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Geoff Thompson <[log in to unmask]>
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SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 14 Oct 2011 10:53:43 +1100
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I am sure there will always be illustrators for interpretive work. My point is that I had a long career as a insect illustrator, essentially rendering very detailed drawings of small insects. This was static rendering of a specimen with minimal emphasis and interpretation of the specimen's anatomy. It was done because 30 odd years ago when I started, light photography could not do the job. While SEM photography required gold coating and risked precious specimens, without being able to show colour patterns etc. The advent of digital image stacking software has meant that the problems of depth of field that we used to overcome by hand no longer exist. So a whole slab of work that illustrators used to do has disappeared.
I believe there are different types of talent in illustration; those who are good at rendering what is in front of them (like me) and those who can interpret information and create an explanatory diagram. Of course the two are often combined.
I can still interpret a complicated genitalia structure clearer than a single photo but the digital illustration techniques I learned from Marie Metz on my fellowship in DC have meant that I can alter that photo fairly quickly to make it almost as good as a drawing.
I would like to ask the list how many people are still doing straight insect illustration, either digitally or traditionally? There seems to be a reluctance on this list to admit that photography is impinging on areas that used to be solely for illustrators.
My boss is an illustrator herself. Scientists know that an illustration might be clearer but several photographs will give all the information necessary and still take far less time than a drawing.
I agree that I am a better image maker than most people in the building where I work and that I solve problems because of my illustration and photography experience. I am now more a photographer than an illustrator though.
Just my 2c worth,

Photography is good for the static rendering of a specimen, but one needs to be skilled in illustration technique and willing to combine researched knowledge with creative thinking to be able to "tell a story" effectively. 
Good illustrators are good problem solvers and artist/designers as well.

-----Original Message-----
From: Geoff Thompson
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 5:21 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Student Question: Impact of photography on illustration industry

I have to say that photography has now taken 95% of my insect illustration work away from me. Luckily I am a photographer myself and enjoy it but all I get to with my illustration skills do is clean up dust & backgrounds, maybe replace a few broken setae e and alter contrast to emphasise structures. I have not been given a "draw-from-scratch" task since 2006.
I like the blog but the fact is that photography can now produce great images of much smaller things than it used to.
The incredible advances in digital stacking technology and in digital cameras themselves mean I can produce in a maximum of an hour or so a better image than I could draw in a week.
I believe I produce far better images because of that extra 5% illustration input but when I am replaced I doubt if illustration skills would be considered essential to the job.

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