My FREE ART BOOK on APPLE & GOOGLE explains the history of this image. And a lot more!
Note: this blog post originally appeared at: https://www.russellkightley.com/post/animal-cell-goes-viral-again
From about 12 April to 24 April 2021, my old animal cell digital painting went viral, sending my web stats rocketing. On about the 21st of July 2021, my web stats shot up again, like a second wave. And like the coronavirus, it's fed by misinformation. Appearing without attribution on a popular FB feed attracted lots of comments back in April. The caption was also wrong, which led to a few fake alert sites taking notice (Leadstories and Fake Investigation, and StopFake). Indeed, my own Instagram post was issued a caution. There are similar misunderstandings today, as reported by AFP (Agence France-Presse) and REUTERS and BOOM and FACTOGRAF and ANIMAL POLITICO and SNOPES. And here's a YouTube segment.
Around the 4th of December 2021, a third wave happened over that weekend, with another fake news alert at Truth or Fiction and USA Today. And then in Poland in April / May 2022.
In late July 2022, the image began trending again, mainly in Europe. By early August, it went worldwide.
So an image going viral is mirroring, in the social media ecosystem, a real virus in nature, including the flawed commentary.
The image was created twenty years ago for an educational poster for BioCam. It took six weeks of full-time work to create using Painter (Fractal Design's Painter as it was, now it's managed by Corel). Since then, it's appeared in lots of places, including Richard Dawkins's book, The Greatest Show on Earth (plates 12-13 c). It's available on prints and merchandise and for licensing (publication, academic use, etc.). If you want to print it out for your home or office you can buy the digital file here. If you want it for teaching, you can get the 700-pixel file here.
It's also available from my London agents (please contact me for details if your media buy requires a major agency).
Animal CellI wanted it to look like an opened jewelry box, for the glint and sense of wonder at the inner workings. The colors are arbitrary, but I've used greenish-blue for plasma membranes and red or purple for DNA for many years. It's a generalized animal (including human) cell, with no specializations and was designed as a basic biology teaching tool.
I have spent many years creating cell and virus illustrations and animations, including pioneering work on animating the HIV life cycle back in 1990-1991, where I created internal cellular landscapes (using electronic paint on a Quantel Paintbox) and originated this style of illustration. My latest virus animation (done in Cheetah3D) shows a coronavirus particle (COVID-19) attaching to ACE2 receptors and entering a human cell.
My SARS virus life cycle (with a similar cell interior) went wildly popular 18 years ago and inserted itself in the crosshairs of history in 2020... (uncredited...) And here it is on ArsTechnica (also uncredited).