Interviewed by UCSF about Scientific Illustration!

I was interviewed by UCSF about my scientific illustration internship! It was a really cool thing to do and it was fun to answer their questions.  It turned into a really nice article and if you would like to read the interview, you can here

A lot of it discusses the process of scientific illustration, the value of illustrations when photographs are becoming better and better, my art background and how I got interested in scientific illustration, and a little about my thoughts on the division between art and science. I'm still planning on writing a post about my internship, but in the meantime the interview answers a lot of questions!

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Beyond the Dock

One day, about 6 years ago, I got really overwhelmed preparing for my qualifying exam (oral exam and written proposal to advance to be a candidate for a PhD) so I went for a walk. I didn’t really have a plan for where I was going, but I knew I needed to be moving and I knew trees and water usually made me feel better. There aren’t many trees near UCSF Mission Bay, but there is a lot of water. So I wandered toward the bay hoping I wouldn’t be blocked by buildings and fences. I found this path running along the bay so I wandered down it and I saw this old dock hanging out in the water. I sat and looked at it for a bit and then I decided to draw it. Focusing on the shapes and angles of the dock instead of worrying about the exam somehow made all of the stress easier to deal with and passing the exam no longer seemed impossible. It also became one of the first drawings I'd done that I was really proud of.

broken dock

I've walked passed this spot over the years since becoming a PhD candidate and have seen the dock sink farther and farther into the water. The week of my graduate exit talk I came back out and took a picture of where the dock was and by that time it had completely fallen apart and most of it had sunk below the surface of the water.


It wasn’t terribly surprising, grad school is long and things change. I watched an entire hospital being built while struggling to convince some proteins that they wanted to do what I wanted them to do—that is much more demoralizing than a broken dock falling into the water.

I am however, incredibly grateful to this dock. I’m glad it was there when I needed it and that it compelled me to draw it. I’m glad I went out to try to deal with my stress and I am so glad that I started drawing. I suppose my science and drawing both started with this one dock. One broken section of un-maintained dock got me through passing my qualifying exams and pushed me along the path to art.


Actually Writing Some Blog Posts

I have decided that I would actually like to write some things down here to share and I think I finally have a plan. Part of the problem was that I couldn't decide what sorts of things I wanted to share. My current plan is that I will write some things about art, some things about science, and some things about my thoughts on either subject or both. Maybe this will expand as I write more and figure out what I want to share, but for now, I think that is a good plan to get started. 

I will start by posting some of the articles I started writing but didn't finish. So they will be a little time delayed, but that is going to be ok and a good way to get started! 

I wanted to add a drawing to this post so, here is a drawing of a female Drosophila melanogaster!

I wanted to add a drawing to this post so, here is a drawing of a female Drosophila melanogaster!

Why Questioning Lines?

First, and most simply, it started with wanting to combine science and art and my interactions with each of them in a single idea--to blur the lines between art and science.

I thought about science and what the essence of science boils down to for me. It turned out it was questions. Within the questions, you draw lines to make connections between things to try to explain what is going on. Being able to ask questions about the world and figuring out how to answer them is the most amazing part of science. You have this world and it’s intricate and complex and we really don’t understand it and you get to ask questions about it. Then you get to see where the questions take you and puzzle out how to find the answers to the questions, because the answers are there even if they can’t be found yet because the world exists.

graphite marks magnified 50x

graphite marks magnified 50x

Then to art. What was the essence of art? Lines. They are what make up everything. Transitions from dark to light. Small strokes that come together and don’t look like lines at all. The first mark of a pencil on paper, leaving behind a thin layer of graphite. A drawing instructor told me, “Drawings are just lines, but the world is not lines. Lines do not exist in the world, and yet we can use them to represent the world.” This is an amazing idea. They don’t really exist, they are a change from light to dark, a change in texture, a change in shape, but they can be used so well to represent what is actually in life. The way we share and represent ideas are not through the things themselves but by questioning what those things are made up of and how to explain that to people. 

In science and art there is always an element of questioning things and drawing lines. A combination of using the abstract (lines, ideas, connections) to represent and understand the world. Questioning Lines was born as a way for me to share my drawn lines and questionings about science and art, through science and art. 

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