Science Cartooning

As part of a workshop on media in science storytelling at the BC science outreach conference, I did a little demo of making a science inspired comic. Three reasons for drawing science cartoons by hand are

1. It is visual. Our brains seem "drawn" to images.

2. Hand drawn images reflect personality and authenticity that seems lacking in photos and slicker illustrations. And it is less slick and intimidating.

3.  Humor, used judiciously, can help create a more benign atmosphere, especially useful if the audience seems intimidated by science.

I was reading Dan Roam's Show and Tell which describes four steps in thinking visually that I applied to making the cartoon.

1. Look, as in Look at what your options are. So I asked the audience for science subjects and got starfish, maggot, giraffe vocal chords, CRISPR.

2. See, as picking out relevant ideas. I think you could cover most subjects, but figured maggots provided the easiest for me to work on because it would an immediate reaction. (The giraffe vocal chords referred to an actual blog post I had done before, which was very touching to me). I have heard about CRISPR but had no clue how to draw it.

3. Imagine, as in Imagine possibilities. I asked for associations with maggots - decomposition, bird food, smell, flies, death, crime scene. And I imagined two maggots chatting over dinner. A book called The Humour Code suggests much Humour involves the convergence of a benign violation. The image of maggots in a rotting corpse is a violation of good taste perhaps. So I had them chatting in a very benign way.

4. Show, as in show what you're thinking. For efficiency, I did a single panel cartoon of two maggots having dinner in half a decomposing human head. I began with the maggots. In the workshop, I included eyeballs but in This is a revised recreation, I left them out. I figured showing part of the head would be the most obvious indication of a corpse, though it was still hard to get the scale approximated. I didn't bother with colors in the original although the wash helps differentiate areas in this version done with a Jot Pro stylus on my iPad in 53Paper.