I will make a couple of basic points, but please realize that I do not know particulars nor have I seen Laura's work.

The article Emma pointed out is interesting, but a bit one-sided. One doesn't need to go to RISD… there are programs at many colleges and universities. If you have established residency, state colleges/universities offer lower tuition. But like anything, there are good programs and programs that are not so good. I have known superb programs at small, lesser known institutions. And just because an institution is well known doesn't necessarily mean it's a good fit for everyone. 

In the course of advising students, I generally do NOT recommend that a student pursue TWO undergraduate degrees. If a college degree is required for a job, the degree is the main thing, and the major may have some bearing but is generally less important than the degree itself. Some students, however, choose to get two degrees for reasons of their own. 

Without having all the details, I would generally recommend that Laura consider taking some art courses, but not necessarily go after a second undergrad degree. I would highly recommend page layout and typography. This does not mean just a working knowledge of associated applications (though that is part it), but includes a working knowledge of what I refer to as the "rules of typography" as well as finer typographic points. A strong foundation in drawing and design provides a good start for any artistic program. Some knowledge of web, animation, 3D is a plus.

One advantage of classes is the critique. This is not just a bunch of people chiming in about a particular piece. The instructor should direct the critique so that it is constructive, with students participating (and understanding the context of the work). This helps develop important skills, in regard to discussing work with future clients/bosses. You need to be able to explain why something works; why it doesn't; what could be done to make a piece more effective… and in a way that is honest yet constructive. In the classroom, the critique doesn't just happen when a piece is completed, but it takes place at various stages of a project. For example, I worked with students individually while they developed 3 different ideas for any given project. These were developed into "comps" (more or less finished pieces, but not proofed and polished) - these were critiqued by the class, and a single composition would be selected for final development. THEN, once finished, the project was prepared for print, a hard copy made, and a final crit was given. (I have been teaching design for many years; it would be somewhat for other disciplines.)

Personally, I would not have accomplished what I have had I not pursued both an undergraduate and graduate degree. I made lasting friendships that have have been important both professionally and personally. 

If Laura would like structure, and is specifically interested in scientific illustration, there are certificate programs in scientific illustration and/or botanical illustration. I do feel that in-person programs (as opposed to online programs) offer more of a sense of community and comradery. But then I am older, and did not grow up in the current technology. So my comfort level may be different from someone who has grown up with technology from day one. 

So as the saying goes… Your mileage may vary. This is just my take on things, and what works for me might not be a good fit for someone else. 

One thing I would say, of course, is to join the Guild and attend a conference. Everyone is warm and welcoming, and there are presentations, workshops and field trips There are technique showcases and portfolio sharing. And yes, some silliness and fun. The Guild is an amazing resource, providing both information, community and friendship.

Best wishes for success, Laura.


On Apr 12, 2015, at 8:23 PM, Britt Griswold <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hello Sci-art Listers,
> Below is a question from the GNSI Contact form.  I would love to have some input from the the wisdom of the group on what Laura might consider doing... She does have some skills.
> Britt
> ______
> Hello!
> My name is Laura, and I am just starting my scientific illustration career. I
> am hoping you could give me some advice.
> I have a BSc in Biology, and have already had a few commissions within my
> circle of connections. However, I am not sure how to get my name in the right
> places. I run a science blog (
> [3] ), which has gotten some attention, though none of the employment kind.
> How did you find work, when you started your career?
> I am also considering going to art school (especially since there seems to be
> a bigger job market for graphic designers than junior biologists in
> Vancouver, BC). I have experience with Adobe programs as well as 3D
> animation. From your experience, would a formal art education be more
> beneficial than learning from the University of Google?
> Any advice would be greatly appreciated,
> All the Best
> -Laura
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