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I painted this hypertrophic cardiomyopathy for a dear friend who was doing a cardiology fellowship. She wanted this specific pathology, and I was inspired for the first time to use dissection images as resource material, rather than the stylized renderings you would see in a textbook. I'll be honest, I was flabbergasted at how much I loved the result. Dissection photographs by nature are disturbing at best and disgusting at worst. However, they provide an unprecedented level of detail that makes them more rewarding to work from. Moreover, they have this natural, chaotic organicness to them—nothing is symmetrical, there's no perfect composition or the "ideal" anatomy that you see in books. By working from these photos, I feel I'm able to create a more dynamic, truthful painting. And the best part: If I just choose colors that are not the ghastly red of blood or the pale tan of the cadaver lab (ugh, I know), they quickly lose the unsettling feel they have in the source material!
All of this I discovered with this hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It stuck with me so much that when I was recently asked to do a show for the SSM Health Hospital in Monroe, Wisconsin, I remembered this hypertrophic cardiomyopathy painting and how much I enjoyed the painting of it, and the final result. So I created an entire series, entitled "Exquisite Anatomy", that uses similar dissection photos as inspiration and reference.
On top of that, I'll mention that this painting has one of my favorite watercolor "moments" (that's the terminology I use to explain to students the ruffled-edge look you can get only with watercolor). This moment I especially like is at the top of the heart, in the pale, pale gray of the left ventricle. I don't often use plain gray in my painting, and I was so pleased with how light and delicate it looked, especially juxtaposed with the deep, rusty colors of the ventricles.
That's a lot to say about this one little painting, but this has been one that really has stuck in my mind and my heart since I painted it years ago. (Thank you Rita for commissioning it!)
The hypertrophic cardiomyopathy watercolor original can be found here. Enjoy!