69th Annual Conference – 8th April, 2018
The Roman Baths, Bath
The Medical Artists’ Association one day conference was held in the historic city of Bath and organized by Cat Sulzmann. Guest speaker Jenny Halstead, a past chairman of the Association, opened the conference. She spoke about her unique experience following Sarah Scrope during her year in office as High Sheriff of Berkshire. Jenny is believed to be the first person to be invited as artist in residence in the history of the High Sheriff dating back to 1064.
Jenny demonstrated her excellent observational skills, sketching on the spot, at times unnoticed at the back, blending into her surroundings. She creates beautiful line work, pastels and water colours. Her ability to capture a moment in time will be archived for historic documentation. Jenny at times was given front row access, great if you’re in a surgical theatre, but capturing a broad moment in time can be a challenge for any artist if you’re at the front. Her use of light brought ambience to the illustrations that will go on exhibition in June 2018 in Reading.
Following on from Jenny was artist Karen Wallis. With her 6b pencils Karen spent 4 weeks in the mud and dust as artist in residence on the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney, a Neolithic site of archaeological importance. Karen explained that she chose an anthropological approach to this project focusing on human activity. This atypical approach found Karen recording not only people involved in the dig but the sounds and conversations. Karen will be continuing her residency on Orkney and will be extending her time for a further 7 weeks in July and August this year.
Jenny Brooks is obsessed with detail. Her dedication to meticulousness transpires through her work, which we were privileged enough to witness in the flesh. Jenny has been working from her orderly desk for the past 30 years, first capturing the complex morphology of plants and flowers and more recently employing a full set of magnifying glasses for her miniature paintings.
Jenny’s work is delicate but not feeble, the fragile petals, gracile twigs and miniscule portraits have a distinct presence and intensity. The artist’s motivation is to accurately reproduce what she sees, yet her paintings gently catapult the viewer in an other-worldliness, a fantasyland where two-inch tall beings inhabit bouquets of cyclamens and pansies.
Jenny is not secretive about her specialist techniques. During her presentation she took the audience through her methods step by step, demonstrating how she builds up her botanical compositions with pale washes of watercolour, first using primary col-ours into secondary and then tertiary. She described the painstakingly slow process involved in making a miniature, stippling and cross-hatching using a 000 size brush on vellum. Jenny was not only generous in sharing her process with us but she is also keen to pass down this expertise to a wide range of students at the University of Bristol, where she teaches botanical art. It was soothing to listen to Jenny, as her slow voice matched the rhythm of her brush and I found her uncompromising passion for details reassuring, so the next time we find ourselves spending too much time over an eyelash, we might not feel as alienated as we used to.
MAET Students – Capturing the moment
– surgical sketches in theatre
Students Louise Hinman, Julia Ruston and Merlin Strangeway presented their own individual experience about sketching in the operating theatre.
Louise gave the audience a broad yet thorough overview of how drawing has been used as a means of both documenting and educating within the context of the scientific world. Louise reflected on how traditional scientific drawing was meant to depict the object accurately but that artists had had to adopt different styles and approaches to compensate for the illustrations not being a product of direct observation but generated merely by referencing written descriptions and secondary sources. Louise then went on to analyse drawings of social narrative, showcasing illustrations created to document daily life on board ships and drawings that captured medicine in wartime directly observed from the battlefield. An exhibition of Louise’s dynamic pen and wash sketches of hand trauma surgeries, executed at the Princess Royal University Hospital, completed the talk.
Merlin is passionate about public engagement and people: her work focuses on making science and medicine visually accessible to a broad range of audiences and this certainly came across in her fully illustrated talk. Merlin’s illustrations are simple, stylised but mightily impactful and the patients she represents are not empty silhouettes but real human beings with personalities (and colourful jumpers!).
It seemed only natural that her talk focused on the human experience of drawing in the oper-ating theatre and her interaction with the staff. Merlin spent time drawing alongside consult-ant ENT surgeon Mr. Ghassan Alusi (Gus) but what could they possibly have in common? A lot more than one might think, including the love for iPads and cake!
Julia is unfathomably skilled at capturing everything that needs to be described during a surgical operation – her pencil moves swiftly across the paper yet the marks made are rigorous. Julia not only has a refined ob-servational ability but she also thoroughly understands what is happening during the operation because when she is not sketching she is performing the surgery herself.
Julia uses her sketches to conceptualise and document a wide range of operations performed at the plastic surgery and burns department in East Grinstead Hospital, where she works. Her aim is to record as much information as possible including every possible variation of any particular operation in order to consolidate the process and advance her competence as a surgeon.
After a buffet lunch delegates had the opportunity to take part in two work-shops: ‘Yoga life drawing’ with Jo Cameron, and ‘Life Sculpting’ with Dr Matt Pilston. Thanks to Jo and Matt for hosting these two absorbing and instructive sessions.
After a lively AGM, members walked a short distance from the Roman Baths & Pump Room to attend the Chair-man’s Reception in the splendid surroundings of the Victoria Art Gallery. The venue provided an excellent opportunity for everyone to share a couple of glasses of prosecco and enjoy some cocktail bites and continue in lively conversation.Our Chairman, Philip Wilson, reiterated his thanks and those of all the delegates to our speakers for the excellent day programme. He also thanked the Roman Baths & Pump Room conference team staff for their kind attention and assistance during the day and also for the evening session. The biggest thanks of the day undoubtedly were reserved for Catherine Sulzmann, for organising a splendid conference. The audible and positive comments from everyone spoke volumes.
Members raised a glass to toast our speakers and guests followed by our usual toast to the Association.
Association member, Mandy Miller, then gave a presentation on ‘Promoting your-self as a medical artist’. She enlightened us on the benefits of social media and how it can provide significant opportunities to communicate, network and convey your skills and generate work. She introduced us to media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and MailChimp. Her talk was punctuated with fine examples of her own work. With the ever-changing face of our profession and clientele she conveyed how well these platforms could re-generate and enhance our careers and raise the standards of medical art.
Following on from her talk Mandy host-ed a round table panel and members were encouraged to discuss their own preferred methods of promoting their skills and communicating with their clients. It provided a splendid oppor-tunity for members to exchange ideas and everyone agreed the format should be repeated and encouraged at future conferences.
Finally members made their way to the nearby restaurant Hall & Woodhouse, located in what used to be Bonhams Auctioneers, to attend our informal Annual Dinner. The food, service and atmosphere of the restaurant was excellent and was a fine end to a terrific day.
Philip Jones, Francesca Corra and Philip Wilson, MAA Members
2018 conference gallery
68th Annual Conference – 21st April, 2017
Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London
34 delegates congregated at Charles Darwin House, Roger Street, London for the MAA’s 68th Annual Conference.
After our first speaker was unable to attend due to illness, Eleanor saved the day, or rather morning, when she agreed at the last minute to give a talk as well as performing an etching workshop. Eleanor is always entertaining to listen to and it was a treat to hear about her journey with wood carving and wax sculpture. She relayed the history of wood carving over the centuries in her uniquely dry humour always dropping in the odd anecdote of death and disease.
Her talk on ‘Anatomical Expressionism’ was a fascinating journey through the eyes of artists who approach their artwork, be it sculpture, casting, carving or painting, from the enlightenment given by first-hand anatomical experience of cadavers. Eleanor presented us with many examples of how this experience has brought not only anatomical accuracy but also emotion into the artwork, such as that seen in this bronze casting of a hand created by Stanislav Szukalski in 1917, titled ‘Struggle’. Similarly this wax ecorché created by Clemente Susini in 1802 titled ‘Tronco Masculino’ is incredibly accurate in its anatomical detail but conveys intense expression as well.
This approach described by Eleanor is particularly fascinating to those of us who are more used to a scientific and clinical viewpoint, which normally demands that artworks are conveyed in a very neutral and passive style. It will certainly make us see such images and sculptures in a new way, with some understanding of why they were created with such emotion apparent in their form.
Following her talk, Eleanor treated us to a fascinating demonstration of her etching and woodcut technique. Eleanor had kindly brought in lots of interesting things for us to look at and handle while she worked and the hour went far too quickly… plenty left for a future practical workshop.
Dr. Allan Sudlow, Head of Research Development, British Library ‘Drawing Conclusions’
Dr Allen Sudlow joined us from the British Library just down the road from where the conference was taking place, to talk about the fascinating range of scientific and medical images held in the British Library’s collections, which were the subject of an exhibition in 2014 called ‘Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight’. This exhibition explored the work of scientists and statisticians through the ages, focusing on the key themes of public health, weather and evolution. Some well-known and not so well-known images were presented to us and illustrated how the act of visualizing data can affect how we see and interpret the world around us. One famous example is John Snow’s cholera map of 1854 which by the simple act of mapping individual cholera cases, allowed him to conclude the disease was waterborne and then pinpoint the cause of the outbreak to a single water pump in Broad Street, Soho, London and thereby prevent further cases by simply removing the handle.
Dr Sudlow’s talk also included a short video about the exhibition context and importance of data visualization. Finally, he gave us a brief outline of the British Library’s work and collections, and strongly encouraged all of us to make good use of their online and onsite resources which are available to the public just by getting a free Reader Pass. (https://www.bl.uk/help/how-to-get-a-reader-pass)
After Dr Sudlow’s talk we adjourned for a buffet lunch in The Hub and to take the conference photo, and reconvened for the afternoon session.
Julia Ruston, (MAA Student Member) – Plastic Surgery Trainee
‘The Rothschild bronzes: an anatomical ‘whodunnit?’
The Michelangelo project arose from a chance encounter with Julia’s old anatomy supervisor, Peter Abrahams, from 2005, at the BioMab dissection weekend. He had just been asked to give an anatomical opinion on two old bronzes from the Rothschild collection and wondered if Julia would like to help him! In 2015 a pair of bronze male nudes were loaned to the Fitzwilliam Museum from the Rothschild Collection, in an attempt to establish their origins. A team of art historians, scientists and collectors, experts from around the world, spent the next year closely analysing the bronzes, dating them to the early sixteenth century, and theorising that they may in fact be attributable to Michelangelo. This culminated in a conference and a book on these bronzes, which is currently in press. Peter Abrahams and Julia contributed a chapter, in which they analysed the bronzes from an anatomical perspective. They performed a top-to-toe inspection and found great anatomical accuracy, unusual in comparison to many contemporaneous sculptures. Contextualising this amongst artist-anatomists of the time, the hyper-muscular male nudes could well represent works by Michelangelo.
Dr Simon Hall, Doctor and Medical Artist
‘Cleft: An Arts Initiative’
It’s a tall order when your next speaker is so talented that they could hardly decide between becoming a portrait painter or a doctor. With these combined skills in mind, becoming an associate of the MAA seems a natural progression for Dr Simon Hall who gave us a relaxed and informative talk on his work with CLAPA (Cleft Lip & Palate Association, www.clapa.com). Dealing with the stigma of cleft lips and palate is a sensitive topic, and one that needs a certain amount of creativity to try to break down stereotypes. With cleft lip and palate, there come problems with feeding as a baby and subsequent speech problems in later life, as well as the stigma of looking slightly different. Working closely with groups of teenagers born with the condition, he has listened to their desire to feel normal and less different to their peers and uses a combination of the arts and therapy to find ways of achieving confidence and normality. Dr Hall works closely with charities such as Changing Faces to try to encourage confidence and normality in this area. It was a pleasure to listen to Dr Hall talk of his portrait commissions, art and therapy and his palpable enthusiasm for the arts and medicine – long may it continue.
Julia Midgley (MAA Affiliate Member) – Artist and Printmaker
‘Between the Lines – drawing medicine in action’
It was great to meet Julia Midgley and listen to her talk, full of stories and emotional images describing her career journey as a reportage artist. Drawing events live and on the go is not one for the faint-hearted and her skill in this area has taken her to areas of conflict, working in the field at great speed, often in theatres or moving vehicles. She has drawn in military environments, but also randomly at Blackpool leisure beach, Stonehenge, in cathedrals and theatres.
Julia had an interest in medicine from a child and has spent time as artist in residence at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital. The camera, she says, can be quite invasive in a sensitive environment but people don’t seem to mind, or would rather encourage an artist with a pencil and paper standing nearby. Julia often uses different media such as watercolours depending on what she feels the situation will allow. Her publication ‘Drawn From Experience – War, Art and Surgery’ was a way to consolidate and solidify her work for others to enjoy.
Her drawings are beautiful, dynamic and honest, literally drawing what she sees at the time, and each piece of art is unique, just like her. We welcome her as an Associate Member.
Merlin Strangeway (MAA Student Member)
‘Delight and Delineate: The Art of Graphic Recording
and Live Scribing’
Merlin Strangeway, a current student of the MAET delighted and delineated us with her energy and enthusiasm on her work at Harley St. Children’s Hospital. She blitzed us with the beauty of data and graphic recording or rather live scribing – a profession I have to admit I’d never heard of until then.
Live Scribing is the graphic recording of an event, or you could call it doodling or cartooning, but it seems a lot more goes into this than just doodling.
The key skill is communication, and being able to think on your feet sometimes for hours on end, in order to convey the narrative of a meeting or event. Scribing can be done on walls, or an iPad, anywhere it seems, as long as you have the tools i.e. pens and somewhere to write & draw. Merlin’s knowledge of medical art helps in her work with children at the hospital and sometimes communicating their fears of what they are experiencing there can help to make them feel safer in their surroundings, a truly valuable skill.
At the end of the talk we were all given a task to perform in couples, one conveying our first memories and the other doodling those memories and after years of art training, it seemed a hard task just to doodle and what we all concluded was that Merlin makes it look easy, but it’s not.
See page 11 for more of Merlin’s work.
Following the conference close and AGM, some welcome refreshments awaited us in The Hub next door, where we were joined by our invited guests the Master and Mistress Barber, Professor James Carley and Professor Ann Hutchinson, who had just arrived from Toronto, Canada.
MAA Hon. President Sir Barry Jackson presented a Diploma of Membership Certificate to Francesca Corra, and a Medical Associate Membership certificate to Crispin Wiles, both of whom we warmly welcome to the Association. Dr Robert Whitaker presented Jenny Smith and Dr Morium Howlader with the Robert Whitaker award for progress and achievement made by individual MAET students with their coursework throughout the year.
After the presentations we all made our way a short distance down the Gray’s Inn Road to ‘Luce e Limone’, an elegant Sicilian restaurant, for our informal Annual Dinner where we enjoyed traditional Sicilian cuisine and wine at the end of a very enjoyable Conference.
By Auriole Prince and Debbie Maizels