Trudy Nicholson – Special Service Award 2104

Submitted by Kris Kirkeby; Presented by President Scott Rawlins

Trudy NicholsonThis year we are pleased to present Trudy Nicholson with the GNSI Special Service Award. This award was developed for long-term dedication to the Guild through efforts of volunteerism, service, teaching, mentoring, or other ongoing and substantial support of the organization.

Trudy entered the world of art through her mother’s work of illustrating animals for children’s magazines. In high school, her biology teacher, knowing of her interest in art and science told her about the field of medical illustration and the schools that teach it. That brief conversation would later open the door to a fascinating career.

Trudy majored in fine art at Columbia University, spent a few years working at art museums in New York City and finally, recalling her high school teacher’s words, went to Boston and completed the 3-year program in the School of Medical Illustration at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Trudy worked as a medical artist at the National Institutes of Health for 30 years. But even in that interesting research environment, she yearned to broaden the variety of her work. She often visited the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. In those days security was lax. She would knock on doors and ask curators if they needed artwork done. Some did.

On a very lucky day for her, in September 1969, upon entering the museum foyer Trudy saw an extensive exhibit of scientific artwork complete with artists using their tools and answering questions for the public. This was one of the first exhibits of the newly founded GNSI. She quickly joined and considers that to be one of the best decisions of her life and is thankful to the Guild for all the learning and encouragement it has provided. She met Elaine Hodges and the other Guild founders and formed cherished friendships.

A freelance job she had while working at NIH involved generating artwork for a small medical instrument company, illustrating its neurological calendar for 26 years. When Trudy retired from NIH, Charles Kingsley Levy, a writer for that calendar, asked to use her illustrations for his book Evolutionary Wars. So began her natural science book illustration freelance career, which she still enjoys, along with illustrating for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and for her family’s small t-shirt business.

Any discussion about Trudy must mention that she has an international reputation as a scratchboard expert and artist. She’s generously shared her knowledge of this craft over the years in the many workshops she has presented. Trudy has provided long-term dedicated service to the business side of the organization by holding executive board positions and serving for many years as an editor for our Newsletter. She has also contributed to and helped edit The Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustration. Her conference logos for the 1986 and 1996 GNSI conferences are additional examples of her continuous support and obvious love for GNSI projects and events throughout the decades. She is greatly admired by those who don’t know her and greatly loved by those who do.

Trudy may never know how many people she has mentored. One member recalls, “Trudy always treats people as intelligent and talented, and she takes everyone seriously. She has the ability to make everyone feel valued. Treating everyone equally, whether they are accomplished artists, beginning illustrators or those who are simply interested in scientific illustration, exemplifies the true spirit of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and she personifies this spirit perfectly.”

For these and many other contributions of energy and wise leadership, it is our great honor to present you with the GNSI Special Services Award.