What is medical art and illustration?

A medical illustrator is a professional artist with advanced education in both the life sciences and visual communication. Collaborating with scientists, physicians, and other specialists, medical illustrators transform complex information into visual images that have the potential to communicate to broad audiences.

A medical illustrator is a visual problem solver. Background research, including reading scientific papers, meeting with scientific experts, perhaps observing surgery or a laboratory procedure, is often an integral part of the creative process.

The work of medical illustrators promotes education, research, patient care, public relations, and marketing efforts.

Medical illustration

All styles of illustration are provided for, from full colour highly detailed to half tone or black and white. Subject matter ranges from anatomical, clinical, pathological and surgical illustration to the more conceptual illustrations required for portraying cellular and molecular activity. Images may be created for professional and patient education, sales and product launch material, and may be used in publishing, advertising and marketing.

A number of artists work in traditional media, while a large proportion of artwork is produced digitally. Sophisticated software packages give the artist the facility to create a full range of illustration styles with the added benefit of speed and flexibility within their work.

Medical animation

With the widespread use of web and multimedia, animation is fast becoming an integral part of a medical artists skill base. Animations can be created in two-dimensions from existing artwork to create a more eye catching graphic, or to convey, for example, a surgical concept or mode of action more effectively than illustration alone. Alternatively, three-dimensional animation can be used to create engaging visual effects and to model objects that can be ‘turned around’ to show clearly complex anatomy or a medical product design feature. Animations may be produced for education, advertising, sales and marketing and output for web, CD-Rom or video.

Medical model making

This is an area where a number of our members apply their creative skills, knowledge of anatomy and understanding of the three dimensional form. Medical artists produce medical, anatomical and surgical models and simulators, which are used for medical education and surgical training. These artists are skilled in modelling, casting and mould making using materials such as clay, plaster, resins and silicones. They are creative in their use and development of new materials to ensure realistic simulation of bodily tissues. Models are primarily produced for medical device manufacturing companies, teaching hospitals and university medical schools.

Facial reconstruction

Facial reconstruction is the rebuilding of an individual’s face onto the skull requiring of the artist a comprehensive knowledge of head and neck anatomy and an understanding of facial contours and characteristics. A full range of practical skills in model making materials and techniques is essential. Facial reconstruction was initially developed as a vehicle for identification of murder victims, however it is also become used to build representations of historical characters from their archaeological specimens.