One of the rendering assignments I require in my Intro to Life Science Visualization course is an entomology rendering. Basically, drawing a butterfly from a live specimen. We talk about research, visual analysis, and why using internet scrap art is not always the best option. By using live specimens, we have all the answers right in front of us. We can take exact measurements, we can observe the number of cells on the wings, we can determine the most accurate colors. Obtaining a butterfly specimen is easy and inexpensive, I encourage all budding visual scientists to practice this type of illustration.
A life science illustrator creates a didactic drawing. We are showcasing the identifiable details of a natural subject. This type of illustration style is different than fine art, which is creating a mood, setting a tone, and connecting with a viewer's emotions. Many students come into my course as science majors and not fine artists. I tell them not to worry, I am not concerned about their creative skills as much as I encourage using observation skills to focus on accuracy and decision making in telling the best science narrative.
We discuss proper methods of research, and how to find the best resources online. We learn to organize and create a snapshot of our research in a way to defend our visual choices. We learn labeling techniques using Adobe Illustrator and rendering techniques using Adobe Photoshop.
If you are interested in working with your own butterfly specimen, see my video here on how to hydrate and spread a butterfly on a mounting board. I made my own mounting boards using three layers of foam board, with a gutter for the body in the top two layers.