Pursuing a career in Scientific Illustration- UK


I'm in my second year of studying for an undergraduate degree in Zoology at Sheffield University, which is in the UK. Currently, I'm doing well and have never regretted choosing a scientific path of study: I love my subject, and it's introduced me to what I find to be some of the most fascinating concepts in the world (ok, I'm biased!)

I suspect I'm like many people here: I've always had a great love of art as well as science, though it has fallen by the wayside a little lately, mostly taking the form of slightly bizarre doodles on my lecture notes! I thought a career combining the two was too much of a good thing to actually exist, but after some investigation, Google led me to a treasure trove of information, including this website. I think this career path would suit me greatly, though the breadth of things that can be done with it is a little daunting, and hard to narrow down. As someone who loves getting enthusiastic to non-scientists about the things I've learned and trying to explain them, I feel that work involving spreading understanding and love of the sciences through illustration would be my ideal. What sort of employers would tend to embrace that?

I know that my drawing skills (especially digital- I have little experience with Photoshop or similar) will need a lot of work in order for me to pursue this kind of career. I've always preferred accurate drawing to the expressive style that my art teachers wanted me to adopt, though my techniques and accuracy will definitely need honing. Unfortunately, my internet searches seem to suggest there are very limited options for actually studying Scientific Illustration in the UK, and I'm not keen to move across the Atlantic. Could working under my own steam (plenty of it, of course), perhaps combined with some form of casual training like art classes, be sufficient to get me to the level needed?

Apart from that, I guess I don't have a specific question. General advice would be very much appreciated, and some reassurance- this all seems a bit scary at the moment!

Thanks for reading that big block of undergraduate babble!


You might contact Alan Male at the University of Falmouth for some advice (http://www.falmouthillustration.com)

or the Medical Artists Education Trust (http://www.maet.org.uk)

or some of these other's  (http://www.gnsi.org/resources/reviews/related-science-artist-associations)

You are looking for opportunities to interact with these people to see if what they do interests you. Weekend workshops or meetings of members. Most organizations are very open to having guests visit their events (or they should be if they are worth belonging to!)

The most important thing is to continue to improve your Drawing skills and coloring skills, and ability to accurately measure and represent reality. If on the side you begin to play with digital tools like paint and vector programs, and a 3D program, you will be in good shape.

If you have any facility with programing for web interfaces to bring your art and communication proclivities to the public. This is also a good thing to persue, as the abilities are in demand.

Many an illustrator has gotten their start by asking their science professors if they have any material that needs illustration for lectures or book projects, even if it just ends up being the draft material for further refinement later in the process.



Hi Britt,

Thanks very much for the advice! I will keep it close at hand for future reference. 

I have a relatively gappy timetable this half of the semester, so I plan to take advantage of it: getting plenty of observational drawing done, visiting the careers office, trying to find some sort of class or society for digital art. Are there any books relating to techniques for scientific drawing that you'd reccommend?

I've also had some thoughts about methods of online exposure of my work to the public (once it's closer to a level I'm happy with, and I've familiarised myself with some basic web design skills). There is a very popular group on Facebook called "I ****ing love Science", which, amongst other things, posts interesting pictures and news stories relating to science. It has a very wide fanbase, from academics who get over-excited about the nerdy in-jokes to people like my auntie, who have no background in the sciences and just likes learning cool things while she browses Facebook. It's given me an idea for a blog where I post regularly about things such as science in the news, fun facts and interesting concepts in science, using illustration to explain things or as an accompaniment depending on the content. I could have features like "Weird species of the week", and tackle specific questions that people have. It'd keep me in practice, get me self-disciplined with setting deadlines for posting things, help me learn how to make things accessible, and get me a bit of exposure. All in good time, though!

Thanks again,


Thanks for that link: getting some inspiration off it already! Hope I'll be worthy of appearing on it someday.