Ooh, A New Challenge

field guide cover

Wrack Ball, (c) Diane T Sands
An image from Diane’s field guide to the flora and fauna that wash up at San Francisco’s Crissy Beach

My dad sent me this link today, and while my first thought was “um, what now?”, my second was “whoa, that’s pretty cool!”, followed quickly by “damn, I wish I’d thought of that”. The collection development librarian at the California Academy of Sciences, Diane T. Sands, also happens to be a freelance science illustrator who’s a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. Having access to a vast collection of illustrations at the Academy, she decided to set up a series of personal challenges, pitting her talent against the entirety of the archives. She’s calling it the “Illustration Smackdown“, which makes it sound like there should be a winner and a loser each round, but I think it’s actually more of a win-win-win situation. She’s putting more beautiful illustrations out in the world, we get to discover older works, and the whole comparison process reveals all sorts of neat things about how science illustration is useful.

Here’s how it works:

Each month, the archive staff will locate an illustration in the Archives during the course of their regular work. They will not show it to me. Instead they will provide me with two pieces of information;
1. The scientific name of the plant or animal featured.
2. Whether the piece in question is a field sketch or a finished illustration.
I will then have two weeks to research the species and produce my own illustration. Then we will feature the two illustrations side by side here on From the Stacks for your viewing pleasure.

Rather awesome, no? If you’re not getting a great idea of what the end result looks like, here’s the one she did about the Wild Pig. The point isn’t to replicate exactly whatever the previous illustrator did, it’s to find a new story to tell, and to put the two stories together to give a more complete picture of the organism or system at hand.

I’m going to stay tuned. Who knows, someday Diane may draw her version of one of the eel illustrations I did for CAS.



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