Old Art & New Science

Actually it's new art, just using an old technique. I've begun employing the traditional artistic technique of engraving to re-render some of the sketches in my library of medical illustration work I've done over the past 15 years or so.

Some of the earliest surviving anatomical illustrations are engravings, like the Renaissance period renderings of Andreas Vesalius and the elegant 18th century work of Jan Wandelaar. While I have not devoted my artistic life to this specialized medium like these men, I do feel a connection of some sort when gouging lines in cross-hatch patterns describing the intricacies of the human body. The presses that I'm using have histories of their own, one small press that's a favorite of mine is over a hundred years old. Imagine the stories it could, well has, told. Of course there is a fundamental way in which my motivation for using this medium differs from my predecessors; while hand-pulling engravings through presses, inking and rubbing back the plate for each and every print with care lest precious handmade paper be wasted represented state of the art image reproduction technology in the 15th century, I'm using the technique for it's classical artistic value. Photoshop and a Wacom tablet are boundlessly more expedient and will continue to be my method of choice for commercial instructional work. But nothing beats the feel of rag cotton paper and oil based inks and the feeling of expectation when you've sandwiched a new plate between the wool felt layers and give the first great turns of the press's wheel, watching it emerge on the other side....

I'll put a couple images here. The first is a depiction of the skeleton of a lion based on a CT (computerized tomography) scan and the second is spondylolisthesis (the anterior displacement of a vertebra).

Lion Skeleton, intaglio engraving on cotton rag paper 3x5"
Spondylolisthesis, intaglio engraving on cotton rag paper 7x10"

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