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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Strings, pins and dead things

Bidloo - dissection of an arm - showing the tools of the trade

Anatomy illustrations have often switched between the fiction of placing skeletons in lifelike poses and shocking honesty of showing not just the subject, but the tables, the pins, the ropes, even the very hands holding or cutting the body parts in the dissection.

Ruini - dissection of a horse - with helping hands

Ruini and Bidloo's illustrations didn't shy away from showing the extraneous elements of the dissection.

Spieghel - dissection of an unusually helpful corpse

In comparison, some illustrations let the reanimated corpse hold back the veil for them. (An experience that I simply cannot relate to; I find when posing skeletons, they are determined to dislocate joints, stand knock-kneed and in every other way, present themselves as an unattractive mess.)

It was these works that inspired my latest portfolio of work, Osteology. I wanted to combine the educational elements of illustration with explicitly showing the tools of holding the subjects in place.

Susan Elaine Jones - Skeleton - bones of the hand

I switched back and forth with myself numerous times as to whether this stepped over my own bounds of taste and respect. I think my strongest battle with myself was finding ways to illustrate the paths of cranial nerves in the skull.

Susan Elaine Jones - cranial nerve paths

I needed something strong, straight, thin and brittle (to ensure no damage was made to the skull). Using the odd tool of uncooked spaghetti, it helped me trace the nerve paths through the brain such that the 3D feel of the routes could be captured in one single image, and gave me much more of an appreciation of the realities of the anatomy of the skull than I have ever gathered looking and examining anatomy illustrations.

So in the end, I decided that the communication of the image won out. It is a shame that all the nerve paths could not be shown - they clash badly together inside the skull like a terrible game of kerplunk. But I am content that the image I did achieve showed some of the points of entry into the skull, whilst balancing the message that such access areas are few - the skull is mainly a fortress protecting the most important organ, but an organ that needs input from the outside world.

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