Gretchen Halpert’s Scientific Illustration Distance Program – Session I

What is Natural Science Illustration?

Put simply, natural science illustration is “art in service of science”. The artist “uses scientifically informed observational, technical, and aesthetic skills to portray a subject accurately.” (The Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustration, by the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators). Illustrator, Diana Marques, refers to herself as a “Visual Science Communicator”. This title aptly describes the key role of a scientific illustrator — communication! Shapes, anatomy, details, and concepts that cannot be conveyed with words alone, and are often ambiguous in photographs, are visually described by the artist with clarity.​

Gretchen Halpert's Scientific Illustration Distance Program

​Scientific Illustration Distance Program, or SIDP, is an online distance course offered by Gretchen Halpert in four 10-week sessions. The course is designed not only to teach students the art and conventions of scientific illustration, but also the skills for professional business practice.

“I have loved and combined art, science, ​and teaching
throughout my professional life.”

- Gretchen Halpert

To discover more about Gretchen, as a botanist, biological researcher, scientific illustrator, artist, and teacher, follow www.gretchenhalpert.com.

SIDP Session 1

This introductory course builds drawing skills with the use of graphite.

​Recently I completed SIDP Session 1. I would like to offer you my thoughts. SIDP 1 has excellent progression, moving through material logically, from what is introductory to that which is more advanced. Gretchen communicates the subject matter with clarity and offers evaluations that are sensitive to individual development. She makes the most of every opportunity to prepare students for professional work. Classes, delivered via Skype, allow for students to practice presentation and to learn from one another’s work through assignment evaluations. The course length is ideal – long enough to see growth, yet short enough to fit into the rest of life. And for Gretchen, . . .

Thank you for filling the need for instruction
​in scientific illustration through distance education!

My visual description of Session 1,
a ten week progression

Value scales exercise in graphite on Strathmore 400 series bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.

Tone, Form & Proportion

Still life exercise in graphite on Strathmore 400 series bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Light on form exercise in graphite on Strathmore 400 series bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Tonal drawing with conventional light in graphite on Strathmore 400 series bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.

​Conventional Lighting

Foreshortening leaf exercise #1 in graphite on Strathmore 400 series bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.

Foreshortening / Perspective

Foreshortening leaf images taken after drawing exercises © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Foreshortening leaf exercise #2 in graphite on Strathmore 400 series bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Photo, cone of Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine) behind a plexi grid © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.

Tools include: 0.2 mm Pentel HB mechanical pencil, Canson transparent transfer paper, divider, clear 6” ruler, large box, thread, plexi-grid with 1 cm squares, 01 Pigma Micron

Initial pencil sketch of Pinus strobus cone (Eastern White Pine), using grid © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.

Bringing These All Together

Scientific Illustration, cone of Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine), graphite on bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Cone of Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine) © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018
Anatomical research pencil sketches of Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster) for 'Late Autumn Forage' composition © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Microscopic photographs, anatomical structure of Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster) for 'Late Autumn Forage' composition © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae  New England Aster

Research into Anatomical Structure

Microscopic photographs, anatomical structure of Bombus impatiens (Common Eastern Bumblebee) for 'Late Autumn Forage' composition © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Anatomical research pencil sketches of Bombus impatiens (Common Eastern Bumblebee) for 'Late Autumn Forage' composition © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.

Bombus impatiens  Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Texture

Thumbnail pencil sketches of Bombus impatiens (Common Eastern Bumblebee) with Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster) for 'Late Autumn Forage' composition © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
compositional ideas via thumbnails
Photograph of various compositional tools/techniques used for 'Late Autumn Forage' composition © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
various compositional tools/techniques
Habitus Illustration of Bombus impatiens (Common Eastern Bumble Bee), graphite on bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Bombus impatiens (Common Eastern Bumble Bee), graphite on bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018

Composition

Establishing compositional negative/positive balance with Notan technique © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
establish balance with Notan technique
Final line drawing of "Late Autumn Forage" © 2018, Suzanne M Matheson

Final Assignment - Fully Rendered Tonal Composition

"Late Autumn Forage", Bombus impatiens (Common Eastern Bumble Bee) feeding on Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster), graphite on bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018
"Late Autumn Forage", Bombus impatiens (Common Eastern Bumble Bee) feeding on Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster), graphite on bristol © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018

To discover when the next SIDP Session One begins, or
for information about all of Gretchen’s SIDP sessions, follow
Gretchen Halpert Distance Program

Crow quill and india ink exercise for Gretchen Halpert's Scientific Illustration Distance Program © Suzanne M Matheson, 2018.
Crow quill techniques, introduced in Session 1, taught in Session 2.

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