the mediastinum

“Understanding is a kind of ecstasy” Carl Sagan

I am sure Mr. Sagan was talking about the cosmos. Perhaps what applies to the macro applies to the micro.

Mediastinum comes from Medieval Latin and means midway. I don’t know the word before I start the drawing. In this work I focus on the thoracic cavity.


I have a light-box I can look at these drawings through, but I also like to hang them by my window. I like what the natural light does to the line work when it passes through the drawing. There is a front and back side, both to the subject and the object.

I used to wonder what was most important – the brain? the heart? I don’t ask that question anymore. The body is one, parts connect and work together.  This morning I thought the same about humanity – all connected. We inspire and we expire, continuously.

While researching the lungs I note the use of the words inspiration (inhalation) and expiration (exhalation). I like these words. This morning during a silent Yoga practice, with about 20 other people in the room, all I could hear at one point was everyone’s breathing. That’s powerful awareness. 

My Drawing
I want to draw the lungs or maybe I want to draw the bronchials (tree-like). Either way, I set in a beautiful trachea (windpipe) and include the larynx because I may bring in the thyroid gland (I always do).

Because it sits nestled within the lungs, I outline the heart, set in the chambers and add pulmonary arteries and veins. I don’t completely commit to the heart (not yet). I indicate the top of the diaphragm if only to ground the composition.


Did I mention I watch a series of dissections by the dramatic and ever so direct Gunther von Hagens. I watch him present this particular area of the torso. Expiration down going – breath out. Inspiration up, breath in. Right Lung three lobes, left Lung two. He describes the lungs are like bellows.

In Yoga we start class with a breathing exercise. The instructor explains too, the lungs are like bellows. They have no muscles of their own. The muscles around the chest cavity do some of the work and the diaphragm does most of the work.

I move onto the surface of the lungs (maybe the pleural cavity). I work a few days to get an interesting surface in.

I draw the jugular vein, the carotid artery and both the brachial vein and arteries. For some reason I find these details particular challenging. I keep looking at my research material to make sure I understand.

I include the phrenic nerves (because they are there and because I like the word phrenic)  which come down from the neck and move through the lungs and heart to the diaphragm.


I do not plan for this, but if the thyroid gland is coming in (and it is), so is the thymus gland. I am careful with both.


Finally I turn the paper around and include the posterior of the heart. I’ve drawn many hearts but the back view is new to me. I plan to return to the area after more research.IMG_8120

I wait for the right time to add the Lymph nodes. As usual I render them in bright blue. I love the lymphatic system. To my eyes it tumbles into areas in a rhythmic fashion. I never realized there were so many in this area.


There is so much going on in our body – layer upon layer. It becomes more fascinating to me as time passes.

I look at detailed renderings of anatomy from artist like Versalius and Leonardo to the anatomical studies of von Hogens and more recent and current digital imagery – and so many in between. I have Tibetan Art of Healing books that are detailed and beautiful. I get it. I understand the observation and the careful intricate rendering of the body. I understand why artists and scientists are drawn to it and want to depict it – graphic and natural. I GET IT!

To all those who came before me (and there are many) – I stand in line grateful I have your renderings to teach and inspire me.


3 thoughts on “the mediastinum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.