Scientific illustration: Curate your own seasonal collection

Hey Artists,

In my previous life, I studied to be a biologist. My main love was Earth sciences, you know – trees, bugs, rocks, and animals. (Not so much bugs)
Art and science combined are great passions of mine and so naturally I really enjoyed Scientific Illustration.

So today I wanted to share with you the rules of scientific illustration and hopefully show you some ways that you can level up your drawing skills, and illustrate the seasons.


  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Eraser
  • Things to draw.

Take some time before starting to gather some items that represent the current season. This may be a series of the flowers that are blooming in your neighbourhood, the contents of your purse, your current favourite art supplies (to draw, not to use), or a group of things that remind you of a specific time (think – baby items, or things from your wedding, school supplies etc.)
Seasons not only refer to the seasons of the year, but also seasons of your life – Where are you in your life at the moment? What are the things that are most important to you? What are the things that you find yourself using regularly? What items or objects do you have that represent this time?

If you are looking to push yourself into a season of gratitude, success, giving, or creativity – What items could represent this?

Rule 1

Draw what you can see.

Not what you think you should be able to see. Just what is there. John Ruskin said:

I believe that the sight is a more important thing than the drawing”

So take time to look at the thing that you have chosen to draw. This process is part of the creating and even if your personal drawing skills don’t meet up to your own hopes, what you create will still prompt the memories of the time you took to carefully observe whatever it is that you are drawing.

Rule 2

Use clear, distinct lines.

This is where using a pencil is vital. You have been carefully observing this thing you are drawing – now you get to draw. Boldly, with solid and clear lines. No feathering, no shading, no sketching. Set aside your perfectionism and embrace the bold style and keep an eraser on hand to rub things out when you need to.

Rule 3

Write labels.

I don’t know that there is anything more I need to say here. Write what the thing is and rule a line to the object. Label parts of it, highlight the functions of it, be creative. This isn’t true scientific illustration (I have left out a lot of other rules) so feel free to write down more than just the functions and names. Why is this thing important to you? Why have you chosen to include it in your collection?

Rule 4

Title your page.

“My winter garden – July 2018” “The contents of my bag” “Talismans of Love and Gratitude”
These are the ones that I went with in my tutorial pages. The title will tie together all the items into a collection, a proper ‘display’ so make sure to include one.

There are many other rules that I have left out, but I hope that this is helpful to you!

Some tips

  • Look at the shapes within objects and use them as a guide for your drawing eg. my lipstick was basically a long thin cylinder which made the start of my drawing.
  • Try drawing the outline of the complete object (the opposite of my previous tip) and then filling in the middle parts. Follow the contours with your eyes and your pencil.
  • Don’t worry about fitting everything onto the page, you can cut out the drawings that you want to use and glue them into your journal.
  • Be patient.
  • Practice.

action steps

  • Empty your bag or purse and draw these objects. How do they reflect the current season of your life?
  • What is your favourite season? (summer, winter, autumn, spring) what items would you use to represent this season?
  • Set an intention or goal for the next month. Curate some objects that communicate this intention for you?
  • Test yourself. Draw without erasing anything – be careful and deliberate with the marks you make. How does this change the way that you work?


Elly lives in Sydney, Australia. Her favourite part of journaling is being able to play. She loves being able to test out ideas, and styles, and mediums without pressure. This applies to the ideas she’s expressing too: getting to work through experiences and communicating opinions in a place that is fun, safe, and colourful.


  1. Clare Etheridge

    I am definitely going to draw the contents of my bag! It might take a year and a half though…..

  2. Christina Cloud

    I always carry quite a bit as well..everything that I think I might need! And half of what’s there is usually drawing supplies! Wonderful tutorial!

  3. Jennifer Lee

    I love this exercise! I call my bag “luggage” because I carry so much around with me. 🙂

  4. ana_justlife

    I loved those ideas!
    I will definitely draw the contents of my bag AND my pockets, which are usually full of little treasures from my boys!
    Love it!