Fearless Pioneers: An Interview with Rachel Ignotofsky

My passion for learning about biology and the mechanics of how the world works did not leave me when I decided to go to art school.

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by Adriana Ortiz

All art courtesy of Rachel Ignotofsky’s website

Rachel Ignotofsky is an illustrator and author hailing from Kansas City, Missouri. She works as a freelance designer nowadays, but has previously worked at the iconic Hallmark card company and wonderfully dispels any dreariness that (500) Days of Summer may have implied about it. Rachel is passionate about science and history and communicating all of it toward a wider audience to inspire learning in others. Her work takes complex information and makes it accessible and fun, and does it all with an adorably appealing aesthetic. She covers topics ranging from marine animals to bodily organs and basically any interesting idea imaginable. I am a huge fan that is IN LOVE with her Instagram account, as it brings so much joy and knowledge to my feed. I totally recommend giving it a follow if you love cute things combined with science!

Rachel has recently written and published a book called Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World which showcases various women in science throughout history. She tells the often under-recognized, yet super-inspiring stories of incredibly intelligent and accomplished women in STEM, each accompanied by her illustrations. It comes out July 26 of this year!

I am so glad to have interviewed Rachel about her new book and everything behind it, so read on to learn more about this STEAM queen and everything she loves.

Also check out her site for information about her and her work!

How did you get started drawing?

I always liked making things since I was really little. In elementary school my mom and I would have a lot of fun making dioramas for book reports. That is where it all started.

Was there anything that drew you (haha puns) to science illustrations?

Science has always been an exciting topic for me and human anatomy was one of my favorite classes in high school. That passion for learning about biology and the mechanics of how the world works did not leave me when I decided to go to art school.

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I read that you worked at Hallmark! I love that place, my local shop has known me since before I was born. What’s it like to work for the famous greeting card company?

It was a wonderful place to work at and learn. There were a lot of master illustrators and calligraphers who had a huge command on their craft. Being around that kind of talent made everyday a learning opportunity.

What medium(s) do you use for you work?

I use everything I can, pens, textures made from paint and charcoal and of course the computer.

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Congratulations on your book Women in Science! What was the process behind it like (i.e. drawing, conceptualizing, writing, publishing)? Is there anything specific that pushed you to create it? What was the most difficult and your favorite part of making it?

I started my Women in Science illustrations because I really wanted to celebrate my favorite scientists and inspire people to learn more about them. I was thinking a lot about why certain fields, especially STEM jobs, still did not have an equal representation of women. As I dove into the subject it became clear that throughout history, female scientists have had a huge impact on science and mathematics, but not a lot of recognition.

I truly believe that illustration is a powerful tool to convey information and inspire learning. I also think the best way to overcome gender bias is to make sure the young boys and girls grow up with strong female role models.  I hope the illustrations and stories in Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World introduces these amazing scientists to readers both young and old.

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My favorite part about writing this book was learning the life stories behind these 50 women. In the face of blatant discrimination, sexism and often racism, these women had the courage to create their own path and contribute greatly to their fields.

The hardest part was definitely narrowing down the list to only 50. There are so many amazing women whose stories haven’t been told. I hope this book gets people excited to go out and learn even more!

Your designs are so unique and cute! Are there any artists (or things or places or moments) that you look to for inspiration?

My biggest inspiration are the facts from whatever topic I am illustrating. I love learning about new topics and really let the information drive the illustration. My favorite thing is to look at old scientific illustrations or watching nature documentaries. That really gets my mind going and makes me excited to start drawing.

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