What education is necessary for a career in science illustration?

While a creative artist is permitted and even expected to take artistic liberties with a subject, the science illustrator must strive for absolute representational accuracy. For that reason, prospective illustrators at all stages of education should focus on mastering technical art skills and increasing their understanding of science. 

High school and college

High school students contemplating a career in science illustration should choose courses that emphasize art and science. Few undergraduate degree programs exist specifically for science illustration, so the best preparation in college is to simultaneously study commercial art techniques and the natural sciences. The focus should be on basic art techniques, graphic design and photography, rather than art history or nonrepresentational painting. Scientific courses that stress the anatomy and morphology of botanical or zoological specimens are especially helpful, as well as developmental biology, physiology, chemistry, and cell biology. Undergraduate science courses must be of the caliber required for science majors. 

Graduate school

A handful of colleges and universities offer undergraduate, graduate single courses, or full programs in science illustration. In general, a bachelor's degree with a major in art and a minor in the biological sciences, or a major in science with a minor in art, is preferred for admission. A portfolio of artwork is also generally required.

Ongoing education

Any prospective illustrator can gain familiarity with the materials and methods used in this profession and will benefit from constant practice. College or high school faculty professors may be able to provide biological specimens and suggestions for scientific drawings. Drawing wildlife specimens, plants, still-life models or whatever else is available in a particular locale is also excellent training. Looking for an internship at an institution or with an established illustrator is another way to get experience and develop skills. 



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