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George L. Venable

Professional Career...

George L. Venable is originally a native of Livingston, Montana and currently resides in Beltsville, Maryland.

He entered the Navy Hospital Corps in 1959, and spent the next ten years as a medical illustrator, instructor of anatomy and physiology, medical training officer, field medical technician and freelance commercial artist. In 1969, he left the Navy to become the Assistant Art Director and medical illustrator for the Robert J. Brady Co., a Washington, DC, subsidiary of Prentice-Hall, Inc.

George joined the staff of the Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Natural History, in 1971 as a scientific illustrator in the Department of Entomology. During his tenure he became the Senior Scientific Illustrator of that department, and served as a graphics consultant throughout much of the Smithsonian. He began developing an expertise in computer graphics in 1984, and was a primary resource in that area for the Smithsonian's Apple Macintosh user community. He founded the Smithsonian Macintosh User Group (SMUG) in 1987, and served as its president until 1999. He served on the prestigious Apple Computer User Group Advisory Council for three years, and was involved in a number of computer special interest groups both inside and outside of the Smithsonian.

Largely self-taught, and with no formal education in art or science, George established himself as a pre-eminent natural science illustrator. His illustrations have been published in well over a hundred medical, biological and scientific journals and monographs. He has written articles for art and science magazines, and has taught many courses in various aspects of scientific illustration and computer graphics applications. George has traveled extensively and continues to do so, both for the Smithsonian and on his own as a research collaborator, while lecturing and conducting workshops and seminars in scientific illustration, and computer graphics applications.

One of the most satisfying aspects of George's career at the Smithsonian was the opportunity to teach. He has had many students who came to learn the methods and materials involved in scientific illustration. This might have involved a hands-on one-day session, or a period of several days. He also taught two-week courses in scientific illustration in Denmark and Costa Rica. For many years George conducted an intern program. Students would apprentice with him for one to three months, learning as much about the profession as they could absorb in that time. These interns came from across the US and Canada, and as far away as Australia, Great Britain, Spain and Japan. Many of these interns continue to maintain contact with him, keeping him informed of what is happening in their lives and their professions.

During his active membership in the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, he served in many capacities, including Historian and Director of The Guild's Summer Workshop, an intensive course in scientific illustration. While no longer a member, George continues to support the goals of the Guild, which is an international organization comprised of both professional and amateur scientific illustrators.

George's interests lie primarily in the Natural Sciences, with a current emphasis on electronic imaging, multimedia and computer graphics as applied to the natural sciences. Many of his works are in private collections as well as the Smithsonian Institution and have been exhibited across the U.S., including Hawaii, and in Europe and Japan. He was primarily responsible for the very popular exhibit of Natural Science Illustration "Perfectly Beautiful - Art in Science" which opened at the National Museum of Natural History in March of 1978. This exhibit toured the United States from 1978 until 1981 under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution's Traveling Exhibition Service as "The Art of Scientific Illustration". The exhibition was shown in eighteen museums and galleries in fifteen states, for an estimated audience of 160,000. He was instrumental in developing the original interface for the Museum of Natural History web site. He also created and maintained the website for the Department of Entomology, and advised or assisted in the development of web sites and digital exhibits for other departments and museums, such as the "Insects Interactive" kiosk for the Museum of Natural History's Insect Zoo, an interactive kiosk for the Seminole Indian exhibit and an interactive kiosk for the National Portrait Gallery's exhibit of Mathew Brady's photography. He was largely responsible for the conception and creation of the Department of Entomology's Archive of Natural Science Illustrations, which has served as a model for other departments with large collections of valuable illustrations. Fearing that many of the illustrations created for the many publications of the department would be lost, damaged, misplaced or possibly stolen, he created a database starting with a small group of illustrations from one of the curators. This archive now contains over seven thousand illustrations that have been scanned and added to the database. The intended end result is that the illustrations will be protected, and that this data and copies of the illustrations will be available on the Entomology Departments web site at some point.

George retired from the Smithsonian in 2002 after 40 years and 3 months of federal service in order to pursue other specific interests. Upon his "retirement" he created PXL PWR Multimedia Studio and has continued to be involved in the development and design of a number of web sites and database applications for the Smithsonian and other agencies. His extensive experience and knowledge has garnered the respect of the scientific community and resulted in frequent requests to serve as a consultant and advisor in graphic design and database applications, both scientific and otherwise, for the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as several private organizations and business clients. Of special note are three of the web sites that he has created for these clients.
A Virtual Tour of a Caribbean Mangrove Island - a study of Mangrove Biodiversity, 2003. Created for: Dr. Ilka C. Feller, Smithsonian Institution Environmental Research Center This site is in both English and Spanish. It is image and information intensive and can be found by going to the Links page.

Scale Insects - Identification tools, images, and diagnostic information for Species of Quarantine Significance, 2006. Created for: Dr. Douglass R. Miller, USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory. A very extensive site covering scale families, mealybugs, soft scales, and all other scales using Lucid dichotomous keys, images, and interactive web pages. This site can be found by going to the Links page.

Visionary Digital - Incredible Imaging.
High resolution imaging solutions for scientific applications that is comparable to no other system. If you are in need of a method for imaging macro and microscopic images, you must check Visionary Digital's website. This site can be found on the Links page.
Since his retirement he has been affiliated with the Smithsonian as a Researcher, and in that roll continues to work with the Entomology Department's Illustration Archive. He has been working with a number of volunteers and oversees the data entry and scanning of incoming illustrations as well as the general organization of the Archive. He is one of very few remaining illustrators who can identify the older methods, materials and techniques formerly used in scientific illustration now that digital methods have largely replaced them and are being used for nearly all illustrations for publication today.

George received many awards during his tenure at the Smithsonian. These are the ones he values the most as they were awarded by his peers:
  • 1994 - First Place in the "Best of the Best" competition for the "Insects Interactive" animation presentation. Awarded by International Association of Professional Presenters (IAPP), in recognition of outstanding work.

  • 1995 - The "Outstanding Achievement in Graphics Award" by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History for outstanding contributions to the National Museum of Natural History community.

  • 1997 - The "Peer Recognition Mentor/Outreach Award" for outstanding service in public outreach and as a National Museum of Natural History Mentor.

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