Maya is a writer who aspires to change the world through her work.
There are art supplies, models, tools, and works-in-progress available. This photograph depicts Senior Artist Fernando Baptista's studio at National Geographic's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Because there is so much of Fernando's work in this month's issue, I'm blogging about it right now: "Gladiators: Ancient Rome's Fight Club" cover art.Eight pages of infographics depicting heroic battles and lives. In addition, an explanation of animal adaptations to heat for our feature on the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.
Fernando was the director of graphics for El Correo in Bilbao, a newspaper known for its visual journalism, when National Geographic contacted him. "They gave me a job, and I thought, Why not?" says Fernando, who moved to the United States and joined us in 2007.
For his work, he has received recognition from every major institution that judges images and graphics—more than 200 awards, medals, citations, you name it. He has been nominated for two Emmys for his work in animation.
How does Fernando generate his ideas? Before beginning to draw, he frequently makes a three-dimensional polymer clay model. “The models help me determine the best perspective,” he says. “I understand how light functions. It adds realism and allows you to express yourself appropriately.”
He'll photograph a model and then paint on the image with acrylics or digitally. He'll also use the models to create a pencil painting, scan it into the computer, paint it digitally, and then combine it with an already painted background. Occasionally, he will use one of his models as a character in an animated film. In a nutshell, he's amazing. (Keep an eye out for the lethal jaw of this strange prehistoric predator.)
Then there's the matter of having his creations reviewed by experts. On the gladiators project, for example, Fernando worked with a scholar to create historically accurate sketches. These were shown to a half-dozen experts, who examined the attire, backgrounds, arenas, audience appearance, fight moves, and every other detail to ensure everything was perfect.
Those polled do not always agree. Fernando's passion for storytelling is unaffected by his battles with specialists.
“I always try new things,” he says, asking each story the following questions: “What do people not know?” How can I pique people's interest? I want to dazzle them with new ideas.”
When most people think of National Geographic photos, they think of photography. However, illustrators and graphic artists like Fernando, as well as the rest of our incredible team, are equally important to our mission of explaining and exploring the natural world and humanity's journey through it.
© 2021 Maya