Who inspires me #4

Daniel Shaffer (@danielhshaffer) is a freelance illustrator based in Atlanta, Georgia. His work in featured in many known magazines/papers like The New York Times, The Washington Post or Variety Magazine and his clients also include Cartoon Network, Samsung Publishing and many more.

I like his art mainly because it’s a bit weird (in the best way). Looking at his work is always fun and it makes me feel like not all art needs to be perfectly crafted and has to make sense. Seeing someone succeed which creating things they love without restricting themselves is refreshing. It gives me the courage to think about drawing shapes and characters that many people would label as strange without feeling ashamed of my desire to create something that just feels fun to create. Daniel Shaffer seems like he’s enjoying his job a lot and I strive to do the same.

Who inspires me #3

While looking at different artists/illustrators I realized that me liking their work has no connection to the fact if they create their work digitally, analog or with a mix of both. I find all three approaches equally fascinating, but might be personally leaning towards the mixed/digital approach with analog textures.

Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde (@iraville) is an illustrator based in Munich with a passion for paper and watercolor. Most of her work is based around nature and landscapes but it also includes some character design. For her work she mostly uses earthy and natural colors. She mostly uses a white background and incorporates the white space into her compositions.

Who inspires me #2

Here I go again, trying to figure out what I like and why. Today’s illustrator is Beatrice Blue (@beatrice.blue) an Art Director and author/illustrator working both on publishing and the animation industry. Her work is very playful and colorful. What draws me to her work is her use of different analog textures in a digital setting. I like her the color palettes she chooses, they harmonize with her painting style and motifs. The illustrations she creates feel soft and comforting, but also very playful.

I think the biggest reason why I like someones work is if it triggers some sort of emotional reaction whether it’s curiosity, happiness, longing or a feeling of understanding. The work of Beatrice Blue definitely invokes happy emotions.

Who inspires me #1

I’ve been thinking a lot about different styles and in which direction I want to go with my personal illustration style in the future. Because the option are endless I’ve settled on looking at artists and illustrators who’s work inspires me or speaks to me in some way at the moment.

The first Timothy Von Rueden (@vonnart) an independent artist from Wisconsin. His main focus is pencil drawings and I think his work is inspiring to me because of the way he uses light and shadows as well as white space to enhance his pieces. The way he uses the medium to his advantage creates dynamic drawing the capture the eyes (or mine at least). Another reason why his artwork always captures my interest is because of his attention to detail and his intricate subjects.

Graphic recording

Graphic Recording is an american invention from the 70s. It is used at congresses, meetings, conventions, workshops and seminars to visually document the most important talking points and findings. It is done live at the event. The person recording is mostly using a big piece of paper and markers. Sometimes they can alternatively use a digital device that is streamed on a screen. Graphic recording has to be clear and conclusive, but can also be humorous.  

This visualization technique is supposed to summarize long, complicated or boring talks as well as lectures and captures the most important information visually. This is done by using keywords, metaphors and pictures. It also includes the audience in the creative process and thus amplifies concentration and motivation. Another important factor of graphic recording is that our brain loves visual information and tends to remember it easier. It also has a more long lasting effect on us, because we think about an event longer than we normally would if we have a visual connection in our mind. 

The art of human anatomy

The spellbinding art of human anatomy

Ted talk by Vanessa Ruiz | TEDMED 2015
Medical Illustrator

Vanessa Ruiz is a medical illustrator and  loves the human body and anatomy. This is the reason why she created Street Anatomy, a movement dedicated to showcasing how anatomy is visualized in art, design and pop culture. Through sharing these works of art she wants to lift anatomy out of the textbooks, make it tangible and take away the learned reaction of fear of anatomy and guts most of us have. 

In her Ted Talk at TEDMED 2015 she tells her story and relationship with anatomy, gives a short history recap and presents some of her favorite artists. Anatomy isn’t only relevant in the medical field and these artists bring it into the public space.

One of the artists Ruiz presents is the Austrian street artist and illustrator NYCHOS who created the Rabbit Eye Movement

How to Scientific Illustration

The main goal of scientific illustration is to translate scientific information into a visual representation that helps the reader or viewer to better understand the topic. Creating a scientific illustration involves multiple steps that may vary depending on the project.

At first the most important thing is to research the hell out of your subject! It may take some time, but it is extremely important to accurately share the information. When working with a scientist there will be provided information, but you still have to sit down and wrap your brain around it. Don’t forget to look at existing or similar work on the subject. It’s good to know what’s out there.

The next thing on your to-do list is to create preliminary sketches. Visualize what you have in mind and make as many sketches as you feel like. The more you sketch the more you can edit, revisit and adapt later on. You can also sketch the layout of the finished product (e.g. an informative poster) to get a feel for the needed space and dynamic of different parts. 

After doing your sketching you can try out different illustration techniques. Will it be digital or analog? What color palettes will you use? By practicing and using different types of media and get a feel for which style fits your project best and find out how to get the best result. 

Now that you made your sketches and tried different methods it is time to decide on the overall composition and transfer your drawing to editing software. Afterwards it’s time to start working on your final illustration. Once you get a first draft you can talk to the scientist that you cooperate with and discuss your illustration. Make it an iterative process and revise your illustration if needed. Once you and your collaborator are on the same page you can finalize the project. 

I got this information from an article by Kara Perilli about making a scientific illustration on the Current, a blog from The Franklin Institute. She writes about the process in more detail and via example from her own project. 


I also found this video about Nora Sherwood on her journey and career as a scientific illustrator. She is talking about her creative process, her desire to make people think about the world and nature as well as her wish to invoke curiosity and pass on knowledge.    

Science & Art

The art of science and the science of art

Ted talk by Ikumi Kayama
Medical and scientific illustrator

Ikumi Kayama shares what scientific illustration means to her and what motivates her to keep going. In her work she creates illustrations of “dead things”. They could be plants, animals or humans. One of her focuses is human anatomy and she loves to give new insight about the human body to other people. Kayama emphasizes that the advantage of illustration over photography is that she can breath life into her drawings, make things see-through and direct the viewer’s eye to a specific point of the picture.

Some of Ikumi Kayamas work:

Integration of Art and Science

Ted talk by Yoko Shimizu
Contemporary artist and biochemist

Yoko Shimizu talks about the beauty of science, the way it inspires her and how she uses scientific principles to create fascinating installations. In her talk she shows three art installations about gravity, surface tension and sound waves. With her work she wants to show everyone that inspiration is all around us and that combining things that seem on different ends of a spectrum can lead to astonishing and beautiful creations. Visualizing the unseen is one of her key motivations.

Inside Futurelab – BioArt

Video by Ars Electronica

In this video Yoko Shimizu presents the Ars Electronica Futurelab, where they create creative and innovative technology with clients from around the world. Shimizu gives the viewers a quick tour of the Ars Electronica Biolab, which consists of two floors, a museum/galerie and laboratory. Afterward Shimizu talks about BioArt, her motivation and projects. She loves that in BioArt you start with something you designed but in the end you end up with something you couldn’t even imagine by co-creating with nature and living things.

It’s much more beautiful than something that you could’ve created on your own.

When science meets art

Ted talk by Fabian Oefner

Fabian Oefner presents two of his projects inspired by science. The first one is based on sound waves. Tiny crystals are placed on a plastic foil above a speaker. They jump in the air once a sound is played. Using a camera that can take 2000 pictures per second he photographs this phenomenon. In his second project he uses ferrofluids (fluids that react to magnetic fields) and watercolors to create amazing organic images. Each of his projects is somehow inspired by science, because he doesn’t just want to create stunning images but wants to make people curious as well. His goal is to make the viewer stop for a moment and wonder how he did it and what the physical properties are.

Scientific Illustration 02

The American Museum of Natural History created two informative videos about Natural Histories, an exhibition about scientific illustration, naming historically important pieces. Curator Melanie Stiassney states that illustration is able to subtly highlight the features which are important for a particular species in a way photography necessarily can’t. In some cases the depicted species is extinct today, so our only way to learn about them is to read and look at the historic illustration.

Natural Histories: Scientific Illustration on Display by the American Museum of Natural History
Natural Histories: Rare Books from the AMNH Library by the American Museum of Natural History

Additionally they created a video about printing techniques for historic scientific illustration. It explains how woodcut, engraving, lithography and chromolithography work.

Woodcut: Originally used as a fabric printing technique, but got adopted by book illustrators. It worked like a stamp.

Engraving: Gravers or burins were used to inscribe lines into copper plates. Ink would be spread onto the plate. Excess ink would be wiped off and a damp sheet of paper would be placed on top of the plate. A roller would be used to put pressure on the paper to press the ink onto the sheet.

Lithography: For lithography very fine grained stone, usually lime, was used. 

Chromolithography: Printing in color by using multiple stones: one stone for each color. Later on a technique using only four stones (three colors + black) was invented.

Rare Book Collection: Printing Techniques for Scientific Illustrations by the American Museum of Natural History

Scientific Illustration 01

Discussing with an artist how best to depict a mechanism or process — what to include and exclude, how molecules, stars or fossils should be positioned relative to one another — can help researchers to hone their hypothesis, reveal points of disagreement between authors and even identify holes in understanding.

Jyoit Madhusoodanan

In her article Science illustration: Picture perfect Jyoit Madhusoodanan wrote about the experiences different scientists had while working with (scientific) illustrators for their papers and how “enlisting the help of an illustrator can add impact to research papers and outreach projects”.

Lost Worlds by Victor Leshyk

One of the mentioned scientists was the palaeobotanist Christopher M. Berry, who researched the Gilboa Fossil Forest in New York, the home of the Earth’s oldest forest, for years. The tree trunks fossils found there are roughly 380 million years old and the only known survivors of their type in the world. 

The illustrator Victor Leshyk was commissioned to create an illustration of this forest, which was to accompany a 2012 research paper by Berry and his colleagues in Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal since 1869. It also was to appear on the cover of the journal and Berry features it in his talks as well. 

The cover of Nature 483

The digital oil painting titled ‘Lost Worlds’ was based on a sketch from researchers and made it possible for Berry to experience what the living forest might have looked like so many millennia ago.

Credit: Left: Frank Mannolini/New York State Museum. Right: Victor Leshyk

Furthermore Madhusoodanan also talks about other scientists in different fields and how their cooperation with illustrators turned out. There are many benefits for scientists working with illustrators:

  • Visually stunning images help raise the visibility of the scientist’s work and generate more online views
  • Papers including scientific illustration are more likely to be shared digitally or written about
  • They attract more students to a lab
  • They attract a wider audience than non-illustrated papers
  • Researchers are able to show a better the public-outreach, when applying for grants or funding
  • Working with the illustrator can reveal gaps in knowledge and inspire new experiments

Illustrators mentioned in the article

Victor Leshyk

Emily Damstra

Mary O’Reilly

Jessica Huppi