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SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 08:18:42 -0400
SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
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"Barry K. MacKay" <[log in to unmask]>
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But is it really not possible for the same endeavour to serve more than one

I know I'm showing my age when I say I used to love looking at the Coca Cola
and other advertising art, or illustration, in the pages of National
Geographic magazine, and the bird artists who they used -- Fuertes and
Brooks (before my time, but still in old copies my grandfather, a doctor,
could provide) and Walter A. Weber, did not simply inform me.  When I saw my
first original Brooks paintings -- a series of raptors painted to illustrate
a book on same -- I was moved beyond my ability to describe...I was

And is not a Vermeer, say, or a Turner, not a form of problem-solving?   

Right now I'm working on an illustration of an extinct species to illustrate
a book on the birds of a specific region.  The problem to be solved is that
the single specimen known was from a boat, where it was seen sitting on a
hand rail or ship's cable (the text is unclear).  That's not necessary to
show...the purpose of the "illustration" is "to inform".   

But I do have to solve problems, not the least being how to show a very
Carolinian species that showed up, once that we know of, in the arctic,
while still making the piece attractive, since there is no reason not to.  I
will show it in flight.  I have constraints no "true" purist artist would
have, such as layout, but that's part of what I see as the fun of the
challenge...problems to be solved.

It's true that as an "illustrator" I'm ordered to meet certain imposed
obligations.  So was Michelangelo, when he "illustrated" for the church.
The church's goals were not scientific, true, and I agree that a detailed
rendering of the head of a bat's femur or a schematic of DNA is not likely
to evoke much emotion from the viewer, although it can be both a challenge
and a pleasure for the illustrator.  I've done anatomical drawings that,
once published, get stored away and almost certainly will never see the
interior of an art gallery, but the same can't be said for those done by

What defines illustration and/or art is what is decided by the individual
doing the defining.

With all due respect, in my own opinion, art and illustration greatly
overlap.  They can move more in one direction or another, but subjectively.

Recently I saw a friend do delicate pencil sketches of the spines of a sea
urchin, and another scientific illustrator showed me her sketchbook, which
ranged from detailed studies of the interior of a plant bulb (she would
dissect and draw some of the veggies she would then cook) to drawing of the
lake behind her cottage.  I could at no place say where art left off and
illustration began.  Both moved me, as well...that is, looking at these very
fine pencil drawings of a sea urchin's spines, for example, engaged me

I'd call that art.  But I would not deny that it was also illustration.


Barry Kent MacKay
Bird Artist, Illustrator
Studio: (905)-472-9731
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-----Original Message-----
From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration-
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Marjorie Leggitt
Sent: August-20-15 2:36 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Is it ART?

Art - created to evoke and provoke; illustration - created to inform.
Art - a personal investigation, self-determined; illustration - a form of
problem solving often coming from an external source.

These are the "definitions" I use in my Composition class.


Leggitt Design
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On 8/19/15 4:42 PM, Will Smith wrote:
> That seems like a broad definition that is hard to disagree with.
> Will Smith
> Queensland Herbarium
> Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha
> Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong Qld 4066, Australia Email 
> [log in to unmask]
> -----Original Message-----
> From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- 
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Taina Litwak
> Sent: Thursday, 20 August 2015 1:32 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [SCIART] Is it ART?
> "Art".   The modern understanding of the term, I believe, includes the
concept that the maker emotionally and intellectually is working on
expressing him/herself in some manner on the worthy topic of the human
condition and culture.   Plays, novels, fine art painting, landscapes, still
life, abstractions, conceptual stuff, sculpture, film, any image making..
One topic, 7 billion interpretations.
> This is where illustration - the goal of which is inherently to tell a
story or explain a specific something - falls a bit outside. Editorial
illustration, which is often conceptual and if its any good IS evocative,
frequently address aspects of the human condition (or situations) and gets
so some slack. So it is sometimes reluctantly included as "art".
> Technical illustration - scientific and natural history included - does
not deal with  this and so we are not invited under the umbrella of "art".
Some good scientific illustration is emotionally evocative of course, but
much is not.   It is not the goal of the work.  We make images that society
has come to value as the way our culture sees Science changes.  What we do
with our images CAN put our output on a more meta level, and the resulting
self-aware product can jump into the traditional sphere of "Art".   But
usually our clients have no interest in doing that.  They just need us to
explain the facts, in the vehicle of their choice.  This is what I have made
a living doing for the past 35 years.  Image making - I love it. It has
value, but it's not "art".
> Taina
> Litwak Illustration Studio
> 13029 Chestnut Oak Drive
> Darnestown, MD 20878
> tel: 301-527-0569
> mobile: 240-750-9245
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