My sphenoid painting. The one that got me started on this bone-painting business. From first to final brushstrokes it took me about three months to complete. But the seed for the painting was planted probably twenty years ago, when my grandparents would come over for dinner. My walking-encyclopedia grandpa would play this trivia game with us kids, where he'd offer us a nickel if we answered his questions right. A quarter if it was a doozy. Spoiler: I didn't earn much. But what I did gain, and eventually shaped my life, was an intense love of anatomy. For while he was quizzing us my grandpa wove the most fascinating stories about bones, vessels, organs, muscles. He radiated such a sincere joy in this anatomical knowledge, a joy that transferred to me.
This is how I fell in love with the sphenoid. A deceptively delicate-looking butterfly shaped bone situated in the middle of the skull, the sphenoid forms the base of the cranium and provides structural support to the skull. What makes it so fascinating, along with its striking shape, is its impressive number of intricate crevices, tunnels and folds that house important elements coming off the brain. My (and my grandpa's) favorite is the sella turcica. It's located on the top of the bone and looks just like a saddle—which is why sella turcica is latin for "Turkish Saddle". Gently cradled in this seat is the all-important pituitary gland, hanging off of the brain. (Note that the sella turcica unfortunately didn't make it into my painting as it's hidden in the posterior view I chose, so don't look for it there. But now at least you have a great little anatomical anecdote in your back pocket to use when conversation gets slow at your next cocktail party.)
Anyway, back to painting. I had been doing primarily watercolors for years, but I still had this "homage to the sphenoid" painting that I couldn't get out of my head. I knew it had to be oil, had to be a vibrant color palette, and had to be compelling but simple, without much fluff in the background, to get the overall effect I wanted. When I finally put brush to canvas, the painting just poured out of my fingertips. Any artist knows that sometimes a piece feels like work, like pulling teeth to get it right. And some are just effortless. My sphenoid painting was the latter. Moreover, when I was painting it, I felt more of a tranquility and peace than I had in years, a peace that was hard to come by when you are an anxiety-prone working mother of three. That was when I realized I could ruminate on bones to combat my loathed panic attacks. And so my life changed for the better.
That happiness continues as I continue on my journey to paint ALL THE BONES IN THE BODY. More posts to come on my newer pieces soon. In the meantime, I'll just say: Sphenoid, I do love you so.
And grandpa, how I love you too. The wonder and joy of knowledge you instilled in me being just one small reason among many.