Anatomy and Art

a blog by Sara Egner

Illustrating Muscle Contraction – Many Ways to Tell the Same Story

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Earlier this week, I wrote about 2007 Visualization Challenge winner, Kai-hung Fung.  I couldn’t help but notice one of the honorable mentions went to artists, Mark McGowan, Pat Murphy, David Goodsell and Leana Rosetti for their poster “How Does a Muscle Work.”


It caught my eye primarily because we were assigned the same process to illustrate our first semester in the biomedical visualization program at UIC.

The process of muscle contraction is actually pretty complicated.  It is best understood when looked at on both the molecular level, but then also on the level of the actual sliding filaments in order to understand what exactly is accomplished by that molecular action.

My own take on this process for the class, was to use very simple illustrations and explain the steps, with the larger view of the sarcomere at the beginning and end of the process.

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Other classmates went about illustrating the process very differently.

One of my favorites was that of Josy Conklin, who went out of her way to learn the real shape of the myosin head and bring that information into her illustration.

She posts this illustration to her own blog, Josydoodle, which I recommend to anyone who enjoys reading about these kinds of things.

Other classmates included less of the explaining text, and focused more on dynamic imagery.  Some represented the power stroke cycle circularly, to emphasize the repetition involved in the process.

As you can see though, there are many different ways to tell this story.  And that, I would say, is one of the primary issues a medical illustrator faces.  A medical illustrator not only has to understand the science to be conveyed themselves, but they then have to find the best way to convey that information to the audience at hand, and utilize the media tools available to the specific project.  And as with any story, there are many ways one can tell it.

Written by Sara

July 24th, 2009 at 4:39 am