a bionic heart

Diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis, mom’s symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue. Walking a short distance is a challenge for her.

She arrives in Phoenix, from El Paso, with plans to meet with Dr. Haidar Yassin, a specialist in Cardiovascular Disease. Basically, mom’s heart has a mechanical problem. In general, her body is being deprived of oxygen and the issue is progressive.

We visit Dr. Yassin and I ask about cause. He explains it is a natural calcium build-up in the aortic valve that is now complicating matters. Within the week mom is preparing for a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure and in the process she is scheduled for and gets a heart stent.

In the recovery room, a nurse gives us an illustration to explain where the stent sits (circled area). I decide right then –  I’ll use it to update mom’s study.

These days I refer to my life-size anatomy studies as narratives, consequently mapping her  story continues. I add to the life-size portrait of mom – Maternal Lineage – a heart.

The TAVR is a part of the picture now. I include both valve and stent. Mom will have the actual procedure in a few days.

I contact my friend David, who recommends Dr. Yassin, to update him on mom’s progress and thank him for pointing us in the right direction. He refers to the added drawing as the bionic heart. Mom approves….she’s a trooper.


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.


a heart and a brain

Today in Yoga we talk about the organ of the heart. I happen to have completed (yet another) small drawing of one. We tend to think of it in connection to love. Meg, the instructor, says in this case it’s connected to happiness. She explained the energy is more about accepting what is – as opposed to wanting to control. I also drew (yet another) brain.

They work together. Or do they?

IMG_7730 IMG_7729

For some reason I make a connection to Ahimsa. I’ve decided non-violence is a discipline. I’m not sure why I piece this together. But I do.

hand-eye coordination

There is a region of the brain important for maintaining the calibration between visual and motor systems necessary for accurate eye-hand coordination.

Presumably, recalibration of the eye-hand coordination takes place continuously throughout our lives.  – Lorri Preston

IMG_6565 copyI’ve sketched the hand, eye and brain before. I draw them all again this week while at the same time I prepare syllabi for Drawing classes this Fall.

The study is direct and only focuses on the three parts of the body at the start. And this morning in Yoga, my teacher Meg talks about the heart. Naturally I make time to draw out and consider that connection as well.

I show the small grouping to Thomas, who is also an artist and had been wanting me to include the heart. He says … these four body parts … I consider them the four basic elements of an artist’s existence – bridging the internal and external, the subjective and objective.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.



I consider the process a week long meditation – natural and organic.