HILLSBOROUGH: Illustrator will describe how he brings ancient critters to life

He’ll be at the library this Saturday

By Kelly Velocci, Packet Media Group
  Mark Klinger constructs 3-D models and drawings of ancient animals, insects and birds — he collectively calls them “critters” — for scientific publications and displays. The award-winning illustrator is coming to the Hillsborough Library on Saturday, July 27, from 1 to 3 p.m. to share his passion with others and highlight his work.
   Mr. Klinger began his career as a scientific illustrator at the Carnegie Mellon Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pa. about 15 years ago. His passion for nature dates back to his childhood while growing up outside Flemington.
   ”I love nature, and the fact that I can work in it is awesome,” he said.
   Mr. Klinger’s illustrations and 3-D constructions are based off on scientists’ research, fossil records and appropriate modern-day counterparts. The process, he said, can take him anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
   He said his most challenging work includes the illustration of the inner-ear structure of a moth as well as an early primate’s jaw. Mr. Klinger said the primate’s teeth had many “bumps and valleys,” making them complex to illustrate.
   Mr. Klinger’s work begins as rough sketches and slowly transforms into life-like illustrations. When beginning a hand-drawn illustration, Mr. Klinger uses a transparent tracing paper to draw an animal’s skeletal structure. He then layers one piece of the paper on top of each other as he begins to draw other features. The different layers of features include muscles and skin and feathers.
   When the final drawing is complete, he said, he uses Photoshop to enhance the tone and shading in the drawing. Mr. Klinger said he prefers drawing his illustrations by hand, but using the computer for certain aspects of the illustration helps speed up the process.
   ”The technique I use is a hybrid between traditional and digital,” he said.
   Mr. Klinger’s 3-D figures are constructed using square brass tubing and super sculpey modeling plastic among other materials. Mr. Klinger said he also uses dental tools to help him sculpt.
   As a scientific illustrator Mr. Klinger is also responsible for cleaning up original fossil images. He said some of the fossils with which the museum works are only two to three millimeters in size. Mr. Klinger helps make the images of these small fossils clear before they’re published.
   Mr. Klinger said aspiring scientific illustrators should “keep a sketch book” and “take pictures of critters and study them.”