Neurons made with watercolors


In ALL, CREATORS by Vrinda Nair

Name: Allie Ibarra

Which came first in your life, the science or the art?

I would say art. Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by color and handcrafts. The thing I most enjoyed about school was to illustrate my notebooks and work on creative projects. Then science came into my life. I loved biology and chemistry, and eventually, I did a B.S. in Biotechnology and a Master’s in Biomedical Science. I thought art and science were distinct disciplines, but I researched about science communication, and it was wonderful to discover the amazing genre of scientific illustration. I realized that I could combine these two areas and use my talents to communicate great scientific ideas and concepts in a clear and inspiring way.

This illustration was created for a course on neuroeducation. the images shows about neurogenesis (how neurons are formed in the brain).
Neurogenesis (2020) by Allie Ibarra, digital illustration, 2030 × 2342 px.

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

I have a strong interest in natural sciences, especially biology, chemistry, biomedicine, and neuroscience, but also, I am very enthusiastic about astronomy and engineering. My work is inspired by the scientific things that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Our vision is limited; we require specialized equipment to know what is happening in the scientific world, whether viewed through microscopes or telescopes. I enjoy creating beautiful visuals to inspire and help people imagine how scientific concepts look.

Pastel drawing created during an observation night using telescopes and binoculars at the National Messier Marathon 2018. The drawing participated in the category of artistic astronomy and won 1st place.
Orion Nebula (2018) by Allie Ibarra, pastel drawing, 25 x 35 cm.
Scientific figures for a master’s thesis on neurobiological mechanisms of fast- acting antidepressants digitally made.
Brain ECM MMPs (2020) by Allie Ibarra, digital illustration, 2795 × 1555 px.

What materials do you use to create your artworks?

I mainly use digital tools to create illustrations and designs. Depending on the project, I explore and combine different design software to improve my technical skillset, but I do like the traditional illustration. I have been practising impressionism painting since 2015. I work with oil paints, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, and graphite.

Illustrations to help spot a badly-drawn scientific icons. These are mirror images and can not be converted one into the other by rotation. The normal form of DNA is a right-handed helix (left figure).
DNA helix (2020) by Allie Ibarra, digital illustration, 1280 × 1024 px.

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of

I did some astronomy illustrations during a national astronomy contest called Messier Marathon in Mexico. It was challenging to sketch and obtain accurate drawings of different objects during the observation nights using telescopes and binoculars. I participated in the Astronomical Drawing category, and I won 1st place two years in a row! I’m also really proud of my recent work with biomedical digital illustration. I always find new tools to create better designs; I like to try new color palettes, textures, contrasts, patterns, etc.

Scientific sketch and illustration of kidneys. Illustration participated in the SciArtInk drawing challenge October 2020
Kidneys (2020) by Allie Ibarra, digital illustration, 2500 × 1800 px.
Digital Immunology Illustration on white blood cells.
White blood cells (2019) by Allie Ibarra, digital illustration, 2707 × 2035 px.

Which scientists and/or artists inspire and/or have influenced you?

My interests and projects are varied, so I have been inspired by the people I worked with during college, my master’s, and my current job. One of the artists who really inspired me is Vincent Van Gogh. He may have become one of the most popular artists of all time, but he never saw the success of his work. The act of creating was enough for him. We often seek external validation to justify our work, but we could all learn from his experience and start drawing, sketching, or writing, really enjoying the process of creating, for creation’s sake.

Pinwheel galaxy pastel drawing. Black ground with white pinwheel.
M101 Pinwheel Galaxy (2018) by Allie Ibarra, pastel drawing, 25×35 cm.

“By combining scientific backgrounds and artistic skills, science visualization can be achieved and it can be adapted to specific audiences to promote effective and accurate communication.”

Allie Ibarra
Pastel drawing created during observing sessions at night
with a telescope and binoculars.
Full Moon (2018) by Allie Ibarra, pastel drawing, 25×25 cm

SciArt is an emerging term related to combining art and science. How would you define it?

SciArt is creating engaging visuals in multiple fields of science to communicate great ideas and scientific content in a clear and inspiring way. By combining scientific backgrounds and artistic skills, science visualization can be achieved, and it can be adapted to specific audiences to promote effective and accurate communication.

A illustration of synapses.
Synapses (2020) by Allie Ibarra, digital illustration, 1500 x 1000 px

For more by Allie Ibarra, visit her LinkedIn.

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About the Author

Vrinda Nair

Vrinda Nair is a doctoral student and public scholar who is pursuing her PhD in Physics at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. Currently, working on drug design of small molecules implementing deep learning. She also serves as the treasurer of the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs (FGSA) at the American Physical Society. She is a published author-poet of three books which include two poetry books: It’s a carnal world (physical book), Abuzz (Kindle eBook) and one self-help book: Motivate your genes (Kindle eBook). Vrinda also holds a record in writing a poem in alphabetical order from the India Book of Records. She writes on diverse themes on her blog and designs many art forms. She is a freelancer who provides services like content writing, resume/CV editing, SOP, presentation making etc. She is also a certified professional life coach, instructional designer, artist, and digital illustrator and is passionate about playing the violin. She actively supports many causes like women in STEM, supporting sci-artist and has worked with various organisations and offered volunteering services. She believes to live in sanguinity.