It’s rare that I volunteer my professional time, but when I do it’s for a cause I really believe in, and science communication is just that. Science Borealis, a Canadian science communication platform, approached me to illustrate a few quotes for their #SciComm100 project, where they collected 100 quotes from 100 science communicators across Canada, and tweeted two daily for 50 days. There was also a concurrent francophone project called #100LaScience.
I was able to find the time to illustrate two quotes, one by fisheries scientist Natalie Sopinka:
“Science is a wondrous process fueled by creative thought. So too must the communication of science be thoughtful & enriched with creativity. Sketch, rhyme, or dance your science because creativity is the bi-directional conduit between audience and scientist!” —Natalie Sopinka
…and the other by beloved Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield:
“Science communication is vital to our quality of life. It helps everyone understand the problems that we face, and shares the ideas & solutions that can improve life for us all.” —Col. Chris Hadfield
The majority of the illustrations were done by Peggy Muddles @ The Vexed Muddler, including the wrap up illustration below, which featured all of the artists involved in the project superimposed over the Science Borealis logo.
The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology held their monthly pub night networking event on July 21, and I was the guest speaker. In a private room upstairs at the Big Rock Brewery, about a dozen women in science gathered to have a beer or two and listen to me give about a 40-minute presentation on what I do for a living, and what science illustration is in general, including a break for questions and discussion. I think it went pretty well! Before and after, we had some time for general networking.
— Meighan (@megzzz) July 22, 2016
Thanks to Meighan and a few others for live-tweeting me that evening! In this pic above we were laughing because someone commented that one of the perks of a good illustration is sometimes they smell better than the real thing. In this case, rotting sea stars are very very smelly. Illustrators smell them so you don’t have to!
This was an amazing project to work on with Researcher and Science Communicator Dr. Paige Jarreau of Louisiana State University. Her research with Dr. Lance Porter, funded on Experiment.com, had some budget left over after the results were in. Paige hired me to create a fun infographic to make the research more accessible to the viewer. She would be able to use it on social media and on her blog, From the Lab Bench, to share the results of her study with the public.
One of the challenges was… how do you make an individual generic enough but also interesting?? It became obvious to us that we could not use a human shape, because… yeah, let’s just not go there. From the world of birding, the epitome of generic is the “little brown jobby” and so I drew inspiration (pun intended) from the shape and colouring of a female towhee. Then I decided to go with a small owl (a Saw Whet Owl) to represent the researchers and academia. Using pen and watercolour, I created the drawings and then composited them together and cleaned everything up using Adobe Photoshop. I added the text using Adobe InDesign, and Paige and I co-edited the text used in the illustration to make sure that it would all fit the layout but still express the original intended message.
I was also able to give Paige each component of the illustration separately, so she could use them in her blog and in a slideshow when she speaks publicly about her research.
This was a super-fun project, and Paige was delightful to collaborate with. I would absolutely love to work with her again.
Twitter comes up with some fun ideas sometimes. The #ArtvsArtist hashtag is like a mini portfolio where you surround a picture of yourself with the work you do. I chose a variety of my favourite colourful pieces here and put it all together in Photoshop.
Follow me on Twitter: @jenburgessart
I was very fortunate to make the acquaintance of one of Canada’s best-loved painters, and one of my personal heroes, in February this year. I’d spent hours of my childhood poring over his coffee table books, but I never expected to meet him in person.
It was all arranged because of an offhand suggestion of one of my beloved aunts to her brother, Don Arney, a friend of Mr. Bateman’s. A very warm thank you to Jan, without whom this wouldn’t have happened, and as well to Don, who kindly set up the visit and agreed to accompany me. He met me at the gate of Mr. Bateman’s property on Saltspring Island.
A quiet, humble, charming, and gracious man, Robert walked up the path to greet us. He led us around his small but custom-built and beautiful home, smiling all the while, showing us the care he had taken to making an elegant and welcoming living space. From the carefully designed front walkway, through the hand-carved custom front door that has followed him to several homes already, past his favourite souvenirs of many years of world travel and the artworks of his talented wife Birgit, to the family photographs by his easel at the window of his studio, it is clear that Robert has his priorities in order. For someone who is as productive as he is, still actively painting in his 80s, he did not seem rushed or stressed in any way. I had just finished reading his book Life Sketches, and throughout the visit it was amazing to hear slight elaborations on the stories within it, directly from the man himself. My favourite part of the visit was seeing so many handmade gifts that Robert and Birgit had lovingly created for one another every anniversary, birthday, Valentine’s day and Christmas, every single year they’ve been together, which is a lot of gifts for a lot of years.
Robert showed me some works in progress at his easel, some failed works (!!), and some commissions that were waiting to go to their future home. He even graciously looked at my own portfolio, commenting on each piece. I need to do more with light, he says. I agree. That will be something to work on!
At the end of my visit he sat for a photograph with us and signed my copy of his biography. “Bob” might take some getting used to. Thank you so much Bob for your hospitality and kindness. I will never forget this experience.