Leonie Kneipp


Scientific Illustrator

Masters in Marine Science & Management

First of all, how did you get started as an artist/illustrator?

I was always interested in art and loved to collect all sorts of pens and pencils I didn’t need. After high school I wanted to study industrial design and did a prep course for a year to apply for uni. I did end up getting accepted, but then decided to study science instead and thought to have art as my hobby on the side. A zoology professor during my bachelor degree told me about a masters in scientific illustration in Zurich after seeing my drawings for the class, but I was set on studying marine science.

I saw on your Instagram that you actually studied Marine Science and Integrative Biology... How come you decided to become a freelance illustrator after studying science?

After finishing my masters at UNSW I moved back to Germany and started looking for any sort of science job. To keep myself distracted from the job search I started working on an exhibition and decided to donate 50% of the income to WildAid’s anti shark finning project. This exhibition was all about marine fauna and after this I started to try a few more ‘sciency’ drawings. It is not necessary to have a science background for this kind of work, but every drawing needs a lot of research and it does help to better understand what you are looking for. I really enjoyed combining my two interests and I started to contact research institutes and was lucky enough to get my first official freelance job as an illustrator.

Seeing that you concentrate on making scientific drawings of fish and sea creatures, what do you love most about illustrating them in particular?

I just always loved fish and I was always horrible at drawing humans and most mammals. My preferred creatures are fish, insects and birds, I think I just enjoy all the tiny details. Fish in particular can be quite a challenge, especially when it’s a scientific drawing and everything has to be correct. The scale count has to be correct, the number of soft rays and the spines etc. and the variety of colours in one specimen is fascinating. I think I like the challenge of getting it right, but also showing how interesting fish can be. When working with paint on a canvas I make sure the animal is still biologically correct, but its more about setting a scene.

We heard that you're getting involved with Artsweek on campus during Week 4 - what will you be exhibiting on campus?

My goal is to inform visitors about a few research projects within UNSW through art. As expected, I picked aquatic species. I will mainly showcase canvases, but I am also planning to exhibit a classical fish illustration.

How did you come up with this idea for your Artsweek exhibit?

I always preferred to combine my exhibitions with a purpose, pushing people think a bit and not just focus on my art. When I found out about Artsweek I was super excited, its exactly what I do and I really wanted to work with a few professors I met during my masters at UNSW.

Leading on from that, you've also taken part in quite a few exhibitions and projects as well. What's the coolest one that you've taken on?

I was super honoured to be published in a German fish biology book, but I really enjoyed my last exhibition before I moved to Australia. Through my sister I met an incredible artist from Lake Constance, Susanne Hendricks, and during one of her exhibitions and with the help of a little bit of wine we came up with the idea to combine our two styles of work. She provided the backgrounds in her usual very abstract and colourful style and I put drawings on them. It was a very exciting project and everyone really loved what we came up with.

And of course, we love being kept in the loop, so do you have any cool projects or collaborations coming up?

Since I just moved back to Australia this year, everything is not set in stone yet. But I am hoping to work on a few more pieces specifically for one of UNSW’s professors and showcasing her research in a solo exhibition.

Final question - do you have anything you want to share with the world? Whether it's a quick ramble, something deep or a shower thought?

Australian paints are very different to what I am used to in Germany.. A very frustrating learning process.

Artist of the Week Gallery