Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why science needs art

According to an article on the Wired blog by Betsy Mason, science benefits when people draw their field notes by hand.

The results are not only beautiful, they're the most efficient way to record field observations.

Another reason artwork is so important in this age of photographic imagery is that illustrations can select and enhance features that photographs can’t. In this photograph of the skull of Daemonosaurus, it is very difficult to ignore the substantial cracks and deformation due to preservation. The line drawing makes it much easier to discern what is bone and what is rock.

Scientific American blogger Kalliopi Monoyios says, “Illustrators can ignore color variations and minor cracks and complete missing sections based on other specimens; essentially, we act as editors, pruning extraneous visual information.”

Read more at:
5 Reasons Your Camera Won’t Steal My Job.
Wired article on the value of field notes

Monoyios’s art/science blog is called “Symbiartic.” The blog’s co-author is Glendon Mellow. Photograph by Chip Clark courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Skull illustration by Sterling Nesbitt. Thanks, Kalliopi and Darren.


Unknown said...

I can't agree with you more. As a retired science teacher I know that students have to really look at something when they draw it themselves. Much more efficient than labeling diagrams that are already drawn for them. Works for maps, too.

Sean said...

All of Kalliopi's points are very true (thankfully). But it's not the camera that illustration students are worried about --- it's budget-cutting art directors, discount art production shops and online image theft that are the real threats.

Thankfully I'm older and work in a different field, but I worry about those I know who are astoundingly talented and coming out of art school at the moment. Making more than minimum wage will take some serious creative business planning on their part.

Tom Hart said...

Glad I clicked on that link to the Wired article. Ecologist Jonathan Kingdon is a fine artist in additino to being an ecologist. Check out his sketches of the Caracal cat doing something called "ear flagging".

Thanks for sharing this, James.

Michael Damboldt said...

It's horribly unfortunate that illustration isn't used as much as it was hundreds of years ago. But I'm so grateful it's such an art that it continues to be used as heavily as it is.

Super Villain said...

a bit off topic, just saw the trailers for the new dinotopia tv series, i mean terra nova series coming out.

haha, i think like lucas, you have another great admirer. the photo used on wikipedia for the series looks just like waterfall city paintig with the waterfalls and terodactyls flying around, and the trailer shows a "utopia", with a heavily guarded gate around the paradise community, that keeps out attacking dinosaurs, hmm seems like i have heard about all this before somewheres?

as i watched the trailer i was literly waiting to see treetown or a dinosaur named bix?

My Pen Name said...

i am also a bird watcher - and That's why Peterson and Sibely field guides are more popular and userful than the photograph based ones, though i understand a new one came out using digital photography that is actually quite useful, if a little cumbersome.

there's a great book out called 'reading the forested landscape" which tells you how to 'read' new england's forests (applicable for NY too) a photographic supplement came out, and it's next to impossible to understand or read the terrain from the photographs.

as for the TAKING of notes, I think there is something to be said for the use of the hand in learning - just look at examples from the book 'the brain that changes itself' documenting that memorizing a long poem and practicing penmanship (preferably a new alphabet) was more effective than ADD drugs for combating ADD_ and literal 'hands on' learning is STILL being phased OUT by schools and students alike.

My Pen Name said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
My Pen Name said...

side note..
I have always like the drawings and paintings of Egypt better than photos...
i remember seeing one of those 'pbs' type archeology shows some years ago, and archeologists still hand drew the hieroglyphics, etc that were fading away from the walls (damn that dam!)

Ugghh no... I clicked the link to the book..."k Field Notes on Science & Nature"
warning readers! if you're over your book budget don't click!

Chris Jouan said...

Science subjects are my favorite things to illustrate. I love when a good illustration can be beautiful and make a concept or image so much clearer.

It makes the work so much more rewarding!

David Teter said...

Yeah, some things will never change.

I remember reading articles by critics years ago saying that painting (and drawing) is dying and will all but be gone within a few years... from a text book (in school), the reviews were written at the turn of the century and the advent of photography!
It gave us all perspective and not to worry.

Photography ultimately became another medium, not one to replace all.
The same with digital, another medium to be welcomed but not feared as a replacement for all.

The fossil example really underscores that as does medical illustrations of the body's interior. Clear and concise.

Plus I don't think any of our physical hand done mediums will ever disappear, as humans we need it.

James Gurney said...

Indiana, the things I remember most from my science class was definitely the things I drew, built with my hands, and dissected.

SuperVillain, yeah, I noticed.
Dinotopia= 1990
Naboo= 1999
Terra Nova= 2011.
Lots of other people noticed, too.

My Pen, yes, the bird identification books are a great example of this distillation.

Art will never die as new tech comes along. It just changes lanes.