How I became a botanical & natural science illustrator


hello and welcome back to the studio if
you’re new here my name is Lee Angold I’m a botanical and natural science
illustrator in kitchener-waterloo, Canada On this channel I share some of my
techniques for watercolor and other illustration techniques as well as
giving you some insight into my life as an illustrator if this is content that
you’re interested in don’t forget to hit subscribe down below. So today I promised
that I was going to do a speedpaint to show you some of my techniques for my
finished illustrations with some cattails that I collected in my last
video. Unfortunately that’s not gonna work out and here I’ll show you why but I came into a bit of a shocker so here we go I’m just gonna pan over so here we
have my paper where I was going to start sketching and here whoa whoa whoa whoa so long story short my subjects exploded all over my studio it was a real pain to
clean and so I haven’t had time to set up another illustration so that’ll be my
next video. I’ll be showing you some of my illustration techniques but for today I thought we just have a nice little studio chat so I’m gonna talk
today about well first of all what is my job
what does a natural science illustrator do and also how I came to be here and
how I how I got this to be my job. So if you’d like to join me grab a nice hot
cup of coffee or tea whenever you prefer I’ve gotten
an oolong tea in my nice studio mug right now and let’s get started so first of all the the most frequent
question that I get is what you do and you know I say well I’m a natural
science illustrator and a botanical illustrator And then the next question
is “what’s that?” so basically I draw plants as well as other natural science subjects skulls bones crusty twigs And then the next question is well is there
a market for that the answer is yes! So I get some commercial commissions.
Particularly with botanical there’s a huge demand for botanical illustrations
for product labels so for example you know jams made with weird berries. I did an elderberry illustration recently for example There’s also the decorative market,
so I sell greeting cards and I’ve been commissioned to do some designs. I also get a number of private commissions both for botanical illustration and other
natural sciences illustrations people have their favorite things or their
interests that they want illustrated I do some teaching and most
recently I’ve been really focused on building up my portfolio to get some
more scientific, like, educational commissions. I’d like to do text books and
illustrations for popular science magazines and stuff so I’m just
adjusting my portfolio to showcase more of that and then the next question is
okay well so that’s really specific how do you get there? so for me this was you
know I don’t know that this is really the usual path my understanding is that
most science illustrators sort of fall into
this or discover it later on but for me it was a childhood dream, you know. I found out about natural science illustration very very early on so I was running around when I was seven years old telling everyone I’m gonna be a biology
illustrator But even still, you know, it wasn’t a
direct route. I took a decade-long scenic route, a detour through civil engineering so I actually have a civil engineering degree and I don’t really have any
degrees related to my field right now which is interesting but I’ve now been a
full-time illustrator for almost two years and I’ve been working as an
illustrator for a few years before that so four to five years so that’s a
summary . In the rest of this video I’ll be going through more detail on my
life path and also sharing some possibly embarrassing photos so stay
tuned and let’s get going so I’ve always loved painting I was
lucky to have very very supportive parents who encouraged me to chase my
dreams when I was in the three to four years old my mom who has a degree in
anthropology she used to work at a bones lab at the University of Toronto so she was preparing animal specimens that they got from the zoo or other
sources so that they would have the bones for display or for study for
the students and so she would let me tag along when I was only about three years old and I would go and pick at all the bones and draw them so, you know, that was my childhood and that was one of my
favorite things and some of my favorite memories from when I was a child Does that made me very strange? So, you know, my mom actually saved a number of the
illustrations from back then and as it turns out it wasn’t just animal bones Iwas going through to these folders and I found this one which is labeled (this is in
Portuguese) (Orgãos de uma pessoa) from 1993
so I was four years old and I’ll throw this up on the screen and so what with the translation for that is is “organs of a person” and I illustrated
somebody blown up with their internal organs when I was four years old when I was about six or seven my mom took me to watch the documentary and I’ve looked for
this artist since then. It was a documentary about an artist, an
illustrator who had been hired to illustrate some insects on the upper
canopy of the Amazon rainforest and because they didn’t have sense of what what the ecosystem there was like they were
hesitant to take back samples so what they did was they spread a large net
over the canopy of the upper Amazon rainforest and dropped her down and so
she camped out on this net on the canopy of the Amazon collecting insect
specimens and illustrating them for quite some time. I thought that was
amazing and so when I was six or seven years old I decided that’s my plan.That’s what I want to do and so from the time I was seven years old through most of my
childhood I told everyone that I wanted to be a biology illustrator From when I was
seven years old to pretty much when I finished high school and beyond that’s
what I wanted to do. I convinced my parents, I convinced my guidance counselor I convinced all my teachers I convinced everyone I went so far as to…
there’s a biomedical communications program at U of T I contacted them and
when I was 16 I did some summer courses with the BMC students, I’ll throw up
some photos so that’s a fetal skull that I created when I was 16 years old in a
summer seminar with the biomechanical communication students so at that point
I was in a dark room I guess it was five or six of us in a dark room with a bunch
of bones with spotlights on them and I loved it and I was so sure that that was
what I was going to do but then I got to grade 12 which is our final year of high
school in in Ontario. I was in grade 12 and I started experiencing a
lot of self-doubt all of my classmates were panicking about they had to decide what they were gonna do in university and then of course that determines their
whole future so everyone was panicking and making really sudden decisions
about the rest of their life and I thought I should panic and make some
really sudden decisions about my life too I think there was a real
aspect of you know I had this plan but I liked it too much and so I was afraid to fail I was afraid that if I tried to do
scientific illustration and I didn’t get into these competitive masters programs, my life would be ruined so it would be easier to just do something that I liked less and around the same time I was dating
someone and she was planning on going into engineering and kept on saying well
you know you should come with me. My mom said that I would probably do pretty well in engineering if I wanted a different option and so I applied I
applied to a number of biology programs and I applied to a number of engineering
programs in grade 12 and ended up going into engineering science at U of T. Now at this time I was still applying to biomedical engineering program so
Engineering Science is like this it’s engineering for academia and so it’s
that all of these cutting-edge areas of engineering you get two years in a joint
program and then you specialize and so my initial plan was I was going to
specialize in biomedical engineering and then go on to do biomedical illustration
at U of T and I had actually spoken to the program coordinators at the illustration program and they said yeah you shouldn’t do that
that’s that’s not related and for some reason I didn’t listen so I went intoengineering science anyway and so then I did engineering science at U of T I started and initially I really liked it there were a number of different sort of
science fields that we were doing so I kind of enjoyed it at first but it
took a huge amount of time it’s a very very very heavy program so I wasn’t
drawing anymore, I wasn’t doing art anymore and I started to develop academic
anxiety Even when I stopped really enjoying myself and realized that biomedical engineering wasn’t really for me and engineering science wasn’t really
the program for me I still stayed in engineering I switched to civil engineering I spiraled into anxiety and depression and through the whole time I was in university at least I was always looking
forward to the light at the end of the tunnel you know well engineering school
is really hard but work is going to be better and so early in my degree I
actually met my now husband and we’d started making plans you know he is also
in a tech field so we were expecting quite a large income okay well we’re
gonna buy a fancy house and we’re gonna buy a Tesla and this whole time I just
hated myself and I wasn’t looking forward to my future and as I reached
the end of my university degree these years of anxiety just turned into
depression and I spent a year where I did very little and at some point I realized
well why am I doing this why am I forcing myself into this field I just I
just want to make art and I don’t actually want that Tesla. So that was a
big turning point for me and so within about six months I just turned my life around completely. So I rented a studio, which eventually turned into the KW
Artist Co-op which is a co-op studio that I share with a number of other
artists here in kitchener-waterloo. I’ll take you on a tour sometime. It’s not
this, this is my home studio. I started a course with the Society of Botanical Artists because at the time I was still really focused on my everything needs to
be academia That brings us to now so that was about four years ago I took two
years where I was still working part time in tech and now I am I’ve been a
full-time illustrator for almost two years now
so I’ve recently become the president of the botanical artists of Canada I run a
successful studio in Kitchener Waterloo I am teaching classes locally I have
done commercial commissions and private commissions it’s really gratifying to
think about all the places that my art is on product labels and it’s hanging in
people’s homes people who I don’t even know in different countries and
different continents that’s really really exciting so I’m really looking
forward to developing my art career more getting my art in some books… I hope this
answers all your questions about what Natural Science illustration is and what
I do and what the path for getting here is If if this is content that you
enjoyed don’t forget to Like and subscribe And also I have a question
for you So, what did you want to do as a child and are you doing that now? and if you’re not would you like to ? because I mean, you know, I guess I feel like I might be somewhat unique in that I had a really really specific idea what I
wanted to do from when I was very young and even though you know it took me a
while to get here I am actually doing exactly that thing and so I wonder
whether like for me… I feel like I really knew myself as a child in a way that I
only recently found out again. And so, you know, I’m wondering whether that’s a common thing. So let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Thanks for joining me