Andrés Salazar, a talented scientific illustrator based in Switzerland, shares his passion for his profession with LocalBini. In our exclusive heart-to-heart, Andrés discusses the challenges of working as a freelance scientific illustrator and gives advice to like-minded professionals.
What is your passion?
I am passionate about drawing and the capacity of drawings to transmit knowledge. I believe that you can often teach things better with pictures, by using drawings, illustrations or infographics. If you do it right, it sticks in people’s minds. It stays with them for much longer. Especially if it’s done right, it’s easier to grasp than text. A lot of times informative texts are accompanied by stock photographs. They don’t fulfil any purpose beyond being a visual filler. That’s why I believe that scientific illustrations are so important.
Do you fulfil your passion for a living?
I work as a freelance scientific illustrator, so yes, I get to do what I love for a living. But, it’s a struggle making a living out of it. I prefer to work with non-profit organisations, such as museums or environmental associations, and these are obviously not the big “payers”. It’s a lot of effort to find freelance work and it requires a “business” mindset, which most illustrators, including me, lack.
What do you mean by “business” mindset?
You need to promote yourself and your work and be active on social media in order to get noticed. But I would rather spend my time illustrating.
So what do you do instead?
Most of the times, I write to the organisations I want to work with directly, asking for work. It is often the case that I have to explain to the potential client what I do and why they need me. It’s not a very known profession and people sometimes don’t know the difference between a scientific illustrator and a graphic designer. As a scientific illustrator, you are more specialised, you have a solid foundation in drawing and painting. An example that comes to mind and never fails to amaze me are paintings that depict the life of the dinosaurs. There is a high amount of skill and research that go into creating a painting like that.
Given all the challenges a scientific illustrator faces, what advice would you give to someone trying to follow a similar line of work?
Well, the main piece of advice I would give is that it’s not enough to be good at drawing and to be passionate about what you do. While those are, of course, essential, you also need to have a “business” mindset. You have to engage with people and be good at networking. You’re not just an artist you are your own secretary and your own PR representative.
Discover Andrés Salazar’s Work