Scientific Illustrator Falls in Love with Printmaking

by cover artist Carrie Carlson 

Robin’s Nest
Medium: Linoleum block print & watercolor

As a scientific illustrator, I am inspired to celebrate the synergy of art and science through botanical studies, creature portraits, and landscapes. I hope to reveal a bit of the wonderment I find in these subjects by drawing attention to something beautiful or unique about them that might normally be overlooked or taken for granted. Field sketching is a cornerstone of scientific illustration. Drawing from life forces us to slow down, notice, reflect, cherish, and consider. Is there anything more hopeful and vulnerable than a bird’s egg? More interesting than the intricate artistry of a woven nest? Outside my front door, atop the porch light, a mama Robin built her nest three springs in a row. She was fierce in objection to any activity near the door, but I managed to catch peeks at her precious eggs and later her beautifully ugly chicks. Once abandoned, her nest became the focus of many hours of happy sketching and then inspiration for a series of printmaking adventures, including this linoleum block print. 

Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland
Medium: Linoleum block print & watercolor

On a recent trip to Scotland, my cousin and I took a day trip to the Isle of Cumbrae to ride a tandem bike around the island. It was a magical day of lichen covered boulders, gentle wildflowers, and tidal pools. I like to keep a travel sketchbook, and my watercolor painting of our beautiful view that afternoon became the inspiration for this linoleum block print. Closer to home, I tend a rowdy garden and my favorite summertime pursuit is spying on bumblebees. These sweet busy creatures have inspired many sketchbook pages and finished artworks!  

Medium: Linoleum block print & gouache

Linoleum block print is a relief printing method by which an image is carved into a piece of linoleum. Areas that remain uncarved are rolled in a thin layer of ink and then printed, either by hand or with the help of a press. I like to work in oil based inks and use watercolor and/or gouache to embellish the images once dry. 

Carrie Carlson

is a National Board Certified Teacher with degrees in Biology, Art, Scientific Illustration, and Printmaking. Since 2001, Carlson has worked as a full-time high school educator in the south suburbs of Chicago where she has split her years between the science and art departments. She also teaches a variety of adult art courses at the Morton Arboretum including linoleum block printing, bird drawing, and nature journaling. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Art + Design Education from Northern Illinois University. Find her on Instagram @carriecarlsonart.

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