No no, not like Netter … like Max Brodel.

Just Learning, Traditional Work

When someone asks, “What is medical illustration?”, the answer is not very straight forward ( and sometimes those of us within the field can even be surprised as to how “all encompassing” the term can be). The first thing that usually pops into others minds is Frank H. Netter. Don’t get me wrong, he was good at what he did. However there are many more, very talented artists which practiced before him and helped establish the field.

One of histories profound medical illustrators is Max Brodel. Brodel was from Germany and came to America in his late 20’s to work for Howard Kelly. In 1911 he helped establish, and began to teach at, the first school of medical illustration, Art as Applied to Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Brodel is also well known for an illustration technique he developed, carbon dusting.  Carbon dusting, as I have come to understand it, is a gradual process of adding carbon dust and applying it with a carbon pencil to a specific type of board. My class’s assignment was to recreate a carbon dust illustration by Brodel, not with carbon dust, but using Adobe Photoshop. The image I chose is shown above, a transverse section of the brain I started by doing the drawing, scanning it and in photoshop applying a mid-tone grey to the whole drawing. Next, I worked through gradually shading parts, starting large and working into small details. To do this I used a combination of shape adjusting brush with zero hardness and varying shades of gray. Sometimes I made the brush mode ‘multiply’. At other times, when needing to darken whole areas, I used the burn tool. Then I went back to lighten, add highlights, to necessary parts of the illustration. For this I used a white brush, never the dodge tool.

This was one of those pieces you could work on FOREVER, so I mainly focused on the bottom portion of the brain. The process was very enjoyable. It was easy to get lost in the details, but nice when I zoomed out and could see the piece coming together as a whole.


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