Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Department of Paleobiology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
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What is paleontological illustration?
Paleontological illustration is a branch of scientific illustration that specializes in drawing fossils and other paleontological subject matter. Paleontological illustration can be classified as fine art if its draftsmanship is superb, but aesthetic excellence is never its primary purpose. As with all scientific illustration, creativity and drawing are always employed within the strict rules of science.


M. Parrish in her studio.
A typical paleontolological artist's studio showing 1) artist using graphic dust technique to draw a skull; 2) easel; 3) microscope with camera lucida; 4) plaster cast of fossil skull; 5) fossil plants; 6) clay models of extinct animals; 7) modern specimens; 8) computer equipment.

How to become a paleontological illustrator
Study art and science. Draw as much as possible. Spend time in the field observing and sketching nature. Study illustrations that appear in publications and exhibits. Master several traditional drawing media, and several types of computer graphic software. Draw accurately. Learn the tricks and conventions of the scientific illustration trade. Master preparing scientific graphic materials. Understand the processes of printing and reproduction. Keep a portfolio of work. Join professional organizations, such as the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. Take scientific illustration classes and teach classes yourself to strengthen skills.


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