas, the camera lucida faded into obscurity as more microscopes were equipped with cameras.

camera lucidaSo when a Kickstarter campaign launched to create a new kind of camera lucida, I eagerly awaited the result. When they released to the public, I bought two (I teach a course in Biological Illustration and thought the tool would be useful to show (or check) contours, proportions, or values. After all, the camera lucida turns 3-D images into 2-D traceable elements).

Read More

Developing A Portable Studio

If you attended the past two conferences and stopped by the Technique Showcase, you were treated to a display of field kits presented by a number of our members. It was obvious that the choice of equipment and supplies is as varied as the artists who use them, and depends on their preferred way of working, locale, subjects, etc. And of course, different circumstances may require different kit compositions. All agree, though, that the best way to choose and use your own field kit is to just get out there and try various items out. Keep sketching! We will feature more field kits in future issues.

Laurel Mundy’s Field Kit

I almost always use the same small set of tools, regardless of whether I am working in the field or sketching at home. My most important of those is my blue lead mechanical pencil (along with extra lead), which I use for making all of my preliminary drawings. It is easily erased and hides well under ink and watercolor, which are the two media I most commonly work in while field sketching. I like to bring two erasers; a gum eraser to lighten outlines I don’t I want showing, and a fine eraser with a plastic holder. I usually sketch over my preliminary with a more final version in a regular graphite pencil before moving to the color or ink stage. I also bring along a black and a white color pencil, both very soft, for adding shadows or highlights (along with a quality pencil sharpener, of course). For finalizing dark outlines I usually use a 01 size Pigma Micron, occasionally using the even smaller 005. I like having a Koh-I-Noor rapidograph pen as well if I plan on using a lot of ink in the drawing, as it flows better and is a darker black.

Read More

2012 Conference Highlights: Virtual Copic Markers

Diploblubb by Terry WhitlatchIf you have a Mac, a tablet for drawing, and want to have some fun, take a look at Sketchbook Copic Edition. The normal Sketchbook Pro is $29, but the Copic edition is free (but limited to Copic media) in the Mac App Store. If you were in Savannah, Terryl Whitlatch shared her techniques using these makers. If you are intrigued by this tool and adapting it to your needs, give it a try.

>Diploblubb by Terryl Whitlatch

Read More

Science Illustration and New Media

As a guild, a group of like-minded professionals, we need to promote ourselves both for the benefit of our profession and our own careers. Using social networking tools is a powerful marketing strategy that if used collectively can bring more money and prestige to our field. I am very proud to be a science illustrator and unfortunately, most of the world has no idea who we are. People need to know who we are, why we are doing it and why this work is important. I’ll summarize a few of the most popular new media tools, including how to use them and why.

Image capture of Facebook page

Read More

Illustrating Atoms and Molecules

Abstract

Since atoms are smaller than the wavelength of visible light, it is theoretically impossible to “see” an atom, even with the most powerful microscope. Nevertheless, we recognize that atoms consist of “shells” of electrons buzzing around a central nucleus. Therefore, it’s common to depict an atom as a simple sphere, its diameter proportional to the size of its outermost electron shell. Furthermore, scientists have developed experimental methods, such as x-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy, to determine the geometric arrangement of atoms within a molecule. These data can be used to construct three-dimensional models of molecules, but the illustrator must be aware that such a model is an abstract representation and is not meant to show what the molecule really “looks like”.

Atom Colors

Because an atom is smaller than the wavelength of visible light, it cannot reflect light and, therefore, has no color. The colorful atoms you see in chemistry textbooks are based on conventions that have been adopted by chemists over several centuries. The alchemists of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance used iconic symbols to depict the different elements (Figure 1). They also associated certain colors with each element based on its physical properties, although these colors never appeared in print because of the rarity of color printing prior to the late 19th Century.

Read More

Using Engineering Principles to Reconstruct Leaf Shape

Abstract

In reconstructing the elements of a convincing prehistoric landscape, some approaches require engineering equations while others depend on subtle nuances of personal observation. The reconstruction of a fossil taxon can be strongly supported with reference to a related extant species. Where no such living plant exists, visualization and imagination are not enough; creating models using structural engineering principles and in-depth field study of living analogs is vital to both accuracy and artistic authenticity. All images copyrighted by Marlene Hill Donnelly, unless otherwise noted.

Introduction

This was a genuine collaboration between art and science: questions about color and form had a significant part in directing research. All plant reconstructions were done for paleobotanist Jennifer McElwain of the Field Museum and University College Dublin. As an ecologist specializing in climate change, Jenny needed accurate landscape reconstructions of Late Triassic and Early Jurassic Greenland. The results provide a strong visual description of the long-term devastation of global warming.

Read More

Copperplate Etching

Copperplate image1It’s all about attention to detail and process— things scientific illustrators thrive on. How could I not be entranced with copperplate etching? But beyond the detail, there is so much more. For all the attentive control that one can impose on the copper, there are variables created by acid, paper, ink, and press that allow surprises both discouraging and rewarding, and each print pulled off the press is a remarkable experience. There is a tactile pleasure to working on copper, and there is the added appeal that comes from being able to rework a plate with more marks and more techniques, and results planned and unplanned enhance the art and satisfy the artist. A fortuitous encounter with a master printmaker provided me with an introduction to the medium and I was hooked as soon as I pulled my first crude print. A few years later two women opened a small print studio in my town. I rent time there, bringing my own paper, copper, and ink, while sharing chemicals, solvents and a printing press in a well-lit ventilated space. Several of us occasional printmakers interact there, learning from, inspiring, and teaching one another.

Creating a print is a labor-intensive process involving many stages, beginning with a sketch. I plan my composition carefully, choosing an image (usually a plant) that I feel intimately connected to and will be content to look at over and over again. My design needs to fit within the confines of a piece of copper and must allow for the fact that the image will be reversed when printed.

Read More

Magic on a Plane: Lenticulars

Not Just for Crackerjacks Anymore

Those little stamp-sized cards in a box of Crackerjacks introduced this technology to many of us. The card bore a surface of fine parallel plastic ridges on the front; a cartoon would move when the card was tilted at varying angles.

The technology of lenticular printing like this has become more sophisticated over the years. There are a variety of visual effects that one can achieve, from 3D to morphing to animation. These effects are set up using image-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, that allows for layered files. The resulting product can be a great attention-grabbing device for delivering a science message or for inspiring the imagination of a young scientist.

Read More

Painting with Gouache

Editor’s note: The 2010 reissue of this article is a modification of the original. Two of the illustrations are replaced with different subject matter for purposes of better color reproduction. All illustrations in the original print edition are in black and white.

The field of Scientific Illustration often demands the production of highly detailed, accurate renderings that must survive the less-than-perfect world of photographic reproduction. The collaborative efforts between artist and researcher/author require the illustrator to adopt a most flexible approach so as to accommodate the likely revisions that are inherent in such arrangements. Additionally, it is the nature of the illustration field to impose deadlines that preclude the use of time-consuming approaches and techniques, favoring instead those media that can be handled with relative speed. Gouache is a medium that addresses these concerns and is an excellent choice for scientific illustrators finding themselves challenged by these considerations. Gouache is perfectly suited for precise, detail-oriented paintings in both full color and black and white. Its predictable tonal quality, vibrant hues, and fast drying time combine to make it a popular choice among designers and commercial illustrators. Opaque qualities allow for the layering of details that permits multiple revisions, and because of the picture's flat surface it is easily reproduced photo-mechanically.

Read More

Scanning, scanning, scanning

This installment of Ripped from the List reviews three recent listserv threads that dealt with techniques for converting traditional art to digital media, preliminary considerations, and subsequent manipulations of the scanned images.

Scanning Large Artwork

Rick L. Simonson: Does anyone have a good method for getting large (maybe 24” x 36”) traditional artwork into the computer? Scanning seems like a good idea, unfortunately, large format scanners are quite expensive. I suppose I could scan it multiple times and stitch it together in Photoshop. Or send it to a large format scanning service?

Read More

Sharpening Colored Pencils

This installment of Ripped from the List reviews a recent listserv thread that dealt with techniques for sharpening colored pencils.

Question from Bruce: Glendon, have you ever had someone burst into the store you manage announcing loudly, “I found it!” A way to sharpen color pencils without the leads breaking!” If so, would you kindly pass along the specifics of this person’s discovery? Many of us, I suspect, are not amused by this constant annoyance. It appears that a bump forms somewhere along the sharpening line that causes the pencil to wiggle. I should probably note that I use the little red General sharpeners. Does anyone have any experience with the Dahle pencil sharpener? If it works as stated it might be worth the $50.

Read More