July 28, 2014

What made the AMI 2014 meeting even more special was that the program was filled with speakers a little bit outside the usual AMI roster, expanding the scope of the conference, and demonstrating just how broad and interdisciplinary our profession can be. I would like to introduce you to two artists who I actually got to interact with, and whose work inspires me to create.

Danny Quirk's muscles of the back
I got to meet Danny Quirk and watch him paint this piece on my friend Chris Smith. How lucky am I?

You've probably all seen Danny Quirk's artwork on the internet. He paints these amazing trompe l'oeil anatomy dissections onto people's skin! I'm a huge fan. When I saw him post a request for models for his AMI workshop, I responded immediately. I missed out narrowly this time, but that started us talking, which meant that not only did I get to meet him, but I got to watch him work!

Danny Quirk's acrylic paints
A few of Danny's acrylic paints - which exploded a little on the way to Rochester.
Danny Quirk's muscles of the back
Danny starts off by putting down a layer of latex paint, meaning that at the end you can peel the whole piece off and keep it forever. Here he has blocked in the major forms and put down flat colour, and is starting to work in some texture.

At this point you might be thinking that this is a nice reproduction and an interesting canvas. But let me tell you that Danny Quirk has much more vision that that. Yes, he has his trusty copy of Thieme anatomy next to him, but the magic happens when he breaks out his knowledge of surface anatomy. He palpates for the actual underlying structures and bases his painting on each model's actual body. This means that when you watch the model move, you see the structures follow. The results are stunning, but also have huge educational value. He is now collaborating with physicians to make this into a teaching tool.

Danny Quirk's muscles of the back
The white highlights start to give the piece depth.

If you haven't already seen it, do go check out his Facebook fan page. In addition to body painting, Danny is a phenomenal watercolourist. I'll have to check out his recommendation for Yarka watercolours, which he swears by, and says are full of pigment.

Danny Quirk's muscles of the back
A close up of the final piece. I hope to be a model at some point, too.
Lisa Nilsson's midsaggital section
Photo credit: Lisa Nilsson
Lisa Nilsson creates anatomical art by coiling paper around a pin and painstakingly assembling the pieces. This piece is life-sized!

The next artist I want to tell you about is the incredibly humble Lisa Nilsson. You would never guess that her work is all over the internet. She painstakingly winds thin strips of paper around a pin, and pinches and glues the coils, before arranging them in their final places. This process is called quilling, and it gives rise to a rich variety of textures.

Lisa Nilsson's tongue and teeth
Photo credit: Lisa Nilsson
Lisa uses paper to replicate different anatomical textures, including the teeth and tongue.

Lisa bases her cross sections on patient scans. It was interesting to hear her talk about how she chose the levels to show - from noting the asymmetries of the brain, to finding interesting textures in the spinal cord, sinuses, and teeth. She also builds many of her pieces true to life size.

In my favourite part of her talk, Lisa showed us her inspirations. She has this bookcase that is filled with little objects she has collected over the years. There are many anatomical items there, and also religious objects. Beyond the collection itself, her work is inspired by the bookcase itself, with its many compartmentalized shelves - which are mirrored in the compartments of the organ systems, and also in the handcrafted boxes that she creates to house her finished work.

Lisa Nilsson's midsaggital section
Photo credit: Lisa Nilsson
Anatomy and religion both inspire Lisa's work. Here she uses gilded paper to frame a midsagittal slice with a golden halo.