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.


whole and complete

Front Body – Toddler Male.   Male Toddler – Anterior. I’m thinking about the title. It will probably be the latter but for now I call the image Whole and Complete.

This composition began last summer while trying to get Lawson to stand still so I could outline him. He wasn’t having any of it. Mom takes hold of one hand and my husband takes the other while I quickly photograph him. He continues to laugh, jump and squirm.
I didn’t understand then what I know now – toddlers really do not stand still.

IMG_7870I set in the skeletal system as structure. I carefully render a small ribcage. It feels like I am working on lace. If I was only sketching I could call it done. I want record of this  before I lay in the organs and eventually muscle. In the meantime the real (3D!) Lawson changes almost every time I see him. He’s just shy of two.


I watch him record and react. Senses seem to activate as he learns about the world around him.

He touches everything. What’s this? he says loudly. He chases my cat. She won’t let him touch her. Gentle! mom directs, as he keeps trying. He puts one finger on a cactus (needle) one morning, takes it away quickly and then slowly cries. Does this means he won’t touch it again. I’m not convinced he won’t.

His eyes, all the time looking and seeing. I think of this as I teach my students to heighten these particular skills (look and see). Senses can continue refining into adulthood, I know. One day I decide to represent the five primary senses  as I watch him play with wooden blocks.


  • Smell, vital to everyday existence. I focus on the olfactory bulb and the nasal nerves.
  • Touch so necessary for survival. I read somewhere if you can’t feel something you can’t take care of it. That’s powerful understanding. I use skin and nerve endings to represent it.
  • Taste is the gate-keeper. We taste everything before it enters our body. I love drawing taste buds also called papillae.
  • The playful cochlea representing hearing, seems perfectly suited for this study.
  • An eyeball represents sight. I am reminded images are sent in upside down and the brain turns them right side up.

I’ve wanted to draw a tooth for a long time and now I finally have a good reason. As one of the parts of the first stage of digestion, deciduous teeth or baby teeth (temporary teeth) erupt (ouch!) from about 6 months to twenty-five to thirty-six month. Considering how long it takes for them to surface, the hours I spend on this one seem like no time at all.

Only natural that I follow-up with the last stage of digestion – bowel movement and urination. They have to have presence in this composition.  I never tire of rendering kidneys – in this case very small intricate kidneys, colon and bladder – he’ll soon learn to control.


What I’ve learned from other anatomy drawings starts to come together as I finish this painting. In puberty testosterone will cause Lawson’s ribcage to grow larger in size (than a female of his same age). Males (in general) have broader shoulders and expanded chests, allowing them to inhale more air to supply their larger muscles with oxygen.

Lawson represents a particular truth to me – change is a constant.  I see a level of freedom, curiosity, and trust as he moves in the world at this stage – so big and so much a part of him. He gets supported and directed everyday to move out into the world (one day his life) with awarness.

Is it a cliché to say I believe all life enters this world complete and whole? I’d also like to think life can exit in the same way.


While working on this painting I come across Mohave Indian symbolism about the hands: to offer the right hand is a sign of authority (in this case mom’s) and to offer the left hand is to offer friendship (in this case Eddie’s hand). This is a valuable and unplanned detail.


Mapping a two-year old and raising a two-year old – are two very different things. Thanks mom for letting me draw your son. Thanks Lawson for allowing me to observe you.

a portrait study and a landscape

You know how you feel somebody looking at you, and you turn, and somebody actually is? It’s the same at an art gallery. You’re looking at one portrait, turn around, and there is a work of art directly behind you. Because it’s all energy. Every single thing has energy. – Marina Abramovic


Students go outside to draw landscape for this last marker assignment. We have rain on and off for the couple of weeks we are out there. The outdoor drawing teaches many things, most especially focus. Some students like the experience, others do not.

Their final homework for the semester is a self-portrait. I know they have all the skills necessary to complete one. And they have freedom to use materials of their choice.  It’s really a challenge most everyone enjoys. People share humorous things, people share personal things. They all express something – it’s what a portrait allows.

Here are some works from today’s critique:


Kiria – Stressed Out


Mary – Me


Casey – Portrait 2015


Ricardo – Nothing Stays the Same


Gwynne – Missing Person


Daniela – Danii


Alfredo – Self Portrait


Henry – A Face Only a Mother Could Love


Andrea – Self Portrait


Susan – Dan (silver point)


Kiria – Leafy Embrace

IMG_8074 7.11.40 AM

Gwynne – Aloe


Casey – Little Tree


Andrea – Aloe

four chambers 03

When Jake Friedman, Founder and Editor in Chief of Four Chambers Press, approached me about creating an artwork for a poem, I asked if we could stay within my general subject area. Yes. I also asked if he could send me something with plenty of time because I like to play with detail. He agreed to this too. He sent a number of writings and after reading through all of them I chose  My Mother’s Body, with Voice (A Microcosmographia) by Nat Fisher. I appreciated the work was about a mother’s body and I particularly enjoyed the word microcosmographia.  I read the poem a few times a day for many days. It was poignant.  I felt like it revealed itself to me one-sentence-at-a-time.


I appreciate Jake and all the work he does in our community. He juggles much and manages to do it with a light-hearted manner.  I learn Jake takes time to handwrite notes to the people he works with – such a nice touch.

more news …
Four Chambers 03 is officially live at

A hard copy is available for sale and includes 166 pages long and features 55 poems and 18 prose works from 55 authors (over 50% local) with 4 illustrations.
I do hope you can support Four Chambers and all the fine work they do.

Celebration will be at Changing Hands Bookstore, in Phoenix, on November 12th at 6:30.
You’re invited!  For more info → Facebook event.

The evening will include readings from Kelly Nelson, Christopher Danowski, Eric Wertheimer, Edward Kearns, Reese Conner, Melissa Tramuta, Gary Joshua Garrison, Kitt Keller and more.FC 03 Cover BlankFor more information and sample work visit
Congratulations to everyone!

Thanks Jake for inviting me to take part.

bug according to art

If we were to wipe out insects alone on this planet, the rest of life and humanity with it would mostly disappear from the land. Within a few months. – E. O. Wilson


I am going to try something new here. And you all are part of the experiment. If it works, I’ll do it again. If it doesn’t work, I won’t.  I bring out the shells students normally draw to learn about structure and texture. I also bring out my collection of insects (and lizards). I hear gasps from some students and note smiles on the faces of others. I don’t necessarily think everyone should draw a bug but I would like particular students to draw one, maybe two.

Shells and bugs are the general subject-matter. The insects I bring to class certainly have interesting structure but not all of them have a variety of texture. We proceed anyway. They need to arrange the forms and consider both the positive and negative space in the composition. And they use a magnifying glass. I expect some students will hesitate because they are nervous. Once they get past the initial fear they not only look at the bugs closely, but they hold them with kid gloves. They can’t help but draw with care.

I see the bugs are a challenge for a few of them, but the shells are always a challenge for the whole group so I let it pass. I ask (while they work and after) if they appreciate the result (if not the process). All of them answer yes.

Our conversation about insects and life sprinkles into the 4 days we work on these drawings. Here are a few samples. Enjoy the titles.


Peeka-Boo! by Ryan


Palo Verde Beach Party by Casey


Rattle my Rock by Ryan


Whoa there Shell-y by Kiria


Tantalizing by Gwynne


Bug Light Year by Alejandra


Bad Moth-fia by Mary


One of These Things is not Like The Other by Casey

Susan is an advanced drawing student. This semester she is choosing to work on faces. Below is a portrait of a previous classmate. I would say Charles is interesting structure and interesting texture. He’s since cut his dreadlocks but here they are captured forever in this silver-point drawing.


Portrait of Charles by Susan, Silverpoint drawing

the physical pelvic floor and the subtle mūla bandha


I’ve never heard of a Urogynecology. Talking with Tara, in my studio, she wonders if I can draw pelvic floor anatomy.  Are you talking about the perineum? That’s part of it, she says as she names muscles of the pelvic floor. I’m impressed. All I know at this point is that she’s in physical therapy. I ask if she’s heard of Mula Bandha (Sanskrit). What’s that? she asks. It’s the root lock, I explain. No, she’s never heard of it.

Mula Bandha is an energetic seel that locks prana (life force) into the body, located at the base of the spine, at the pelvic floor. To practice mula bandha you activate the perineum (muscular body between the anus and the genitals) at its center.  It supports the body by strengthening muscles and supports the mind by creating calmness and stability – primarily through the breath.

I understand (from my Yoga Teacher’s Training) the practice of mula bandha offers people physical as well as emotional benefits. I know a bit about the general muscles in the area though Tara’s work is specialized. She brings me reading material. In conversation she explains the diaphragm is connected to the pelvic floor. How so? I ask. They share the same fascia, she answers. Everything is connected. Of course they do, and yes everything is connected. Breath work too, is a part of the therapy she provides.

I ask about her clients, are they male or female? I assume perhaps they’re females, after giving birth. Yes, I do see women after childbirth but I also see men.  She notes incontinence, constipation as well as various sexual dysfunctions.  She explains tight muscles, loose muscles and other contributing causes to function and/or impairment of the pelvic floor.

I work on these 2 small mixed media works. And I use new materials. I’m not sure if I’m finished. Naturally I want to include all the muscles of the legs and abstract the composition more – but I also want to keep the focus on the pelvic floor. Will see.

IMG_7979 IMG_7980
Two weeks ago I drew out the brain and the spinal cord. This week I work on the area at the base of the spine. It feels natural and organic. The more I learn the more I realize there is  much more to learn.

Our intricate body – so completely fascinates me.