As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I rang up the Royal College of Art to ask if they still ran the Natural History Illustration course. The answer was no, but the reason why was never really given.
|John Norris Wood with a student. Image from the Royal College of Art webpage.
I was reading Illustration magazine a few days ago and found an article by John Norris Wood, the former tutor on the now defunct course. Here is what he has to say:
The problem is there aren't many jobs out there for scientific illustrators and this was one of the arguments against the course, which closed after running for 30 years. This means that natural history illustrators need to be even more dedicated than other illustrators. And it's still needed. Photography can do marvellous things, not not the same as illustration. Scientific accuracy doesn't necessarily mean a lack of creativity. It's like the creativity of scientists- you are studying what's there, but you're also revealing it.
They key things natural history illustrators need are an enquiring mind, a keen eye and an obsession with their main field of study. This obsession is vital because it means they delve more deeply and find out important aspects of these creatures. An illustrator who doesn't have this passion will never see these things.
I'm sure that the people with the passion for it will still do it, but without formal courses they will suffer because it's so important to discuss ideas with other students and gain feedback and inspiration from specialist teachers. This is a terrible shame because books that mix photography with illustrations benefit from offering different angles. Without illustration they lack something vitally important.
Guess I have to work extra hard. Not that I don't already eat, breathe and live the stuff.