Science and medical illustrators provide art for books, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, articles in scientific journals, online Web sites and other electronic references, and museum, zoo, and legal exhibits. Illustrators may draw an illustration of an arrowhead dug from an archaeological site, a diagram showing how neurons in the brain transmit signals, or an animation of a chemical reaction. Illustrations may be artistic (such as an artist's conception of the surface of a faraway planet), realistic, or diagrammatic.
Everything that science and medical illustrators draw is meant to communicate scientific or medical ideas or facts. Some science illustrators specialize in natural history, drawing a new species of fish or a coral habitat, for example. Medical illustrators specialize in human anatomy, diseases, and surgical procedures. They may do anatomical drawings that help students and health professionals learn the structure of the human body, or they may make detailed drawings of how to perform a heart bypass operation.
The audience for an illustrator's work can be laypeople who know little science, the kind of people who wander into a museum on their lunch break; students; or highly specialized professionals. Illustration can be simple pen-and-ink line drawings, airbrush paintings, computer-generated graphics, cartoons, or even three-dimensional models.
Many science and medical illustrators begin by getting a bachelor's degree in biology or some other science. They may then spend one to two years studying medical illustration or science illustration in a graduate program at a university. Such students can launch their career by taking an internship or job at a magazine or art studio, for example. Others get a degree in art and teach themselves science as they work. Still others are self-taught. If art has always been a hobby, they may start out working with a researcher they know, then gradually find more work. High school students interested in science illustration should take as much math as possible, in an effort to prepare for science classes in college.
Association of Medical Illustrators. <http://medical-illustrators.org/state.html>.
Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. <http://www.gnsi.org/>.
Medical Illustration Source Book. <http://www.medillsb.com/>.