Turning a Passion into a Paycheck
An interview with Bradley Knight on his start as a SciArtist
Bradley Knight, recent graduate in marine biology and winner of ECOS' Reef Face Challenge, shares how he combined science with a newfound passion in digital art during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Inspired to engage with science after learning about the pressing environmental issues of our time such as the melting ice caps, starving polar bears and oil spills, Knight's dedication to protecting the planet took the form of a bachelor's degree in marine biology.
While writing his dissertation, COVID hit and changed his entire working environment as well as his mindset about science communication.
"I didn’t connect the dots between art and science until I was writing my dissertation," says Knight. "The UK’s first lockdown gave me all the time in the world to think about every angle that someone could view my research, and although I was writing it for an academic audience and future publications, I wondered how anyone not in academia would get any of it."
Visual illustrations came to mind when thinking about communicating science to a larger audience, and Knight used that as a creative outlet while writing his thesis.
"I made a series of colorful infographics that I would hypothetically use to share my research with the general public," says Knight. "Also, I think spending the breaks in between the writing and research to illustrate graphic designs was good for me during that intense writing process. I came to realize that synthesizing my research in a different way from what I was taught at university, really helped me understand it on a deeper level and in my own way."
"Then after that, science and art just merged for me," says Knight, "and now I can’t help but see how interdisciplinary they are."
Knight graduated in a similar style as many who have finished university during COVID, via an email exchange with his diploma as an attachment. Fresh graduates had to then come to terms with a very different job market, forcing them to get creative.
"Lockdowns during what was meant to be my working gap year before I started graduate school, had me very bored," says Knight. "I had nothing to do, so I looked back at previous chapters of my life where I didn't have much going on, and art kept popping up. I didn't have any materials but didn't want to spend money on paints, so I just started doodling on my iPad."
As working from home and periods of isolation became the norm, more eyes were on devices, consuming content and looking for new ways to connect. Knight took advantage of that and started his Marine Knight Instagram page, highlighting his digital illustrations.
"It started as a hobby," says Knight about his illustrations. "I never really thought it would be anything more in all honesty, but after six months I started taking on commissions for marine life portraits, infographics, factsheets, even logo designs. I might start offering some kind of scientific poster design service for students who aren’t as experienced in digital design and want some guidance nailing their creative science briefs."
Knight's ability to deliver high quality and scientifically accurate illustrations is demonstrated on his Instagram page and online shop where 30% of the proceeds go to Marine Conservation Society UK.
His most recent work has been a collaboration with Save the Sharks Organization on a series of educational infographics of one of Knight's favorite types of animals to illustrate.
Salmon Shark illustration and educational guide by Bradley Knight in collaboration with Save the Sharks Organization demonstrates Knight's ability and what he offers as commissioned designs.
"Before this time last year all I wanted to do was research, work behind the scenes in some lab investigating interesting topics," says Knight. "That’s changed, just as a lot of things have. Now all I want to do is to be involved in delivering the messages of marine conservation biology to people through science communication. Going forward I want to use SciArt as a tool for effective, and impactful marine conservation communication, and at the same time, I want to get some justice for our mother sea and her glorious marine life."
As Knight's desire to communicate science through art has manifested in many illustrations and commissioned pieces, one of his first collaborative projects was with ECOS as a participant in the Reef Face Challenge co-hosted by Save our Symbionts campaign director and Infinife Designs founder, Matthew Adams.
"The whole reef face idea was a fantastic idea," says Knight. "Personalizing issues coral reefs face by literally giving the reef a face is such a strong message. Since the competition, I have used the reef face challenge as inspiration for creating commissioned reef face portraits for people."
Knight's Reef Face design was inspired by the Red Sea which hosts some of the most heat-tolerant corals in the world, one of Knight's reasons for choosing that body of water. Serving as an educational tool and inspiring action are two of ECOS' goals, and Knight truly delivered this.
Knight's Reef Face Design: a self-portrait of Knight created as a collage of Red Sea fish and invertebrates