Friday, January 31, 2014

Chemical Kaleidoscopes

This cover for Nature Magazine might seem familiar,with the gentlest whiff of turkey and cinnamon to it, and that’s because right back in August it became the inspiration for my Christmas cards.

Commissioned by Michelle at Nature Magazine, it was the cover for a special edition reporting on a Chemistry Masterclass in their Outlook section. Broadly speaking, the premise of the event is that more experienced scientists get together in an environment where they can be interviewed by up and coming scientists studying a related field. In this way ideas, inspiration and excitement about the subject can be devolved, shared and spread.

The brief was wide open but came with the enormous pressure to get the science ‘right’ - references to some extremely specific scientific concepts had to be found and checked, and more trickily, accurate and usable visual representations of them had to be sought. For some concepts, such a thing just didn’t exist (yet), so it was a question of ‘suggesting’ the relevant process or sequence using other things. The art was going to be checked by the science team (the art director herself is a trained scientist) for accuracy and relevance. Some of those references were beautiful, and definitely fed into the energy I had for this difficult job: the research part alone took over a day and a half (which represents quite a chunk of the studio’s week):

I wanted to use a lot of colour, and suggested a couple of ideas, the first focussing on the face-to-face opportunity to learn from a senior scientist:

And the second, the one that got chosen, was almost as much work as the final piece itself - 14 hours’ worth of drawing! - and used pencil drawings of my planned kaleidoscopes to communicate my discovery that an enormous amount of chemistry is ROUND - particles, paths, cycles, journeys, atoms, and so on:

What I wanted to convey was an explosion of ideas, firing thoughts and concepts into the blank dark sky of infinite possibility, and the ‘new colours’ that result from the overlapping and blending of those ideas.  Amazingly they bought into the concept via this very rough rough, and the work began then of changing the pencil drawings into the real thing.

All drawn with a combination of ink + nibs and fine liners, each kaleidoscope was created separately then overlaid:

Here’s the final art as it was submitted:

And finally the art in place:

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