Illustration can help tell stories that words cannot. Think of the most compelling images in science: Darwin’s first evolutionary tree. Audubon’s peerless bird illustrations. The double helix of DNA. Artist renderings of the awesome dinosaurs. These ideas are brought to life in the mind with illustration, whether simple or complex. If you take a moment to look, illustration is all around you, from the labels on your food to the children’s books you treasure. Visual storytelling is a language we all read and understand. It is an excellent tool to have in your toolbox as a scientist.
What about photographs?
Modern photography is excellent, and can capture so much of our world in very compelling ways. But, imagine trying to explain something new to a reader - say, the internal anatomy of a snail. Would a reader know one shiny beige piece of goo from another in a photograph? A clear, concise, labeled illustration would be the ideal choice in this instance. Moreover, illustration can capture what photographs cannot - scenes of extinct creatures going about their day, exoplanets in far away solar systems, the strange behavior of a virus attacking a cell. A good illustration utilizes design and imagination to show relationships and clarify concepts in an accessible way.
Why is your signature all over these pictures?
The ability to reach so many people on the internet comes with the risk of art being taken and used without the artist’s permission. It happens very frequently - this behavior devalues an artist’s work and takes money out of an artist’s pocket. Many artists choose to watermark their work with a picture or signature to help prevent this practice, myself included. It’s not my favorite thing to do, and can be a distraction when viewing my galleries, but I feel that protecting my work is important. If you’d like to use any of my finished works, I am happy to speak with you - please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Darwin's sketch of the first evolutionary tree, published in First Notebook on Transmutation of Species (1837). Not a complex illustration, but an effective one!