Illustrating for JEB Classics

As I explained in my last post, I was originally trained in the life-sciences. Over the years this has brought me to work as illustrator for various scientific publications. One commission which was intriguing was for a publication called JEB Classics. JEB is the acronym for the Journal of Experimental Biology, and Classics is a periodic publication that re-publishes classic scientific papers from the Journal's extensive archives. These papers are important to research as each generation of scientists not only learns about current work in their field, but benefits from a reading of classic papers which have advanced scientific thought. This may be on account of their results, or their approach to solving a given problem – whatever, it is clearly good to go back and touch base with the classics ! That is exactly what JEB Classics aims to do. My brief was to come up with images that illustrated life science research in different and identifiable periods, in a format that would distinguish the publication.


The first cover took us back to 1923-1953. For this I had to imagine a laboratory scene, with period lab equipment and period clothing. Using archive photos for inspiration, I created the image below. This would then set the scene for further covers which came through as subsequent commissions.



Each following cover had not only to keep the style of the precedent, it also had to convey some elements of each subsequent era, as lab design, equipment, clothing and hairstyles changed, along with the overall dominant hue of the image. The next piece covered the period 1955 to 1968, the next from 1969 to 1985. Lab life changed in each period, and so in the last cover, it was certainly conceivable to hang a Hendrix poster on a lab wall, or wear your hair like Jim Morrison of the Doors.




In terms of illustration, each cover began with pencil drawn roughs which were then refined and validated by my commissioning editor at JEB. The coloring and texturing come from a combination of tranditional media – painting, watercolors, pastel – followed by digital montage, which sampled paintings, drawings, photographic elements, all blended together in Photoshop to create the final cover image. The typeface used is Dolly, a very beautiful Dutch contemporary serif face from the Underware Type Foundry in Den Haag in the Netherlands. 

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