Biological Illustration

HON 498 – Professor Jack Tom

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Scientific and Mathematical Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis

Course Description:

Biological illustration is a field of study that examines all areas of biological sciences. This course will introduce students to the fundamental principles of the intertwining of visual art with natural sciences and how illustration can benefit scientific study. Both the arts and sciences are historically based upon observation, scientific research, and the study of multiple disciplines that allow us to view the biological world from different perspectives with greater accuracy. This enriches the work of both the scientist and the artist. Students will explore scientific terms and concepts that will assist them in creating accurate drawings used in research, teaching, scientific journals and publication, presentations, and other applications.

Basic knowledge of biological concepts and some artistic ability are useful. Both art and biology involve careful observation dealing with ideas where the hands, eye, and mind come together. During the Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci was a true artist and scientist. He observed the world closely, studying physiology, anatomy, natural sciences, physics, engineering, and art. Charles Darwin sketched finches in the Galapagos as he uncovered the mysteries of evolution. Some of the greatest artistic and scientific minds belonged to the individuals who embraced both the sciences and visual arts. The principal task of a scientific illustrator is preparing accurate renderings of natural science subjects for various applications. The goal of this class is to enhance the student's technical skills and understanding of the importance of visual communications in biology. Emphasis is placed on observation, visual data collection, annotated field sketching, studying the characteristics of biological specimens, and the research process in preparation for the final illustration. Students will become acquainted with basic rendering techniques used in biological illustration. This course aims to create a mutual understanding and appreciation between those involved in the fields of visual art and sciences.


Click/tap the photos below to see ticks, seashells, and skulls drawn by the following students in 2022: Kiley Castle, Georgie Eckley, Leo Bellissimo, Hannah Gates, Aakanksha Koppisetti, Matt Ruegg, Anna Schipf, Sarah Green, Sophia Chiaia, and Satil Moni.

The following are biological illustrations completed by students during the fall 2017 semester: