What is a Medical or Scientific Artist?

Medical artists, medical illustrators, scientific illustrators as they can often be termed, are commercial artists that have been professionally trained, so having studied human or animal anatomy, or have a science background to higher level education, as well as being artistically gifted. Bringing together scientific and medical knowledge interpreting into a visual artistic piece.

A professional artist works on a commercial basis as they are commissioned to create a visual communication piece when it specifically involves human anatomy or medical information, animal anatomy or scientific or natural world content.  ‘Visual’ is a general term used because the artist may be asked to asked to produce work in different mediums such as a pencil drawing, or a 3D model, a mural, digital artwork, a watercolour. The artwork will be produced depending on the specialism of the individual artist and or what medium the client prefers.

Who Commissions the Artist’s?

Commissions will most likely come from the medical and healthcare communities such as a surgeon, a health website, a medical publisher and it is they who will want their medical or scientific subject matter turned into a visual piece.

Commission requests will come as either a written explanation or even a quick basic sketch. It will be the artists job to come up with a solution as a visual. Each one is unique and no one commission is ever the same. The artwork can be complex and aimed at a target audience of healthcare professionals for a surgeons teaching manual. To cartoon medical illustrations aimed directly at younger patients. Medical artwork can be completed in any medium, from watercolour to line work, to collage to airbrushing.

Where is Medical Art Used?

Medical art and illustration can be found almost anywhere, from hospital posters, patient information leaflets, anatomy books, health education websites, TV adverts, even to a set of visual instructions before receiving an MRI scan. Its found in medical advertisements, professional journals, instructional videotapes and films, animations, computer-assisted learning programs, exhibits, lecture presentations, magazines, adverts and television, patient consent forms, book covers, books, film posters. Although much medical illustration is designed for print or presentation media, medical and scientific illustrators also works in three dimensions, creating anatomical teaching models, patient simulators, and facial prosthetics. To a very specific target audience for the courtroom as medical-legal exhibits. So you can see the list is endless, the possibilities continue to expand as new ideas and ways of producing medical art come into play.

Why is it Used?

Why…so a person of any nationality can look at that medical illustration and understand the instructions or the message through a visual where no language is needed. The purpose to communicate complex medical data into a visual piece understood by all those who look at it.

To convey a message to educate, to teach, describe, instruct, engage or catch people’s attention, so that the message is communicated and understood by all those looking at it. Although medical art can be extraordinarily beautiful, it is more than just something pretty to look at and hang on your wall. It has an educational purpose.

What is a Medical Legal or Medico-Legal Artist

Medical legal artists complete the same medical illustrations, however, for a single and very specific audience. A medical legal artist or medico-legal artist is commissioned by a lawyer or solicitor to produce medical art for what’s called ‘courtroom exhibits’ to be shown within the legal process only. These illustrations can be created directly from the patient’s own doctors reports and aim to explain an injury for example to support a claim in the courtroom. This is because more often than not the medical information is complicated, comes as long written reports, includes medical terminolgy and abbreviations and so it has been proven that a visual interpretation has a far better impact. This is why it is so vital that a professional artist has received the necessary anatomical training especially as the medical artwork needs to stand up to the scrutiny of the legal process.

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