Science Art Gets Some Love: Cancer Science Illustration AOI Award
Winner of the AOI Illustration Awards 2013 Research & Knowledge
I’m pleased–and surprised and humbled–Sayo Studio’s artwork created for Dr. Tarek Fahmy’s laboratory and the National Science Foundation won the Research & Knowledge category of the 2013 AOI illustration awards. www.aoiimages.com
From the AOI:
“Visual showcase for recently published research to evoke interest from the non-science public and describe how nanotechnology might help combat cancer.
Judges Comments: From a very diverse and impressive range of work in this category this image impressed us because it combined accurate, compelling and significant scientific data with a strong aesthetic appeal. It is a medical illustration that remains accessible to a popular audience.
The colour palette works well and it has drama. We liked that it had visual and cultural references from other fields such as 1950’s sci fi movies which provide a richness and humour alongside the hard science.”
Of my three pieces shortlisted, (see below) the judges picked the most technical, information-dense piece of the triad. In the winning science art entry, a nanolipogel selectively targets cancer cells and releases cancer fighting drugs (blue). The green enzymes prime and activate our bodies own immune system. This multi-prong approach maximizes chemotherapy efficacy.
Science Art Gets Some Love: AOI Shortlisted (Finalist) Illustrations
Us science artists don’t get no respect… at least that’s what I thought! When I heard that the AOI (Association of Illustrators) added a Research & Knowledge category to their prestigious, international competition, I cheered! It’s vindicating to see my professional niche get some respect from the larger community. I was also stoked to have a chance. I’m excited to share my work recognized on their shortlist (finalists).
The AOI Research & Knowledge Communication category is pretty broad, and described by the AOI below:
Research & Knowledge Communication–Illustration commissioned for the purpose of undertaking research and communicating knowledge. Illustration that is used as a research or investigative tool and that represents, explains or seeks to understand information or data…
How My Science Art Fits
Different illustrations have different purposes. Some pull you in, others make you feel, and still others impart information. Even within the genre of science illustration, there is a wide range of styles and applications. I jive on creating illustrations that help someone new to the subject imagine what it might be like to really see the things beyond our vision–teeny-tiny cells to exploding universes–while still staying true to the scientists’ research. Unfortunately, that often means my work just doesn’t fit into most of the big-name illustration competitions.
Most of the broader competitions–like Communication Arts or 3×3’s–don’t explicitly exclude science art with categories like “books, editorial, for sale…”. If you take a look at the previous winners from the past few years though, it’s clear that the likelihood of recognition in their comp is slim to none for an artist like me.
Can’t science art compete in the general categories? Sure, some can… especially when it’s more editorial. There are definitely amazing science artists who create art that will register in the larger art community.
But on the whole, my goal to communicate science, and immerse the viewer in this strange world, is just a different beast from most other contemporary illustration. To stay accurate and true to scientists’ work and grab the interest of an ambivalent viewer, I rely on visual clarity and realism. This leads me to style choices diverging from many more mainstream popular illustrators.
Sayo Studio’s Science Illustrations on the AOI shortlist:
The work in the Research category encompasses quite a bit of variety, from beautiful botanical pieces to some innovative videos. The 3 pieces honored include:
- Reaching for the cure, an illustration created for the American Association for Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting branding. The art honors both the researchers and patients working toward a cure.
- Next, feature artwork for Science News magazine on the science of a cough, using an extremely exaggerated perspective. The tracheae shows the cells’ fillies irritated by foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria.
- And finally, an illustration for Dr. Tarek Fahmy at Yale University. Released in a National Science Foundation press release, the infographic explains the lab’s exciting research on nanolipogels. Nanolipogels release drugs to combat cancer and other diseases, in a targeted manner to minimize adverse side effects. This is the winning piece in the professional category :-)!
I’m so excited that my work has been recognized. Moreover, I’m grateful that the AOI has opened up their competition to the international community, and decided it’s time to recognize the art in science illustration.
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