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Joan Lee <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 11 Aug 2008 14:56:55 -0400
text/plain (229 lines)
My comments went poof?! Oh boy.

Frank, I understand clearly what you are writing, and I agree with you. 
It is very important to distinguish between science illustration and 
other types, methods, conventions of visual communication. This is why 
I do not like the idea of "art of science illustration." It muddies the 

Just recently I talked with a person at UMFK who wrote, in essence, 
that a bunch of artists are coming to Fort Kent next year. I 
immediately corrected him and he published the correction. Then we got 
into a discussion about differences, scopes, etc. While searching for a 
good keynote speaker I had to keep emphasizing  THINK SCIENCE not 
minimalism or realism or "nature art" . . . Joan

On Aug 11, 2008, at 1:10 PM, Frank Ippolito wrote:

>  Janet,
>  yes your reply got eaten by the cyber beast, as did part of Joan's 
> earlier reply. I hate when all our work just goes poof.
>  I do know that '03 article - in fact I replied to it and my response 
> was published in Nature a couple months later in March '03. The 
> editors did in fact water my reply down to the point that it barely 
> sharpened. but the point was made. the letter is linked here...
>  for those who cannot read the archives w/o paying, the body of my 
> letter is pasted below- though it may not make much sense without 
> reading the article I was reacting to...
> The subtle beauty of art in the service of science
> Frank Ippolito1
> 	1 	Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural 
> History, 79th Street & Central Park West, New York, New York 10024, 
> Abstract
> An illustration may be intended to emphasize details, convey an idea 
> or raise questions.
>  Sir,
> As a professional scientific illustrator I feel compelled to respond 
> to Julio Ottino's Commentary "Is a picture worth 1,000 words?" 
> (Nature 421, 474–476; 2003). I believe that Ottino's criticisms of 
> scientific illustration are founded on an incorrect understanding of 
> the field.
> Galileo's drawings can't be compared with magazine covers: they are 
> two unrelated types of illustration. It is incorrect to conclude from 
> such a comparison that scientific disparity exists between them 
> because the magazine covers "are left in the hands of artists and 
> illustrators" — this artwork was intended to enhance editorial 
> material rather than to illustrate research.
> Such conceptual illustrations are designed to pose questions. Their 
> use on the cover of a science magazine offers the promise of articles 
> that inform these questions. The cover art of the 30 January 2003 
> issue of Nature (see figure) and the related News and Views and Letter 
> (Nature 421, 489–490; 2003 & Nature 421, 530–533; 2003) follow this 
> convention. The image does not illustrate the research itself; that is 
> not its intended application. Furthermore, the choice of digital 
> medium, whether used by the hand of a scientist or the hand of an 
> artist, has no bearing on this question.
> Scientific illustration follows a different mandate, and it can often 
> be found within the pages of the very magazines under discussion. 
> These drawings outline structure and clarify detail, as required by 
> the subject and requested by the researcher. Because they communicate 
> subtleties and eliminate the ambiguities of language, scientific 
> illustrations are an important, often necessary, element in precise 
> communication (see The Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustration, 
> edited by E. R. S. Hodges; Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989).
> Scientific illustration is a clearly defined field that benefits from 
> active collaboration between scientist and illustrator. Using their 
> professional observational skills, scientific illustrators strive to 
> render the most accurate representation of their subject. It is, by 
> definition, art in the service of science. The act of drawing is, in 
> essence, the act of editing. Complaints about omitted details miss 
> this important point. Scientific illustrators are trained to eliminate 
> non-essential information. The twisted stem of a dried plant is 
> smoothed out. The broken edge of a fossil bone is repaired. Cracks and 
> discoloration may be removed. These subjects are thus rendered in a 
> way chosen to amplify those details that require emphasis.
> Scientific illustrations, even conceptual cover art, should be as 
> accurate as possible. However, Ottino's proposal to establish rules 
> governing the use of realistic rendering techniques is superfluous. 
> Professional standards are already in place for scientific 
> illustration. Magazine editors recognize that their educated 
> readership can distinguish between a beautifully rendered concept and 
> the current state of scientific research. Scientific illustrations 
> exist within this context. They communicate with and within 
> conventions that reach back in time from this issue of Nature to the 
> pages of Galileo's notebooks.
> -frank
>> Okay, I just emailed an incredibly long rant about science 
>> illustration and Nature Journal that I think got lost in cyberspace!
>> Rather than repeat the WHOLE THING, I will just mention an article in 
>> Nature Journal, 30 January 2003 issue that wasn't so flattering. The 
>> cover title says "Scientific illustration Can you believe your eyes?" 
>> and inside, the title is "Is a picture worth 1,000 words?" It's by 
>> Julio M. Ottino, R.R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied 
>> Science, Northwestern University.
>> It's a critique that much of the science art that is published today 
>> is "divorced from science and science plausibility."
>> Janet Wilkins
>>> From: Joan Lee <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Date: 2008/08/11 Mon AM 10:42:58 CDT
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Subject: Re: [SCIART] conference publicity
>>> On Aug 11, 2008, at 11:28 AM, Frank Ippolito wrote:
>>>>  it is a nice prop in an important publication. though the basic
>>>> sentiment is about how integral illustration is within the 
>>>> sciences, 
>>>> I do wish that the author hadn't repeated returned focus on the
>>>> aspects seen at the meeting that had so little to do with actual
>>>> science illustration. Terryl Whitlatch's "fantasy creatures...
>>>> inspired by the anatomy of real animals" is a nice sidebar to our
>>>> profession. on its own it would have served as such. but the author
>>>> then quotes Warren Allmon description of "... inspired guesses, and
>>>> artistic creativity to form a picture of what animals may have once
>>>> looked like." all the part's of Warren's talk where he mentions 
>>>> actual
>>>> paleontological illustration (and not popularized animal 
>>>> restorations)
>>>> is left out. he then mentions Jame's Gurney's Dinotopia talk. this
>>>> keynote was interesting and entertaining but not about real science
>>>> illustration. all this in a one page article leaves little room to
>>>> mention what science illustration really is and what GNSI typically
>>>> focuses on during a conference. in Omni magazine this would have 
>>>> been
>>>> expected. I guess when I see writings in journals such as Nature or
>>>> Science I am expecting an article written for scientists.
>>>>  -frank
>>>>> Hey, hey, hey! I got my copy of the Nature article and I didn't 
>>>>> even
>>>>> need to make the trip to Tufts (not a long drive for distance, just
>>>>> the so-called "rush hour" traffic that lasts all day).
>>>>> I've been looking at the link for a time and found that you didn't
>>>>> need to subscribe, however, the article still costs $32.00 and it 
>>>>> was
>>>>> just one page! (Gulp!) So, I FINALLY decided to just write to the
>>>>> library at Tufts yesterday and received a PDF copy this morning.
>>>>> It was well worth the wait folks!
>>>>> Janet P. Wilkins
>>>>>> From: gretchen halpert <[log in to unmask]>
>>>>>> Date: 2008/07/29 Tue PM 06:51:33 CDT
>>>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>>>> Subject: [SCIART] conference publicity
>>>>>> Hi all,Here are two links of interest:
>>>>>> The first is from Jim Gurney's blog, with a very nice report of 
>>>>>> the
>>>>>> conference under July
>>>>>> 24th:
>>>>>> science-illustrators.html
>>>>>> The second is an article that was in the Journal Nature. Your best
>>>>>> bet for reading it is from a university library unless you have a
>>>>>> subscription. The article came out the week before the conference
>>>>>> and was posted on the bulletin board at the
>>>>>> registration.
>>>>>> 454278a.html
>>>>>> Both good press for the GNSI.
>>>>>> The Ithaca conference committee rocks!
>>>>>> Cheers,Gretchen
>>>>>> Gretchen HalpertGNSI past-president (Gail, I owe you the
>>>>>> tiara.)Elmira, [log in to unmask]
>>>> -- 
>>>>  Frank Ippolito
>>>>  Principal Scientific Assistant
>>>>  Div. Vertebrate Paleontology
>>>>  American Museum of Natural History
>>>>  Central Park West at 79th Street
>>>>  NY    NY    10024
>>>>  (212) 769-5812
>>>>  [log in to unmask]
> -- 
>  Frank Ippolito
>  Principal Scientific Assistant
>  Div. Vertebrate Paleontology
>  American Museum of Natural History
>  Central Park West at 79th Street
>  NY    NY    10024
>  (212) 769-5812
>  [log in to unmask]