May 28, 2018
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Illustrators’ event coming to Fort Kent

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — Northern Maine is the backdrop as dozens of the world’s best illustrators gather at the University of Maine at Fort Kent next week for the annual Guild of Natural Science Illustrators conference July 5-11.

Organizers have planned workshops and presentations ranging from state-of-the-art digital techniques to in-depth examinations of local botanical organisms.

“In 2003 I began advocating northern Maine as a site for a conference,” Joan Lee, 2009 conference coordinator, said. “This is an unusual venue for this group.”

Unusual, Lee said, because the group normally gathers in places such as Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh or other large universities around the globe.

Founded in 1966, the guild is an international, nonprofit organization providing professional and scholarly opportunities for its members, clients and the general public.

The clients read like a who’s who in the world of natural science, including NASA, universities and governmental agencies.

The group’s members hail from the United States, the Netherlands, Russia, Australia and Japan.

“All of us work either directly for scientists or related institutions,” Lee said. “At conferences like this we are able to share ideas and introduce new techniques to each other.”

At this year’s conference participants will take part in workshops dealing with landscape drawing, paper as an illustrative medium, Japanese fish painting, the history of botanical illustration, illumination techniques of the Middle Ages, entomology for illustrators, copyright issues and animation techniques.

The conference’s keynote address on the wolves and moose of Isle Royal will be given by UMFK assistant professor of biology and environmental studies Dr. Stephen Hansen.

There also are several events open to the public, Lee said.

The 40th annual Scientific Illustration Exhibit features work by GNSI members and is located in the Acadian Archives on the UMFK campus.

The Eyes on Fine Arts Exhibit in UMFK’s Blake Library features other work by GNSI members which does not fall into the strict category of scientific illustrations.

A publications exhibit, also in the campus library, focuses on GNSI members’ books and other publications.

All three exhibits run through the month of July.

“The whole point of what we do is art in the service of science,” Lee said. “We provide illustrative communications amongst the world’s scientists.”

Lee knows this work firsthand.

Trained in the fine arts, Lee found her way into scientific illustration first at DePaul University in Chicago with the nursing department and later at Loyola University.

Her work even caught the attention of NASA when in the 1980s she was tapped to provide illustrations for Gravitropic Leaf Blade Positions and Form of a Bean Plant.

“They called that project ‘beans in space,’” Lee said with a laugh.

Conference presenters include medical illustrators, conservationists, university professors, graphic specialists and top illustrators from around the country.

“I’m really excited to show them all northern Maine has to offer,” Lee said. “This is really a perfect place to host the conference.”

Information on the annual GNSI conference and a complete schedule of events is online at

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