In a wider context, science is returning to an understanding that images, not words, are the basis of thought. That is to say, verbal language is not so much the foundation of thought, but a more abstract framework of mental processing.Therefore words supplemented by pictures and sometimes pictures by themselves, could be better suited as vehicles for communicating thought, than words alone. Although pictorial communication is seldom entirely successful if not accompanied by words, and any visual language needs the written background of convention, pictures can indeed function as natural symbols, due to their resemblance to the objects and facts represented. Furthermore, precisely because they resemble what they represent, pictures are eminently suited for conveying visual information. However, in the past, the employment of pictures for the communication of knowledge was impeded by the limited means for the creation and duplication of graphics. This has changed dramatically with the new capabilities of computers, and the development of iconic languages can now be realized, because of the ubiquity of devices for multimedia messaging.It is in the context of computer technology that messages about conservation management are now being formulated and communicated.

There are four ways of communicating the state of a nature conservation feature; as a textual description in prose/poetry, as a numerical attribute; as an annotated scientific diagram; as a photograph, and as a painting. At the same time as delineating the pictorial forms of communication, it is important to distinguish an ‘image’ from ‘a work of art’.

Scientific illustration is a rich and wide field for creative activity.It ranges from line drawings, through qualititative mixed-media drawings visualizing concepts of the directly accessible or non-accessible natural world, to the quantitive, highly technical plotting of (numerical) data. Scientific illustration is often characterized by a twofold need: for accuracy and for clarity in presenting information. The role of the scientific illustrator is to record and communicate nature and science with pencil or brush. A keen eye is needed to pick out detail and omit the irrelevant, making the image convey the essential attributes of the subject. Complex diagrams, cutaways and charts combine art with design, while a scientist's eye for detail and an artist's creative flair, result in unique and fascinating works. Scientific illustrations are produced as part of the process of understanding an object, which can be any one of the natural features of a nature site.The first step in cognition is a process of visual discernment, wherebythe feature is contemplated separately from the background and so enters the viewers memory. One can of course interpret a feature without sensing it, without really seeing it, by using it as a document, by carrying it through analogies and so forth, in order to enter a lengthy cultural discourse.The production of a photograph or a painting of the feature is also a response to its discernment, and these images are made either as a memory/record of what was actually seen, or to capture the cascade of varied emotions which was triggered by the act of discernment. The former may be described as passive cognition and the latter as active cognition.Active cognition triggers assocations determined by past experiences. At the basic scientific level active cognition is defined by interest. That is to say, the view raises material questions, such as why it looks the way it does. This curiosity lies behind the phrase ‘nature conservation interest’ which is used to justify the scientific conservation of habitats and species, where the motivation is the functional existence of these features as parts of a larger ecosystem.In this way conservationists project objective meaning into species and ecosystems by framing them in scientific systems.For a non-scientist the act of active discernment of colour, shape and form in the features of a nature reserve, commonly provokes the recognition of beauty as a pleasurable quality or aggregate of qualities in a thing.This may lead to the production of a work of art which is subsequently viewed by others who may have never visited the site.

In the context of the appreciation of nature, beauty is understood to be a subjective experience and not a fundamental property of an object.Therefore, different features of a nature site may create the beauty experience in different people. These experiences may be generated from the surface form of things, or by an awareness of the inner workings of them as biological, physical and social systems.

Inner beauty is a concept used to describe the positive aspects of something that is not physically observable. For example, human qualities including kindness, sensitivity, tenderness, compassion, creativity and intelligence have been said to be desirable since antiquity.No matter at what level it is generated, a common reaction to beauty is that the experience is pleasing and makes us feel good.The commonality of beauty is that a beautiful object resonates with personal meaning, and generates a craving and desire to maintain contact with it. The qualities of beauty are balance, harmony, rhythm and proportion.These qualities are all relational, dynamic and contextual.Therefore nothing can be beautiful for ever.There are some who believe that beauty is the key principle, the master key in reordering our values and systems- in economics, in governance, in education.In fact, we should seek beauty inevery human activity. It usually begins with the senses and can cascade into our feelings and emotions, where it can move us at all levels ofconsciousness and spirituality.

The complexity of the visual response to a small area of landscape is evident from H. J. Massingham’s description of English downland.

…. it is the foreground which absorbs the watcher.He sees in it a combination of four qualities which makes the scene before him an epitome of the open Berkshire Downs- length of line and beadth of surface, wildness and nakedness at one with the finish of composition and a texture of the turf which gives a kind of bloom to those broad shoulders.The music of linear continuity is here expressed in a single transcendent chord.Many times I have watched the scene and felt its music. H J Massingham English Downland

The following description by Helen Charman of Matisse’s cutout picture entitled Vegetation, demonstrates how far the idea of a beauty response to the ‘fecundity of nature’, which is regarded by many as a God given bounty, can be taken into abstract pictorial language. It illustrates the formal pleasure that may be derived from the unfolding of the pictorial syntax which carries a subject or a theme.

“The vegetation is represented as series of motifs or signs rather than realistically, and the work is compartmentalised to enclose a simple pictorial language of motifs reduced to a simplified vocabulary of orbs, ovums and palm-leaf shapes. These shapes, when read in relation to each other, are suggestive of the fecundity of nature. The work plays down its representational function and asserts its physical components. It becomes an object in its own right, with the pictorial language of the vegetable motifs referring to each other as much as to real vegetables. This is characteristic of the visual language employed by modern art, which defines an object like no other; one that relates to the real world but nevertheless remains separate from it, an autonomous object”.

A similar poetic syntax is also a pictorial device to express the beauteous spirituality of wetland by the Irish poet John O’Donohue


In the winter night
By the lake edge
A stern breeze makes
The young novices
Of reed bend
Low and bow
To the mystery
Of a shadow-mountain
Gathered the moment
The cloud freed the moon