Natural Science Illustration Course Descriptions

Core: Level One Courses

Refer to Certificate Program Guide for specific semesters offered.

Drawing is an essential means of communicating, and central to every artist’s and designer’s practice. This class is a more rigorous and sustained introduction to the drawing medium. Drawing I students begin learning to define shapes and forms with line: investigating weight, direction and speed through gesture, contour and planar analysis. Then moving on to value, using both additive and reductive ways of working, they learn to utilize the power of light and dark to create a sense of texture, volume and space. Spatial systems, including perspective, are investigated as well as fundamentals of composition to construct dynamic imagery. Measuring and attention to negative space are essential skills used and reinforced throughout the learning process. Transcribing what is seen or imagined into visual form utilizing multiple approaches, from note taking to rendering to diagramming and sketching, is explored. The class is structured around demonstrations, guided exercises, and sustained drawing of varied subject matter including still-life, landscape, architecture and the human form.

Design is the discipline underlying all forms of visual expression, and an understanding of design principles is the basis for all art forms. This course introduces students to the formal elements of design: line, shape, pattern, value, texture, color and space. Working through a variety of challenging exercises, students use these elements to engage with problems of visual organization. Deliberate and considered placement of visual elements into an organized whole is the basis of composition, and skills acquired in this course have direct applications to anyone working in art and design, from painters and artists to art directors, illustrators, interior designers and interactive designers.

Color is one of the most powerful, and complex, tools at the artist’s disposal. Bridging the divide between color theory and color practice, this studio course distills the essentials of color mechanics into workable studies and projects. Students explore color through creative exercises using collage and paint to understand color and how to use it effectively. Explorations of the role of light, the psychological impact of color, and how such factors as hue, value and intensity affect design are integral to the learning. Slide-illustrated presentations address the historical background of the use of color. Through the process of experiencing the interface of color theory and color application, guidelines toward developing a personal palette are discussed. Mastery of color is essential in the work of artists, illustrators, craftspeople and designers, making this course an ideal starting point.

From Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to Audubon’s naturalist watercolors, to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy creation, illustration encompasses many approaches to making pictures tell stories. This course introduces the fascinating relationship between image and text, and investigates the multi-faceted process of interpreting and translating words into pictures. Projects are designed to ignite the imagination, help students gain skills and gather information they need to begin illustrating. Students are able to tailor projects to their specific interests, and considerations of composition, medium, personal style and ways to draw and hold viewers’ attention are part of the discussion. Additionally, the business side of illustration, including the art of marketing and pitching your work to publishing houses, is addressed.

Explore the interdisciplinary relationship between imaging, coding, text, animation and video that come together as the designer’s toolkit. This fast-paced digital media course is ideal for the novice or even the intermediate user desiring a better understanding of computer-based workflow. A single unified Web design project, built over 12 sessions, is broken down into manageable lessons that include bitmap editing, vector graphics, page layout, image capture, preservation and manipulation. The terminology, protocols and connections between products are made clear as you become familiar with the techniques necessary for anyone who designs digitally.

Varies by semester. Electives may be taken at any point in the program, provided prerequisites have been met.

Concentration: Level Two Courses

Refer to Certificate Program Guide for specific semesters offered.
Note: Successful completion of the Core curriculum (above) is crucial prior to starting the Concentration level.

Building on skills acquired in Drawing I, this next-step course is designed to further strengthen and refine drawing and compositional abilities. Students explore the descriptive and expressive manipulation of materials such as charcoal, graphite pencil, pen and ink, Conte crayon, and colored media, while learning to create more volumetric and spatial drawings through the use of value and composition. In the process, students work from still lifes, interiors and models as they consider gesture and contour, planar analysis, foreshortening, proportion, and volumetric rendering of forms. Ultimately, students develop confidence approaching a wide variety of subject matter as part of a well-composed drawing.

Unleashing the power of bitmap editing involves working with non-linear and non-destructive methods as much as possible. This course presents that workflow using Adobe Photoshop. Lesson topics include layer masks and effects, smart objects, adjustment layers, clipping masks and reverse editing methods to create the most subtle and professional edits to files: a necessity in the fields of photography, graphic design, illustration and Web design. Complete color modification, damage repair, digital make-up techniques, and complex graphic compositing are among the exercises that come together in a final project that demonstrates your competency with Adobe Photoshop.

Focusing on the definition of form and structure, students in this course carefully observe birds, shells, insects, bones, plants, flowers and more with the objective of translating proportion and depth onto the two-dimensional page and creating realistic renderings. Line, tone and value are explored through work in pencil, pen and ink, and ink wash. Design and composition are also covered. Although the course is highly specialized in subject matter, skills attained here are applicable to a wide range of drawing subjects, media and styles. Note: This is the first course of a two-part series. Students enrolled in the fall may also register for the spring course, Painting from Nature.

How does one choose, mix and apply color to depict a natural object’s form, structure, texture and pattern? This course helps students develop the means to achieve these and other representational goals. Through demonstrations and hands-on exercises, students explore the principles of color while learning rendering techniques for colored pencil, watercolor and acrylic. Lighting is emphasized as a means of heightening the realistic qualities of a specimen. Plants, birds, insects and other animals are the subjects, but the objectives may include creating visuals for children’s books and commissioned paintings, as well as publication in scientific journals.

Selection varies by semester.

We are charmed by the sheer beauty and grace of birds, and capturing these elusive and fascinating creatures on paper through illustration may be the next best thing to holding one on your finger for close study. Bird lovers and artists alike are invited to learn techniques crucial to accurately rendering these complex creatures. Special attention is given to the challenge of achieving lifelike effects while working from specimens, focusing on anatomy, function and appearance. Students in this studio course prepare preliminary drawings in pencil, working with line and tone, then transfer these to paper for color rendering. Note: Previous drawing or painting experience is helpful.

Students in this course learn to illustrate with the microscope, using insect specimens as intriguingly complex subject matter. Instruction includes basic methods of drawing accurately, proper use of microscopes, handling pinned specimens, and the fundamentals of insect anatomy. The instructor also demonstrates how to generate a symmetrical image and how to “repair” a damaged specimen through illustration. Students may choose to illustrate their chosen insect in the classic overhead posture (as seen in traditional scientific illustration) or to position it in a more lifelike stance. Preliminary drawings are done in pencil and serve as a basis for final color rendering in a medium of the student’s choice: colored pencil, watercolor, gouache, acrylic or a combination. Note: Specimens are provided in class.

As the final course before graduation for Natural Science Illustration certificate candidates, students utilize skills and techniques learned in previous classes to create work that integrates the natural subject and its environment in completed, mature compositions. Emphasis is placed on depicting subjects with highly accurate and scientifically correct information while showing individual interpretation and style. Selection of subjects are chosen from specimens at the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab. Advanced drawing and painting methods are reviewed and practiced as students work toward portfolio-ready pieces. Media is students’ choice. Certificate students: Your instructor will schedule a final portfolio review date, independent of the scheduled class dates.

Varies by semester. Electives may be taken at any point in the program, provided prerequisites have been met.