Wenatchee Valley College has a very unique art class available this fall called Art 143, or Natural Science Illustration. If you are inspired at all by the natural world or would like to experiment with new media, this might be a class you would love.

We try new techniques in art and learn just enough of the science to accurately render invertebrates, plants, extinct creatures and evolutionary relationships. It’s finding a neat angle for a cutaway or juxtaposing different life forms together that can help a viewer understand a concept in a way that words can’t and a photograph falls short.

Science illustrations are all around us — on the internet, in magazines, infographics, throughout textbooks and interpretive signage. At their best, they are the interface between complex information and understanding. I always manage to convince my students that this imagery is in demand and if not for pursuing a career, then for creating a strong portfolio.

Students get a lot out of the class in terms of building strong portfolio work, working with new media and learning how to illustrate the natural world. My students are often already art students, people 60 and older (who pay just $5!) or biology students who want a basis in art. We usually use pen and ink, watercolor, scratchboard, gouache, pencil and even sculpt wire and clay model maquettes to assist in painting. And for those who are up for it, I help navigate some digital illustration. I always have students who want to keep things within traditional physical media, and those that opt to try some things digitally. It is fun to have a class with both types of students.

Besides being an instructor at WVC, I wear many hats and have many pursuits in my career, such as designing logos and painting murals. But science illustration is my passion and where I got my formal training at UC Santa Cruz in California. It informs all aspects of my art, and anyone who takes the class will find it infiltrate the way they think about light, form, color and the natural world.

Being that classes are now online because of COVID-19, a commute that would normally pose a barrier to folks in Chelan, Plain, Quincy or other far reaches of our region can Zoom in on their computer to attend.

We will have a Zoom session each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m. for around an hour.

The registration and tuition deadline is Sept. 18. Register at wvc.edu.

Feel free to email me at marlinpeterson@gmail.com with any questions or visit marlinpeterson.com to see any of my work.

Marlin Peterson is an illustration and drawing instructor at Wenatchee Valley College.