It took Joanna time and commitment to fulfil her ambition to become a medical illustrator
I initially studied art in a natural history illustration degree at the University of Bournemouth. I loved the detailed observation of anatomy and the precision needed in the illustration of medical subjects so I decided to study for a degree in scientific and medical illustration at Middlesex University.
A medical artist communicates often complex medical and scientific information through accurate and clear illustrations. Even with modern medical imagining technology it is not possible to create accurate and clear images of the human body without the skills of a medical artist.
Becoming a medical artist takes time and commitment because you have to master both the art and the anatomy to a very high level. As well as my degree course work, I attended life drawing classes and practised drawing both human and animal anatomy from direct observation. I was based in London and was fortunate to be able to draw the cased specimens of human and animal anatomy found in specialist museums and collections, such as the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons.
It is essential to study traditional illustration as well as to learn the digital drawing techniques using software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I need to be able to observe and draw directly from life, particularly when illustrating surgical sequences. I have to attend operations and sketch as the surgeons work, which is very interesting but not for the squeamish.
When I am back in the studio much of my work is digital illustration using a Wacom tablet and digital pen. This is the most up-to-date technique for creating digital-based illustrations as it allows you to use the hand and eye co-ordination developed for traditional art.
After my degree I had to complete a postgraduate diploma in medical art in order to progress to obtain a specific professional qualification. I did this through the Medical Artists' Education Trust (MAET) , which is based in London and Manchester. What is so beneficial about the MAET course is that it is self-directed study. This means that after university life, I could now work at home, leaving enough time to get a temporary job to pay the bills. This postgraduate medical artist course can be completed between two to five years depending on how much of your time you can apply to your studies.
Once I completed the MAET course I became a registered medical illustration practitioner and a member of the Medical Artists' Association of Great Britain. This gives potential employers and medical professionals the confidence to employ a medical artist.
I now work as a full-time medical artist in my own medical illustration business, Medical-artist.com . We provide medical illustrations for businesses and surgeons not just in the UK but all across the world. You can even see many of my medical illustrations on the drawMD medical apps, a provider of apps for medical students and doctors.
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