art and the Arts

We lost a fantastic voice yesterday with the death of Maya Angelou, but we are much richer for having had her with us through some of our most momentous times. In Japan, there’s a national tradition of making designating those people who contribute greatly to the arts and culture of their nation “living national treasures.” Britain does something similar with its knighthoods (like Sir Terry Pratchett, knighted for “services to literature”), and the Navajo have the less formal designation of Valuable Person. Maya Angelou was all those rolled into one lovely juggernaut.

I was pleased to see that, the same day she passed away, another literary figure of my generation’s childhood stood up to bring some of that American spirit back into our mainstream. If you haven’t already heard about LaVar Burton’s kickstarter to restore Reading Rainbow, you’re missing out!You aren’t behind the times, though; the campaign was funded within a day. Now, every dollar goes towards bringing the program to more kids and schools.

Everyone in my family is backing the project, since the original program was such a part of our lives and we want everyone to have the opportunity to learn and love reading…and perhaps a little bit because we couldn’t agree to share the book.


Well, here’s what’s going up in the anatomy department. Pretend in your mind’s eye that all of the names and initials are in brilliant metallics.

Convocation Tree

Convocation Tree

As usual, there is a higher-res image up on my DA page, which you can find here. Also, a thought for the day: Go Hokies.

Much to my surprise, people were incredibly enthusiastic about the memorial piece I did for our cadaver-patients. I got several requests for prints of it, so I’m touching it up before scanning in the finished inks. While I’m working on that, I thought you might like to see what it looked like before all the calligraphy (which you’ll get to see next week):

anatomy tree uninked mini

anatomy tree uninked mini

Actually, since I did the calligraphy inks on a giclee print, this is what the base painting still looks like. I may go ahead and replicate the calligraphy on this, too, now that I have a better handle on the titanium dioxide inks.

Man, for something that I drafted before ever seeing the inside of an ICU, this turned out surprisingly accurate (clothing aside, but there’s a reason for that in the storyline, which you may someday see 🙂 ). I am tres pleased!

ICU: critical care

ICU: critical care

As usual, the full-size image is up on my DA page. The scanner didn’t particularly agree with the layered pencil texture, so there are white specs where there oughtn’t be, but ah well.

Check it out!

work in progress

work in progress

This has been in my ‘incomplete’ pile for ages! I roughed it back in college some time, possibly as early as sophomore year. It was meant to be an experiment in pencil texture, just ’cause. Then I went on study abroad, so it didn’t get any love at all until senior year, when DC and I were flatmates and I needed something to work on during drawing/punk rock nights. But then I had to ramp it up for my thesis, and then I was working three jobs, and then malaria, and then…well.

Fast-forward through a thousand miles of U-Haul and one hell of a wild year.

While rifling through my sketch pads to select one for the memorial piece, I found this in an unloved corner. Since the anatomy gig requires a pretty rapid turnaround of pieces and I haven’t worked with mixed media in awhile, I needed some pencil practice. (Good excuse, isn’t it?) So, last night, I cranked up some Dream Theater and had me some pencil time.

Here’s where it was when I went to sleep last night, since then, I’ve been mulling over alternate titles. Your vote would be appreciated:

  • ICU – sound it out, Avatar-style
  • Critical Care – because this scene contains bromance. In fact, it’s bromance central.

BTW I finished the coloring job this afternoon over coffee and a sandwich. It’s one of my personal favorites (the flaws in the old bits are forgiven – I’ll scan it in after work tomorrow), but the titling dilemma remains. What to do?

I’m not really sure how this keeps happening. It started with me being guilted into joining two committees – I figured I’d show up, cast a vote or two, and maybe do two hours worth of work calling up a caterer or printing invites. But noooo. Somehow, I got myself landed with being the contact person for one, and being in charge of taking on the university administration for the other. At least I’m grant-supported, so they can’t fire me. Still, this is not going to be a fun week.

Oh, and I also got two unpaid commissions out of it. Here’s the first: invites to the memorial for our cadaver-patients.

convocation invites

convocation invites

As usual, there’s a higher-resolution image up on my DA page, if you feel like taking a look.

Amusingly, the s in “Thanks” wasn’t supposed to look like that at all. I was sick when I inked this, and my hand was shaking so hard that I screwed up the lettering. I then tried to fix it…

The goal was to create something tasteful and appealing that nevertheless spoke directly to the role in which we had met these extraordinary people. Given the nature of the interaction, that was a tall order.

Looking over the work from past years, I was fairly unimpressed. Lots of skulls, anatomical hearts, a few roses, and a sketch of the hand. All of the designs seemed to address the students, not the humanity of the donors. After 5 months at the dissecting tables, I know more about these people’s lives than their families probably ever did. I certainly know their medical histories better than my own. A few must have died suddenly or quietly, but some were in intense pain for the last months – even decades – of their lives. Many were crippled by it, and others defied it with extraordinary courage. My primary lady led a wild life, and refused to die on the terms of her disease. She donated her eyes and body to science and went out with, it seems, very few regrets. I suspect she would have celebrated with some bubbly…or maybe a PBR.

In honor of that, the last thing I wanted to do was something dry and clinical. No textbook illustrations. No black-and-white sorrow. Let them get back outside and escape the institution. Let them be whole again. Have some fun.

Well, I had fun abstracting the major muscle patterns of the back and legs (isn’t that a nice thoracolumbar facia? and how many times do you actually get to point out the superior nuchal line attachments?) and trying to blend that with elements of 19th/20th C book cover design.

Ok. I promised you some pretties. Here is the first.

never really lived here inks

never really lived here

You really have to look at the full size image to see the details, so go ahead: click on it!

These are just the inks for a piece inspired by an offhand comment about unicorns made by Toby in the paranormal gumshoe series Spare Keys for Strange Doors. At some point, I will get around to painting it, in my copious spare time. You know me. I was actually really pleased with how little time this took – from conception* to inks, it was under 4hrs.

*by “conception” I mean staring at a blank pad thinking “I wanna draw some unicorns. Durrr.” The more I learn, the more of my vocabulary is replaced by “durrr.”

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