Russell Kightley was drawing from about age seven. He studied graphic design in the late 70s at Nene College, Northampton, after spending two years at Birmingham Dental School. In 1981, he started in traditional hospital-based medical illustration at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, using pen and ink and watercolour, well before computers became commonplace in design. Then came a long stint in university-based medical video production (including two years at Stanford University in California in the early '80s). During the mid-80s in Leicester, he used a very high-end digital paint system (the Quantel Paintbox) for video graphics. The health education videos from Leicester were used worldwide in the fight against AIDS, cancer, and heart disease.
The Paintbox introduced him to the digitising pen and tablet, and so he used a computer pen long before a mouse. In 1997 he received a Graduate Diploma in Electronic Arts from the Australian National University.
Qualia's Jungle won the E. G. Harvey Award for Australian SciFi Art 2016.
His first was a CINE Golden Eagle in 1984 while working at Stanford. 39 more awards followed for the videos he worked on. 35 of those were for videos that he directed, including Gold at Worldfest Houston, and Silver at the British Medical Association.
Published everywhere, from Playboy to Nature. In Scientific American, New Scientist, and the BMJ. In National Geographic. On the BBC and in Reader's Digest. On the NASA site. In the Richard Dawkins book The Greatest Show on Earth. In newspapers and museums, on websites, in trade shows, and as posters in schools (BioCam).
In 1986 RK created electronic images of the HIV virion for use in a multi-award-winning video at Leicester University, one of the first public education videos on the topic. More Optics videographics followed, culminating in Optics lifecycle paintings and animations of Optics cell entry, reverse transcription, and viral integration in the 1991 production, HIV & AIDS, a video shown worldwide. These graphics were pioneering in their depiction of inner cell viral landscapes.
Working by himself in Australia, he created a new version of HIV (at one time the most popular Optics image in the world*), followed by many other virion and replication graphics. The most complex being the animation of COVID cell-entry. Nineteen years before the cell entry animation, his coronaOptics replication painting became wildly popular (during the SARS epidemic), and years later (2020) got caught in the crosshairs of history during COVID.
RK is represented worldwide by Science Photo Library and its agents.
* In those happy, heady days, a Google image search for the word "Optics" returned this image in first place. The image spread all over the internet (viral, even before it was a thing) and even made it into a Hollywood movie.