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by Deb Shaw

GNSI 2016 Conference Logo, © 2016 GNSI.

GNSI 2016 Conference Logo, © 2016 GNSI.

The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI) will be holding their 38th annual GNSI Conference at the University of California Santa Cruz, July 3-9, 2016.

Home to the infamous Banana Slug mascot, the three-day core conference will be held July 3-6, 2016 on the beautiful Santa Cruz campus. Conference housing will be provided at Cowell College. Most of the conference events will also be conveniently located at Cowell. Rooms will be available in Cowell residence halls or apartments on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each housing package includes a full meal plan in the dining hall and a parking permit.

During the core conference, there will be seven keynote addresses, 37 breakout sessions, an auction, the ever-popular and always inspiring portfolio sharing session and a techniques showcase where illustrators generously share their knowledge with conference attendees.

Plenary Speakers

Plenary speakers include John Muir Laws, nature journaling evangelist, who will present “Your Brain on Paper” and why it is so important for illustrators to have this observation tool. Terryl Whitlatch, artist for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, will share her tips and tricks in novel creature design. David Goodsell, a microbiologist from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, will reveal the world of cells in nanoscale through his watercolor paintings, which are both practical and beautiful.

Wendy Hiller Gee will highlight the importance of science and health literacy through her medical illustration practice. Breck Tyler, a seabird biologist, will share his experiences from 25 years at Midway Atoll observing albatross colonies. Jane Kim, founder of Ink Dwell studio, will share her extraordinary efforts to foster a love and respect for the earth through her Wall of Birds mural, depicting the 375-million-year evolution of birds. More than 260 species of birds are represented, all painted to scale. And Marc Paisin, our favorite art lawyer, will give us the rundown on how to copyright our own work (and how to stay out of trouble).

Presentations, Panels and Mini-Workshops

Following the plenary speakers in the mornings, there will be three afternoons packed with 50-minute presentations and 2-hour mini workshops by more than 45 experts in art, technical and scientific concepts. The presentations will cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from traditional media techniques (waxy pencil, gouache, and watercolor) to digital media (Photoshop and animation). BAGSC’s Tania Marien will be part of the panel for a presentation entitiled “When Good Careers Stall: Working Through the Slump.”

Collaborative Art Project

On Monday evening, all conference attendees can participate in illustrating a collaborative chalk mural of either a Kelp Forest or the California Coast Landscape. Expect a delightful evening of drawing, wine and desserts—working along side talented artists. Come prepared with sketches of your favorites from the species list on the website, or not; reference photos will be available. Want to help but not draw? Participants are needed to write species names in the border areas. After the conference, the two murals will hang on public display for about a month at the Sanctuary Exploration Center (SEC), a block from the Municipal Wharf—the heart of Santa Cruz.

Post-Conference Workshops and Field Trips

On July 7 and 8, following the core conference, there will be half-day and full-day workshops exploring traditional and digital media in depth. A few of the traditional media workshops include: silverpoint/pastels; mushrooms in watercolor; field sketching; graphite and pastel dust; and, textures in gouache.

A few of the exciting slate of field trips include: a whale-watching trip; sketching the jewel-like tide pools at Natural Bridges State Park; a behind-the-scenes tour of marine mammal facilities at Long Marine Lab; a day trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row; and a kayaking trip in Elkhorn Slough. And, of course, what conference in Northern California would be complete without a wine-tasting tour.


Many ASBA and BASGC members also below to GNSI — you will recognize a lot of familiar faces! There is much to see, learn and do. Registrants who sign up before June 5 receive a $50 early bird discount! Hope to see you there!

by Deb Shaw

Poster for the GNSI 2014 Conference, © 2014, GNSI

Poster for the GNSI 2014 Conference, © 2014, GNSI

Many BAGSC and ASBA members also belong to The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI). If you’ve wanted to attend a GNSI Conference, or learn more about this wonderful organization, this is a great year to do so. The GNSI Conference will be held in Boulder, Colorado this year in July and will include a field trip to the Denver Botanical Gardens, as well as presentations, workshops and field trips important to botanical artists.

GNSI 2014 Conference Registration Is Open and Early Bird Discounts go until the end of May!

Join the GNSI in Boulder, where the mountains meet the plains!

Come and enjoy a one of a kind experience and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow illustrators in a beautiful setting. The Conference is filled with presentations, workshops and field trips designed to inspire. Some concentrate on technique, with experts in drawing, painting, scratchboard, block printing, Photoshop, Illustrator, and digital devices sharing their expertise. Others focus on the gritty details of making a living in this challenging, but exciting career. With so many choices, participants can customize their learning experience under the inspirational setting of Boulder’s Flatirons and modern Colorado University campus.

Register before May 30th and SAVE $50 on Full Registration!

Review the offerings on the conference website:


  • Live Animal Drawing
  • Building Backgrounds for Animal Subjects
  • Sculpting Insects in Polymer and Wire
  • Beginning Photoshop
  • Make Your Own Sketchbook, Then Use It!
  • Sketch A Storybook
  • Discovering Scratchboard Techniques
  • Colored Pencil Possibilities
  • Painting Small Animals
  • Osteology Sketching
  • From Sketch to Print
  • Intermediate Photoshop
  • Modeling in 3DS Max
  • Adobe Illustrator for Science Illust: Symbols
  • Sculpting Fossils, 2-day workshop
  • Watercolor, 2-day workshop
  • Social Media for Artists
  • Personal productivity with your iPad
  • Contract and Copyright


  • Shanahan Ridge
  • Dinosaur Ridge
  • Eldorado/Fowler Hike
  • CU Extravaganza
  • Wild Animal Sanctuary
  • NOAA Tour
  • Celestial/Dushanbe Teahouse
  • Avery Brew Pub
  • Denver Botanic Gardens/Natural History Museum
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, 2-day trip


  • Birth of the Beehive’s Mesoamerica Resiste Illustration
  • Create Your Own Jobs and Get Paid to Travel
  • Using illustration to Teach ‘Critical Looking’ in a Zoology Lab
  • Making Photos and Art Press Ready
  • Hand-Painted Linoleum Block Prints
  • (Not Always) Funny Pages: Science Through Sequential Art
  • Marvelous Mucus: Learning about the Little-Known World of Land Snails
  • Tactile Graphics: Images for the Blind
  • Gyotaku -What your Third Grade Art teacher didn’t tell you
  • Japan and its Fish Markets – a look at the fish art and culture of Japan
  • Saving a Tropical Jewel in the Heart of Vancouver
  • Nature Based Sculpture
  • iPad Tips and Tricks
  • How to Work Faster Photoshop: Shortcuts and File Setups
  • Ready, Set, Sell! Proactive Marketing Strategies
  • Teaching Illustration as a Biology Course
  • The case of the Missing Beak: Kati the Kea
  • Saving the Kakapo from extinction–Expedition to New Zealand
  • Creating backgrounds combining traditional and digital techniques
  • Art Creation From the Client’s Point of View
  • Lighting and Textures: Optimizing Your Renders
  • Botanical Illustration–Then and Now
  • Illustrating Nature: Stylized Realism for Children’s Books
  • An Exploration in Public Health Communication

Hope to see you in Boulder in July!

March 2023

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