A blog about scientific and medical visualization and all that’s involved.

Archive for February, 2008

Human Body: Pushing the Limits

Posted by Janet on February 29, 2008

As long as we’re on the topic of human anatomy, the Discovery Channel is bringing a new series called “Human Body: Pushing the Limits.” The series premieres this Sunday, March 2. It will use computer images to enhance stories about real people and how their bodies have been stretched to the limit. You can go here to the Discovery Channel’s website to access the episode guide, view a sample video, play interactive games, and take quizzes on the human body.

Posted in anatomy, animation, announcements, videos | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Action Anatomy

Posted by Janet on February 29, 2008

The book Action Anatomy by Takashi Iijima provides details on the proportions of human bodies as well as how they move. The target audience is digital artists, so all the images in the book are illustrated digitally. You certainly do not have to be a digital artist to find this book useful, especially if you are looking for a reference to help you draw figures in action. This book covers a variety of topics, including how anatomy differences across age and gender, how bones and muscles affect the way a person moves, as well as the angle of movement of each joint. It is not intended to be an anatomy textbook or a digital rendering guide, so you would have to go to additional resources for the fine details. Available on for $19.77.

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Posted by Janet on February 27, 2008

I’m working on a few interesting topics for March, so things may be a little slow this week.

My schedule for the ear prosthesis project has been delayed for a few weeks. Please be patient, as new updates will be available by the middle of next week.

If you have any suggestions for a topic or have artworks you would like me to show, please email This information is also available in the “About” page.

That’s it for now. Thanks for visiting my site.

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Brian Jungen–Sculpting with Found Objects

Posted by Janet on February 25, 2008


Brian Jungen, a Canadian artist, assembles found objects into a form of different meaning. The set of skeleton shown above (I believe this is a whale skeleton, but please correct me if I’m wrong) is actually an assembly of plastic chairs. Much of his work incorporates modern materials into native art, among which includes a series of masks assembled from Nike shoes. To see more examples, go to this link:

Posted in fine art, sculpture | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

FAQ–Why Aren’t Illustrators Extinct?

Posted by Janet on February 21, 2008

The number one question I get from people is “why do we still need illustrators if we can take photographs?” I’m sure many of my readers who are illustrators also get the same question more often than they care to explain. Once I was sitting next to a physicist on an airplane and was just not able to explain to him why the world still needs us. With every explanation I had, he was able to come up with a technology that should supposedly terminate our species. Before I post responses on my FAQ page, I’d like to get some input on what you think the role of scientific and medical illustrators are in today’s world and how it might be changing. Please post responses in the comments section.

Posted in discussion | 4 Comments »

Learning Genetics the Fun Way

Posted by Janet on February 20, 2008

The University of Utah Learn Genetics website is full of concise illustrations, photographs, and interactive components that make learning about genetics fun. Try exploring the website by clicking on the links on the right hand column, and you might come across some neat things. My personal favorites are the Biotechniques Virtual Laboratory and Mouse Party (beware of sound). The thing I like about this site is that it presents ideas clearly in a non-intimidating manner, making it appropriate to a wide range of audience. You don’t have to know a lot about genetics to enjoy it, but knowing it will increase your appreciation for the way the information is presented. Despite a large amount of information, the website is easy to navigate.

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Sculpting Nature

Posted by Janet on February 19, 2008


In Sanyi, a Taiwanese town famous for its wood sculptures, you will find many naturalistic wood carvings of botanical and animal subjects. This elephant stands over ten feet tall in front of the Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum and was carved out of a single tree stump. The genius of these artists lie in their ability to see life in the materials, therefore using the form and texture of the raw material to bring their subjects to life.

Here is a sculpture of fish from Sanyi:

A close-up image of Guan Yu on his horse (the size you see on screen is approximately the actual size):

Posted in miscellaneous, sculpture, zoological | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Visualizing Klein Bottles

Posted by Janet on February 17, 2008

The Klein bottle, a one-sided surface that exists in 4-dimensional space, is a subject of interest for many people. How do you represent a 4-D object when we live in a 3-D space? More importantly, how would you apply artistic freedom when visualizing this object?

Cliff Stoll’s business, Acme Klein Bottle, makes glass Klein bottles in many different shapes and sizes. I’m hoping to pay him a visit in late March when I visit the area. The Acme Klein Bottle also makes Klein hats and Mobius scarves.

Tim Hawkinson wove a Klein bottle out of bamboo. Although made out of a natural organic material, this woven effect mimics transparency and gives it a high tech feel almost like looking at a computer generated image. The video below shows this rotating Klein bottle at the Pace Wildenstein Gallery.

Konrad Polthier presents visual models of the Klein bottle and Mobius strip in this interesting article from “Plus” magazine.

Finally, here’s my own drawing of a Klein bottle:

Posted in math/engineering, miscellaneous, videos | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Ear Prosthesis Update

Posted by Janet on February 16, 2008

Nothing new, just finishing up the sculpting. Here’s the set up, very simple.

Ten hours later…

…top view of the “finished” wax ear. All sides were checked for accuracy.  The next step will be smoothing and texturing the surfaces.


Posted in my projects, prosthesis | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Interview–Trudy Nicholson

Posted by Janet on February 14, 2008

I am absolutely thrilled to have Trudy Nicholson, one of the top scratchboard artists in the field of natural science illustration, as the first person I interview for this blog. Her name comes up over and over again when people talk about scratchboard art, so I decided to contact her and she kindly agreed to an e-mail interview.

Trudy Nicholson majored in fine arts at Columbia University and turned toward medical art school at Massachusetts General Hospital. During the thirty years she worked at the National Institute of Health, she also accepted freelance assignments in natural science illustration. Having established relationships with clients with her natural science illustrations, she continued to focus on the subject after retiring from the NIH. Here are a few examples of her works in both medical and scientific illustration.


Poster design, ink with overlays for color
Surgical illustration for Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, ink on scratchboard
Sycamore Annual Cycle, ink on scratchboard
Cat and Locust, graphite pencil on scratchboard

In addition to sharing her artwork, Trudy Nicholson also shared details about how she approaches her work:

me: “Did you do much self-promotion when you first started in the field? What can you recommend for people to get their names out there?
Trudy Nicholson: “When I first looked for freelance assignments I went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and talked to any curators willing to listen. This finally lead to connections and some work. Becoming a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators was a great help, which continues to this day as networking within the Guild informs me and others of prospective jobs. Despite internet marketing, which wasn’t available when I started freelancing, I think that networking is an important method for finding either staff or freelance work.”

me: “What kind of references do you use when researching for your next project?
Trudy Nicholson: “To start an illustration I determine which animals and plants are to be used in what kind of setting. I get photographs of the subjects and if possible see the animals. Observing animals gives a sense of their anatomy, movements, behavior, stance and expression that photographs can’t quite give. With source material in hand I compose a very rough sketch of the whole composition concentrating on light and dark areas and keeping the emphasis on the main subject. Dark subjects or shading placed next to light areas gives contrast and drama to the scene. I gradually refine all elements until the final illustration has fine detail and the subjects are portrayed accurately. A book on scratchboard that I refer to often and that I recommend for those looking for varied approaches to the medium is Scratchboard for Illustration by Ruth Lozner, Watson-Guptill publications, 1990. The author has interviewed and included the scratchboard art of 75 illustrators giving a perspective of the many directions that artists can go using the same surface and tools.”

me: “You are best known for your scratchboard works in natural science illustration. Is scratchboard your favorite medium and why?
Trudy Nicholson: “My art has centered on animals in their habitats for publication, usually in nature related books. I work almost exclusively on white scratchboard using ink or, less often, graphite pencil. I started using scratchboard for medical work because of the ability to easily make corrections, either large or small. Gradually it has become my media preference, as I’ve become captivated by the beauty of black and white and the potential for a wide range of textures, using white and black lines and dots combined or juxtaposed in multiple ways. Since most of the books that use my illustrations are financed by grants, which are notoriously not ample, I can’t expect the same compensation that I would receive doing medical art. These books give the public information and understanding about nature that I would like to contribute to. Black and white art, being less expensive to publish than color, is preferable for books that have a smaller budget.”

me: “What tools would you recommend for someone who wants to experiment with scratchboard?
Trudy Nicholson: “It’s necessary to use good quality scratchboard such as Claybord made by Ampersand or Essdee, an English scraperboard. All tools should also be high quality. When using ink I prefer Gillott 290, 291 or Hunt 103 pen nibs and Higgins Black Magic ink, or Koh-I-Noor rapidograph pens with their own ink. These tools can be substituted by other good quality makes. As a scratching tool I use x-acto blades #16 and holder. This blade can be held at different angles to make extremely fine white lines or wider lines. It takes practice to master textures. When starting to use scratchboard, patience is helpful.”

me: “Since you work mostly on a white surface, how do you make a flawless transition between light and dark tones?
Trudy Nicholson: “Since scratchboard is a correctable medium, it’s possible to experiment with compositions and textures, which adds to the excitement of doing the artwork and also to the final results. Adjacent textures can be blended eliminating a visible border between them. Even the joining of solid black and stark white can be softened with graduating grays created by crosshatching and stippling. Crosshatching has become for me the staple for creating many textures. Crosshatching is made by crossing a series of parallel lines with another set of parallel lines at an angle. The degree of that angle will determine the resulting texture. A very acute angle will produce a moiré pattern that can give the effect of fur, feathers, distant foliage or water. Other textures can be built on the foundation of crosshatching using either white or black lines or dots over the crosshatched texture.”

Posted in interviews, pen and ink/line, scratchboard, techniques | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »