Ocean Illustrated

Inform, Explain, Instruct

Ocean Illustrated is an art and scientific illustration company, which Anuar creates in all different mediums. The started by Anuar picking up a paintbrush and trying his hand at art, which he eventually won an award for the original painting. Just like many of his hobbies, he read a book about illustrating and started creating his own work from there. The purpose of OI is to bring artistic recreation of the ocean, both for pleasure and reference purposes. In Anuar’s spare time, he hosts art demonstrations and workshops for his art techniques.

Anuar Abdullah

Natural Science Illustration

The principle task of the scientific illustrator is to prepare accurate renderings of scientific subjects. These illustrations are designed for reproduction in professional or popular journals in the field of natural sciences, textbooks, as museum exhibits, web sites, and many other applications.

Scientific illustrations in both traditional and digital formats provide a visual explanation and aid the viewer by clarifying complex descriptive information. The function of a scientific illustration, therefore, is essentially a practical one: to inform, to explain, and to instruct — in short, to communicate.

Frequently, illustrators must pictorially reconstruct a whole object from one or more incomplete specimens. They may be called upon to make a dimensional drawing or to conceptualize an informed interpretation, such as a cutaway drawing to show internal structure, or geographical features on a map. An illustration can simplify comprehension of a specimen better than a photograph by eliminating extraneous detail and clarifying relationships of structures, or depict statistical data in a more comprehensible, visual manner.

Successful illustrators are versatile in more than one technique or medium. Along with well-honed skills in traditional techniques like drawing, watercolor, acrylics, ink or oils, a thorough working knowledge of computer graphics programs and digital techniques is invaluable and expected in today’s markets. Knowledge of digital animation and interactive techniques can also improve employment opportunities. Illustrations can be created entirely in traditional or digital format, or in a blend of both techniques. A thorough understanding of techniques for both print and digital reproduction is essential. Many jobs in the field of natural science illustration are very specific in terms of their subject matter, hence one cannot possibly prepare for every specialty. It is necessary, however, to have a basic knowledge of the area in which one hopes to work.

As undergraduate degree programs are scarce, the best preparation for the scientific illustrator is both a study of commercial art techniques and a background in the natural sciences. Scientific courses that stress the anatomy/morphology of botanical or zoological specimens are especially helpful. Courses in basic art techniques, graphic design and photography are more relevant than a study of art history or nonrepresentational painting. Many art techniques are adaptable to scientific illustration. There is, however, one great difference that distinguishes this field from the fine arts: a creative artist is permitted and even expected to take artistic liberties with his subject.

This Natural Science Illustrator campaign by Ocean Quest focuses primarily in the marine and aquatic subjects. It may be a specific organism; cross section of a coral reef or a macro map (technique developed by Ocean Quest) the student shall learn techniques of observations emphasizing details and accuracy for scientific purposes. Natural Science Illustration is a vast field covering all aspects of science which is beyond the scope of this campaign. Therefore the campaign covers specifically on the science of marine and aquatic organisms and environment only. Other sciences such as medicine, engineering, astronomy, geology and microbiology are excluded from the campaign.

Ocean Quest offers workshops designed to familiarize students with a variety of the methods and materials used in natural science illustration. Macro map of a bank reefWorkshop locations and dates vary annually, as do topics and levels of expertise addressed, and are offered both as stand-alone events and as part of Ocean Quest participation in the industry expo. Information is posted on the Ocean Quest web site (www.oceanquest.global) and in the Ocean Quest articles.

Elements of Composition One on One

The Artist’s Note

This note I hope shall help the student artist as well as the avid photographer understand what is involved in making good composition. Both ways be it art or photography, composition is about the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painter’s/photographer’s command to express his feelings. Remember that good picture is only a good picture but great picture is an art. The difference is immense.

What makes people think your painting/picture is great?

Your painting or picture is only great when you can make the viewer feel what you feel when you create it. Meaning.. this feeling is created when you actually paint or when you press the shutter. If that moment of emotion can be conveyed you have a great picture. If not it stay in the same box as any other picture you have seen, draw or taken your self… it is just a picture.

So what are the elements of composition we should be looking at when we paint or take picture?

The Elements of Composition in art are used to arrange or organize the components in a way that is pleasing to the artist and, hopefully, the viewer. It helps give structure to the layout and the way the subject is presented. It also encourages or leads the viewer’s eye to wander around the whole painting, taking in everything and ultimately coming back to rest on the focal point. The painters do it by mental visualization of the finished artwork and photographers can apply the same rule. How well you can “see” your final result is directly correlated to how great your picture or painting will be.

There are eight elements of composition that you will have to anticipate but the picture or painting shall have few (if not all) of these elements to create strength of expression.

Belonging Together


Do all the parts of the composition feel as if they belong together, or does something feel stuck on, awkwardly out of place? Unless it is suppose to be candid, unity is a very important element of a composition. If you feel the angle or the subject is not in harmonious with the surrounding try to look at it from a different angle or move else where. Without harmony and unity your picture will be as good as textbook illustration where the viewer look at shape and color and disregard the aesthetic value of your composition.

Symmetrical Arrangement


Having a symmetrical arrangement adds a sense of calm, whereas an asymmetrical arrangement creates a sense of unease, imbalance.

Balance is one of the easier Elements of Composition to see, and you’ll soon discover whether your natural inclination is towards a perfectly balanced or symmetrical composition or an unbalanced, asymmetrical one. It’s not that one is better than the other, but whichever you choose as the underlying component of your composition has an impact on the overall feeling of the finished painting or picture. Symmetrical tends to feel more calm and asymmetrical, more lively.

I’m using one of my recent drawing to illustrate the role of balance in a painting, because while it is mostly a balanced composition, the positioning of the figure is slightly off-center, or off-balance. The illustration is set across the sheet to “drape” on top of the focal points bringing the whole composition as a unit. This causes the picture to be objective when viewed from a distance but it gradually become more abstract as the viewer move closer. This usually occur in all pictures that is well balanced.

Arrangement, Position, Flow


There many ways to give a sense of movement in a painting or picture, such as the arrangement of objects, the position of figures, the flow of a river, schools of fish. Movement in art can relate to several different concepts. It is the movement seen by the viewer as physical or in their emotions. Allowing space ahead of a living subject creates room that suggest forward motion. Looking up from underwater often makes excellent pictures that suggest depth of the ocean but if the surface ripples are not captured the picture will appear stagnant. This lack of motion often result in viewer lost of interest. That is the reason capturing the sun bursts from underwater make picture look so good especially the ones involving silhouette of a figure. It is the movement of rays of light that move the picture giving a sense of adventure from an abyssal perspective.

Underlying Shapes


In much the same way music does, a picture or a piece of art can have a rhythm or underlying beat that leads and paces the eye as you look at it. Look for the large underlying shapes (squares, triangles, etc.) and repeated color. Don’t think that rhythm is something that belongs to music only, or perhaps poetry. It’s also one of the Elements of Composition, helping to lead the viewer’s eye across a picture. The example I’ve shown here is of a extreme landscape format, considerably wider than it is tall. To get the viewer’s eye from one edge to the other there needs to be something that will keep them looking, moving from one bit to another to another. An underlying rhythm to the composition can help achieve this. Combination of movement and rhythm can give intense connection between the picture and the viewer. The Element of Composition that retains viewers attention to your picture or painting is rhythm.

Don't let the eyes get lost


The viewer’s eye ultimately wants to rest of the “most important” thing or focal point in the painting or picture, otherwise the eye feels lost, wandering around in space. Most people think landscape picture often lack point of focus. This isn’t true, point of focus works in few different ways. I can draw a fish on a piece of paper and make it the only focal point in the drawing because there is nothing else to see. Which part of the fish that I would like the viewer to pay attention to is another point of focus.

This is easily achieved in macro photography as most things in focus is the focal point itself. But what about landscapes? Landscapes works on collective focal points like a row of trees, distant hills, crashing waves, colors in the foreground or the setting sun making the viewer move from one collective focal point to the next and establishing rhythm and mood. In photography focal points appear sharpest bringing the subject out of the rest of the picture. How wide this point of focus cover between the foreground and the background is what photographers called the depth of field. Artist simply call this “Emphasis”.

Playing with strong differences


Strong differences between light and dark, or minimal, such as a tonal work in a charcoal drawing. Contrast plays important role in a composition. When a picture isn’t working and you’re struggling to put your finger on the problem, there are various aspects to consider, including everything on the list of elements of composition, elements of art and elements of photography. If tone isn’t high on your checklist, it should be. Certainly way higher than blaming the lack of skill of the photographer/artist and their tools! Elements of art is about tone and values, element of photography is about reflective lights. Make use of ALL these elements. Great pictures are often created by photographers/artist that knows the value of contrast when they are making the pictures … NOT afterwards.

Attract your viewer's attraction


An underlying structure, the basic lines and shapes in the composition. This is about how you lay your picture on the paper/canvas. Direction of flow of your work across the entire picture. It can be across from top left to bottom right or just simply across the picture from top to bottom. Patterns attracts viewer’s attention and draw them closer to your work. 

Going from edge to edge


How things fit together, big and small, nearby and distant. Divide your picture accordingly. Make foreground and background play a role of their existence in your picture. They enhance the aesthetic values of your picture. Remember that a GREAT picture is well balanced and of good proportion. It is more to it in a picture than the subject itself. Your picture is only considered great when the viewer enjoys “hanging around” it from edge to edge and yet never lost interest of your main subject.