Here at Lifeology, we hope to raise the visibility of art as a critical component of science and health communication. That starts with letting the scientific and broader communities know about the work of amazing and diverse science artists and visual storytellers. Today we are featuring Abrian Curington, Visual Storyteller and Cartographer!

Tell us a bit more about yourself!

Growing up, I was always sure I was going to be an artist, but I wasn’t sure which art job I wanted. When I was in high school I decided that I wanted to pursue graphic novels, since this meant I could tell any kind of story, about any subject, and draw a wide assortment of images! I love taking people on journeys through stories and images.

What are your favorite things to illustrate?

Actually, my most favorite thing to draw is food! I don’t get to do food illustration very often, but when it comes up, I usually go all out (without it overshadowing the true subject of the illustration). After that, I of course love a well-designed map.

Can you describe what your creative process usually looks like? 

I usually start with a curious thought, whether it’s for fiction or nonfiction. Like “how did people wake up before clocks?” or “what would it be like to sail on clouds? Is it possible?” From there, I start researching, taking notes, finding relevant images, reading what’s come before. Then I start dreaming up a story, doodling as I go.

From there (after much editing!!), I will lay out the book and plan the images, then start drawing! I like to draw/ink traditionally, then color digitally to save time on traditional coloring edits. Lately I’ve switched to drawing/inking in Procreate when I travel, so I don’t have to bring a stack of paper with me.

What has been your favorite science art project to create so far?

So far, my favorite was being aboard the R/V Falkor as an Artist-at-Sea. It was my first blue water cruise, so I got the experience of being at sea, as well as searching for an underwater meteorite, and getting to learn all about that and its significance.

Illustration by Abrian

How can scientists or others work with you? 

Just send me an email with what you’d like to do, and at least a rough timeline, and we can work together on pricing, if you don’t have a budget.

A successful collaboration for me, is when you feel that your thoughts have been brought to life in a fun and informative way, and the final product has a good design overall.

When you are getting started with a new science art project, what is the first thing you do? 

The first thing I do is research! I have to consider what the core message is, and learn about what I’m trying to depict, so I can highlight the point as clearly as possible. As I research, I find even more things I’m not sure about, or have to figure out how to depict, which triggers more research. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process.

A comic panel by Abrian

Can you talk a bit about visual storytelling?

Visual storytelling is important to me, because I feel like I can create a more immersive environment, faster, by using imagery. I like for my readers to be pulled in right away, and engaged in the topic. It makes the information more memorable, which is exactly what we want in science communication.

What tips do you have for scientists wanting to work with artists or get into science art?

Just start! Look around at what you have (pen, paper, great!), and make a doodle of your most favorite topic. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. You just have to finish it. Once it’s done, you’ll gain the experience points from having made a thing. Then you make another, and another. Every piece you finish, will make you better and give you greater insight into what to do better for your next piece.

What tips do you have for other science artists? 

Apply for anything you’re interested in! Even if you feel under-qualified, even if you’re sure they’ll say no… You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll get accepted not too far along!

More about Abrian

I am an illustrator and fantasy cartographer, specializing in light-hearted fantasy stories that champion fun, adventure, and conquering the obstacles of life. After graduating with a BA in Fine Art from WWU, I started Blue Cat Co., an independent publishing company dedicated to producing fantastical works that give people an escape from the din of the world.

Aside from my work with Blue Cat Co., I am a tai chi instructor, and I often go on real-life journeys in nature reserves.

Featured image: COVID in the body, a comic by Abrian.