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clara_fish“All scientific illustration is a collaboration between artists and scientists,” says Clara Richardson, science illustrator and member of Milton’s Class of 1971. “The drawing is built under the direction of the scientist in order to support or elaborate on the point in question.”

On campus this week for the opening of her exhibit “Illustrating for Science” at the Nesto Gallery, Clara spent Tuesday afternoon with biology students discussing her work and teaching illustration techniques. She worked closely with Advanced Biology students as they drew pictures for their DYO (Design Your Own) experiments. She explained that scientific illustration is a two-step process: “I always have to draw it twice. Once to learn and then again to communicate what I’ve learned.”

Clara showed students how to focus on the outside shape of the subject before attempting to draw the interior details and how to pay attention to the light source. She spent time with each student as they sketched their specimens of zebra fish, alfalfa seeds, flat worms and pea plants.

Having studied zoology as an undergrad and graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Clara’s career trajectory changed upon a chance encounter with a science illustrator. Clara realized that illustrating gave her a “whole new way to understand animals.” She spent 27 years working with scientists and their research as a science illustrator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Although not formally trained in art, an early mentor at the museum told her, “There is no such thing as talent—it is only practice.” Clara shared these words with Milton students.

Clara met with four science classes at the end of the day in the Nesto Gallery where her intricate illustrations of beetles, fish, lizards, birds and mice adorn the walls. She pointed out specific works, explaining the methods and story behind each piece and answering student questions.

“Illustrating for Science” will be on view at the Nesto Gallery until May 10.