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Cinematic science with artist Jason Lyon

Isabel Williams
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Isabel Williams
Cinematic science with artist Jason Lyon
Artwork by Jason Lyon

In what ways do you think art enhances people's understanding and experience with science?

I’m not from a scientific background at all, so I am speaking from first-hand experience when I say that I think illustrations help to simplify and demonstrate the otherwise complicated and rather technical aspects of science. For me, especially when I’m illustrating for science-related projects, I like to depict it in a way that’s similar to a sci-fi or fantasy adventure, because it is essentially that for me and it’s so much fun!

When you are presented with a topic, like hip replacement, how does the scientific / medical process inspire your design?

The July cover of The Lancet Rheumatology was about hip replacement, and how having to redo the surgery would ultimately make the hips last for a shorter period. Reading through the research article, as well as the editor’s notes gave me a clear indication of visual imageries to include in the illustration, elements such as the pelvis, hip joint, the actual hip replacement implant, and the concept of a journey through multiple hip replacements.

Your artwork has a storytelling quality, with mysterious characters that seem to be on a journey. What effect do you want to achieve with this?

I always like to include a character because it’s me inserting a version of myself into the world I’m creating. I also want to express the idea that there’s more to the artwork than a response to a piece of article or research, I want it to have a story.

I also think that having a character, especially one turned away, not showing their face, would allow the audience to connect with the art and experience it as the character.

A lot of your work is for The Lancet, therefore coming in contact with scientific professionals. What effect do you hope your work has on these people specifically?

I hope my artwork shows what their work means to non-science people because I’m illustrating these as an outsider with zero knowledge and everything is so amazing and fascinating. And the scientists I’ve worked with have all been very supportive and encouraging and I really appreciate that. I’ve received so much love from them on social media because of these covers, and the other science-related projects I’ve done this year and I’m just delighted that my work can bring happiness to these people.

Is there anything that you see scientists or other designers do when communicating science that frustrates you? If so, what would you like to tell these people?

I honestly can’t think of anything that frustrates me. I’ve seen so many amazing artwork for scientific and medical purposes and as far as I know, the people that commission these projects are also very passionate and welcoming, so I’m just glad that I’ve had these opportunities to work in this field.