Switching Careers into Science Illustration

We are glad to help you work through some of your choices as you consider a career change.

First of all if you live in the DC area, I would encourage you to com to the Next GNSI-DC meeting and meet some fellow Illustrators and see what they are doing.  Make some connections.  The next meeting is April 15th at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum.  Here is some more information:

Second, do you intend to use your Biology/neuroscience background to provide expertise in the illustrations you make, or are you doing a radical turn from this subject matter?

Third, do you have any of your drawings/art up online where we can see them?

Fourth, are you thinking you are going to dive right in, or take some additional coursework to sharpen your skills?

Once you have some answers, maybe I can direct you to some people to discuss further your options.

You might also find that reading some of the GNSI forum threads helpful in your search: http://www.gnsi.org/forum

Britt Griswold

 Thank you so much for your email.I would love to go the meeting at the Smithsonian but I'll be in China, working on a project.

To answer your questions,

1) I would like to take a radical turn!

2) I don't have any art up, but it shouldn't be too difficult to scan something at some point.

3) I am thinking that the most responsible thing would be to take some courses in illustration at this point, I have been out of art school for a very long time.

I don't know if you have the time or money, but it might be worth your while to consider coming to the Annual meeting of the Guild of Natural Science illustrators in Boulder Colorado, July 13-19th. Lots of fun, art and education there. If you can plausibly come up with a presentation on wildlife and science, there maybe a few presentation spots open to justify some support from work? Find more info here: https://www.conf.gnsi.org

A full time job as a Science Illustrator pretty much requires you to be a jack of all trades these days (art, computers, photography, video, Powerpoint, posters, etc). if you have some programing ability in Multimedia, that is a big plus these days. Not many places can afford to hire specialists because of staffing constraints.

For the art part, you need strong drawing ability and utilize computers for creating finished art for publication. I suspect you have the ability to talk intelligently with scientists covered. The need is only sometimes specimen work, often it is designing pieces that communicate ideas.

If you are thinking of freelancing, you need strong business & networking skills and visibility with artist peers, because word of mouth is still a very strong factor in getting jobs. In freelancing you also have to have several streams of income, so you may not be able to make a living initially from just one type of illustration. Some people freelance part of the time and hold down a full-time or partite job in somewhat related fields. And some artist have jobs that let them do half art and half science related work. There is no standard route these days.

If you are thinking about medical illustration, you should also investigate the Association of medical illustrators (www.ami.org) we actually have a fair mount of cross membership with the Guild and AMI.

Education can be harder to com by. there are a few very good programs that lead to certificate or Masters degrees, but if you are just looking to improve your skills, learning general realistic drawing and and graphic arts courses will be the most useful. These can be found a local colleges and comical courses. Sometimes The GNSI or AMI will offer learning opportunities with workshops.

If you are still interested in looking into this more, I might be able to connect you with a person or tow how is making a career in freelance of whom you can ask more questions about there particular experience.

Britt Griswold