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

Archive for May, 2009


Posted by Janet on May 29, 2009



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Chicago Art Institute Modern Wing

Posted by Janet on May 19, 2009


If you haven’t yet seen the newly opened Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, do so now. The Art Institute offers free admission until Friday May 22. The architecture integrates seemlessly with the Millenium Park across the street via the new pedestrian bridge. The bridge is said to be modeled after a ship’s hull, and experience tells me that it can feel like one on a windy day too. On the top, the bridge leads to a cafe with outdoor seating and a modern style balcony overlooking the park.  The modern art collection doesn’t suit my taste but the architecture is amazing and I highly recommend.

Museum hours are:
Monday–Wednesday, 10:30–5:00
Thursday, 10:30–8:00
Friday, 10:30–5:00
Saturday–Sunday, 10:00–5:00

Admission is free until Friday May 22. After May 22, admission is free on Thursdays 5:00-8:00. It is also possible to get free admission any day by checking out a museum pass at any Chicago Public Library.

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Random Thoughts; Book Chapter and Working with Engineers

Posted by Janet on May 17, 2009

I’m not really sure how things get done. I’d say right now I’m in limbo–having finished taking classes but not yet fulfilled all graduation requirements. Still three more days of internship left before leaving for semi-vacation, and all this time while trying to pack, see friends, and work on a side illustration project. A week after returning, I’ll be packing again to go to another internship, this time to the other side of the country.

This illustration project I’m working on is part of a to-be-published book chapter. All the illustrations are diagrammatic, and for the most part they are already drawn. My job is simply to increase readability and make sure everything fits the publication requirements. Unfortunately, the images did not contain layers so the simple changes involve retracing a large portion of the original image. I’m also learning more than I expected to about working with engineers’ conventions.

Unlike illustrators, most engineers use different software to produce diagrams. The reasons are completely valid, but sometimes that makes it more difficult for illustrators to make all the necessary changes quickly. While designers would most likely format text through InDesign, for this project I was presented with a LaTeX document. This resulted in a day spent uninstalling an old version of MikTeX that somehow made its way to my laptop years ago, downloading and installing the newer version, and figuring out how to compile.

Other challenges include gaining some knowledge about the subject matter you’re working with. While it’s not necessary to know all the details of what’s going on in the paper, it helps to have at least a general idea in order to make suggestions to the client on ways to convey the information better via graphics. I felt abonormally proud of myself when I caught a small error in the original diagram, and again when my client decided to trust me completely to convert the units on his graphs.

Perhaps the most overwhelming part of this project is the sheer number of diagrams that needs to be redrawn. In less than three weeks I’ve retraced and reformatted nearly fifty diagrams. Although not the most difficult, it is the largest number of pages per client I have worked with so far. I’ve heard from more experienced illustrators that a book deal is the way for illustrators to become extremely skilled at a certain media. Books usually require a consistent style. With enough diagrams to keep you busy for months, it’s not surprising that people can crank out illustrations pretty quickly near the end.

It’s time to go back to the diagrams, or maybe just pack a little more and sleep. Vacation is calling.

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Skull Cleaning

Posted by Janet on May 10, 2009

On a recent volunteer trip to a state park, one of the other volunteers found a skull in the bushes. I decided to bring it home and add it to the collection. There was nothing to put it in except a used sandwich bag. When I took it out in the evening, it was covered with dirt from the ground and oil spots from the sandwich bag.

First, I wanted to sterilize the skull and get rid of large debris. I decided that boiling the skull was the quickest method. I had read about forensic anthropologists boiling parts to get rid of the muscle tissues, but was still a bit nervous about doing it. The image below shows the skull in a small stainless steel pot (part of a cookware set for children from IKEA, also very useful for small non-food projects)


Above: Dirty and oil-stained skull and a bone; Below: Skull in a pot for boiling.


Below: The skull is coming to a full boil. It’s NOT falling apart…it’s actually working. Yay.


After boiling and getting rid of larger debris, I left the skull in the water for an hour to cool. Then I drained the water, rinsed it a couple times, and filled the pot with hydrogen peroxide to cover the skull. After about a day, it removed the smaller debris and some of the coloration. Honestly, the result wasn’t as dramatic as I expected, but it did a good job. Overall, no damages except a tooth fell out, but I think it was going to fall out anyway.

Below: The nice, clean skull after boiling and a day of hydrogen peroxide treatment.


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Congrats, Graduates!

Posted by Janet on May 5, 2009

It’s almost at the end of that final push. Some people probably haven’t slept in days. But…graduation is near…or is it??

Congratulations to medical illustrators who are graduating this semester. Must be a relief to finally graduate!

To those who have found a job already–Congratulations to you too. Just don’t forget to graduate.

First year students–welcome to the second year. It’s time to really make the most out of your skills.

Good luck to those who are finishing up research projects. Suck it up and give it that final push. You can do it!

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