The Merging Of Art And Science As A Communication Tool
    By Andrea Kuszewski | February 26th 2011 12:07 AM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Andrea

    Andrea is a Behavior Therapist and Consultant for children on the autism spectrum, residing in the state of FL; her background is in cognitive


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    People are sometimes surprised to hear that I am both a research scientist and an artist, but I see them as quite similar in purpose, only different medium. They both involve imagination, visualization, and communication of those ideas in a way that makes it accessible and interesting for an intended audience. For me, they go hand-in-hand.

    The cover image of Open Laboratory 2010, designed by Andrea Kuszewski
    The cover of this year's Open Laboratory 2010, designed by myself, Andrea Kuszewski.

    Naturally, I was thrilled to see this aspect of science communication being highlighted at the  Science Online 2011 conference in January.  "Science-Art: The Burgeoning Fields of Niche Artwork Aimed at Scientific Disciplines" explored the merging of science and art to serve a common purpose—to educate people about complex concepts that in ways that not only portray the truth and beauty in science, but also spark curiosity, imagination and wonder.

    The presenters were Glendon Mellow, Scientific Illustrator and Visual Artist, and the designer of last year's Open Laboratory 2009 cover art; David Orr, Graphic Designer and Artist; and John Hawks, Paleoanthropologist and Scientific Illustrator. They bring up a number of very interesting issues, including accuracy in science-art, how to share/find images in the public domain, speaking to your specific audience, and what art can provide as a medium that adds to both scientific communication and to potential discovery.

    They explore the work of a few well-known scientific artists that are doing some pretty amazing and relevant stuff in the fields of paleontology, anthropology, and other scientific disciplines. And... I make a few long-winded (sorry, I blame lack of sleep!) comments about 45-50 minutes into the video as well. Watch the presentation—you won't be disappointed.

    Science-Art H264 Widescreen 960x540 from Smartley-Dunn on Vimeo.

    Here is the link to the Wiki that they refer to in the video, where you can find links to the artists they discuss, and to their portfolios. All of the art images pulled up during the presentation can be accessed through the Wiki. I love the internets!!


    I don't think your comments were long-winded - it was important and pertinent that you introduce yourself and your background. The best part of that presentation is that the whole group was engaged, and it wasn't just three outlier-types standing at the front presenting something unfamiliar.

    Great to meet you - not enough time to talk.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Thanks, Glendon! I wish we would've had time to speak also—so many people at scio11 and not nearly enough time to meet everyone, never mind have an actual conversation.

    It really was a nice, engaged group. And I got more out of it after watching the video; I was so sleep deprived the whole weekend, it all seemed like a blur. Thank heavens for livestreaming!  :D

    Your work is spectacular, too. Thanks for sharing it.
    I’ve just had a listen to your contribution on the Vimeo.  Your 3D modelling – was that done mathematically or ‘Wallace and Gromit’ style?

    The way I pick up information, I have always had a tendency to be derailed by wrong or irrelevant information in artwork.  In a previous article Fleming Rules Not-OK, I drew attention to this horror in the Pictorial Encyclopaedia I was given about 47 years ago:

    No prize for guessing the source of my confusion!
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Wow. Just... wow. Is that done in crayon? ;)

    To answer your question, the 3D modeling I do (such as the neurons done for the Open Lab cover and in my blog banner) are built from scratch, using my imagination (and scientific references, of course), not from a mathematical model (generated from actual neural data). I use 3ds Max software from Autodesk— building the models out of polygons, subdividing the surfaces, deforming it, texturing it, lighting it, and even animating it—all in the 3D space.

    Here's a link to the software website:

    Such cool stuff can be done with 3D software. I get sucked in for days working on a project; during busy times I restrict myself from even opening the program, as I'll get lost in it for hours. :)
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Just to show you the level of detail you can get in the software itself, here is a Triceratops I modeled in 3D.

    (No photoshop—just a snapshot of the model itself, with 3 light sources—all the detail is from pushing, pulling, and deforming the polygons in a 3D mesh)
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Criminey. That jpg posted larger than I intended. Oh, well. :)
    Thanks so much, Andrea!

    I think your comments were wonderful. You should definitely plan to be part of this next year!

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Thanks, John! I'm so glad I was able to contribute. Fantastic (and often overlooked) topic. I'd love to help present next year—sign me up! ;)
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I also added a few photos from my art portfolio to my blog home page (in my profile), since I have yet to set up a new web portfolio site. I know.... I'll get around to it eventually... ;)
    Probably better to have everything on one site anyway (here or FB or wherever) so people know where to look.  I don't use other services any more so I can keep my name power in the spot that does the most for me.  Well, on the S2.0 fan page on Facebook I also upload stuff.

    We've had a ton of things go wrong in the last two weeks but our photo gallery on profile does well!   If it gets more popular we can add commenting and such too but 'build it and they will come' doesn't really apply to websites.
    Paul Frank
    Nice blog.  Thanks Andrea. 

    Sidenote on the accuracy discussion.  I'll pitch here for accuracy . . . the accuracy that matters.  Art illustration will never accurately portray every detail of its subject matter, short of using the subject itself as the illustration.  What is important is to get the points accurate that are the object of the presentation--be it instructional, illustrative, or scientific.
    Here's a QED for you....................