Friday, September 27, 2013

The Surgery of Illustration: Healing the Mistakes Via Photoshop

So this is a story of trying and not really going anywhere for a long time and getting a tad frustrated and then taking that frustrated energy to try to pull it out in the end.  It was very much a learning experience, many things that I did this time, I will be doing differently for my next illustration.

I have to say that my experience in the OR was the most positive so far.  Everyone was very kind to the patient coming in to get an umbilical hernia repair.  The OR staff was actually interested in what I was doing there holding a giant sketch book and they liked seeing what I was working on during the course of the procedure.  The vendor for the hernia repair mesh showed me some of their marketing materials which served as a great reference for my sketches and fully rendered illustrations.

So I was on a roll of positive energy after the OR and enjoyed developing my sketches.  The problems came when I opened Photoshop, plugged in my Wacom tablet and put stylus to tablet.  It has been awhile since I've done Photoshop painting, especially in gray scale.  I wanted to incorporate my scanned sketches into the illustration which in theory sounds like a time-saver, but I really hadn't tried the method out before.  There were a lot of tricks I was unaware existed.  Luckily, Karen was a very patient teacher as I sent her many an email with my slowly developing paintings.  Putting the sketch layer on the top layer was something that makes a lot of sense when you see it done, but I naturally had had it on the bottom like it would be in a traditional drawing.

"Texture, texture, texture" is now my mantra.  It is replacing "form, form, form," not that form is not really important but my first attempt made the hand and intestines all resemble hot dogs.  They had nice shadow cores and highlights but lacked anything to differentiate them.  I didn't even really notice until it was pointed out to me, next time I'll know to check for "the hot dog phenomenon."

Other things I learned:
-Add layer masks in the beginning, not 3/4s of the way through
-Have reference of what surgical gloves look like in reality, not just other illustrations
-Don't use the same Photoshop brush for everything, there's a reason they are adjustable
-Shadows make things look better with minimal effort
-Keep trying, keep pushing, and try not to freak out as deadlines approach, you can get it done!

Things I actually did successfully:
-The mesh texture on the patch was actually a low opacity image of mesh that was put on a multiply layer, didn't have to spend my time painting it in
-I really like the views that I chose.  They add depth that a surgeon can't see with their eyes, but are thinking about during the surgery
-I only worked until 10pm the night before it was due and was well rested for critique

Next up for surgical illustration: craniotomy!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Process: Getting From the Beginning to the End Without Losing my Mind

Final Design

The first round of projects being due is upon us (aka me).  Graphic Design was the first in the list.  I always love the graphic projects because they are so methodical.  I enjoy being creative but I also like knowing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing and when.  You should see all the stuff I write in my planner!

Creating an icon for a branch of medicine began with picking a branch of medicine of course.  I thought about nutrition, but I felt that Preventive Medicine was more all-encompassing.  I think that though nutrition is great, overall health is so much more.  It's important to take care of your body with exercise, flu shots, vaccines, hand washing, etc. and also your mental health.  Preventive Medicine is about keeping balance in all aspects of health and trying to avoid sickness as much as possible but also healthfully dealing with the sicknesses that do happen.  Also, it's "Preventive Medicine" not "Preventative Medicine" which is what I always said.  An interesting factoid I learned in this project.

Starting Point: Realistic Images

I went with an apple motif to create three different icon ideas.  I was really drawn to the center design.  The calm color scheme and the square shape gave me a feeling of safety and stability.  Though the back brown triangle is supposed to be a fence, it didn't read like a fence.  I still loved the fence idea, keeping you safe in your home.  The family was also too still.  Taking out the fence slats and making the family more active fixed these issues, but it still kept the square shape and color scheme.  I am happy with the end result and look forward to creating a logo for the Integrative Physiology Lab at UIC.  We took a tour of the lab last Wednesday and I'm excited to start coming up with some unique ideas.  It's a bit intimidating to come up with something that's not cheesy or trite. 

Initial Designs
On a different note, this semester has been completely different for me then anything I've experienced before.  I only have class on Wednesday and Friday, so I've got a lot of "free time."  If only it were relaxing; it has given me a new respect for those who are self-employed.  I have to keep a rigorously planned schedule, yet also leave room for flexibility.  Previously, I've scheduled out exactly what I was going to do every hour of the day.  I almost always got 2 or 3 hours behind and never accomplished all that I had dealt out for the day.  Now I schedule my working hours, usually 8 to 4 or 9 to 5.  I then assign classwork to the morning and the afternoon.  My goal is to keep in motion for the 8 hour work day and more often than not, I get what I need to get done, done.  I'm already a month into school, which shows how fast time can fly by and how important it is to get stuff done each day.  But also, I have permission to take guilt free time off.  When I'm done with my 8 hours, I can just be done.  Except for overtime for projects like my surgical illustration piece that will be available in a future post.  I prefer not having overtime, but you gotta do what you gotta do to meet a deadline.  And now I can take a break!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How I Eat, How I Work, How I Start Over

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie
So here I am at the beginning of my last year of Biomedical Visualization.  It really hasn't been that long since I started, but boy of boy, I feel a lot different than I did a year ago.  Brand new to Chicago, unaware of the effort anatomy would take, naive to what the challenges this graduate program would bring.  Now I'm much more aware what is difficult for me here.  Here being both living in Chicago and in the Biomedical Visualization program.  This year is the first year that I don't have the comfort of knowing that I'll be in school again in a year.  I actually have to work!  In the "real world!"

So going into this semester, I am armed with a different philosophy.  One of the changes that I've made to better conquer year 2 is cooking differently.  I was very repetitive last spring, which was effective then but in the summer I just ended up snacking a lot and not making meals.  To change it up I purchased a meal plan from Happy Herbivore .  I have one of her cookbooks, she's a vegan food blogger who has built a brand from her blog.  I've put up a ton of photos of all the food I made.  It definitely lasted me longer than a week and I got to have a bunch of different meals instead of the same thing 5 days in a row.

Making Southwestern Burger Patties
I got a "new" blender from my grandma.  She had a blender in here basement that I assumed was used since it had been in her basement for awhile.  Turns out it was a brand new blender, packaged in the box but had sat around for awhile.  It works great!  I'm excited to try new green smoothies.  Getting some spinach in disguise to start the morning is innately fun to me.

None of the food was particularly complicated to make but it allowed me an easy way to try new things.  The two things I didn't particularly care for were the Spinach & Orange Salad and the Avocado Yogurt Dip.  I do not like raw red onion, and to people who can eat it, wow.  It is way to strong.  In the salad all I could taste was red onion.  Yuck.  Luckily, I've got a lot of salad making experience and don't really need a specific recipe.  The Avocado Yogurt Dip didn't feel like a lunch to me and the spices in the dip just didn't appeal to me.  It was the one thing that I did throw out, though I was able to eat half.

Everything else was very good.  My very favorite was the Southwestern Burger.  It was delicious and filling.  I'm sure there are still some beef burgers in my future, but the bean patty didn't feel lacking.  I'd say it actually had more flavor than a beef patty so needed less toppings.

Spicy Peanut Noodles
 I've purchased another week's meal plan and am excited to try more new recipes.  After that I am going to work on creating my own meal plans from cookbooks I have.  The meal plans have helped me better gauge what kind of produce I can get through in a week or two without going bad.  I'm pleasantly surprised how much variety a single person can have and not be wasteful.

Spinach & Orange Salad
It's not just my food habits I've begun adjusting.  I'm beginning to change how I manage my time and how I get my schoolwork done.  I've had issues in the past with keeping a balance of work life versus personal life.  During the school semester it feels like all my energy should be put into school and whenever I'm not working on school I'm failing.  Obviously, this does not work if you want to stay a sane person.  I'm trying to set up this semester like a "normal" job, where I work a 40 hour week and everything else is considered overtime.  When I come home after a work day I can let myself relax without feeling guilty.  So far it's working well, though I need to build up some endurance.

I still need to decide what I'm going to do with my weekends.  I want to avoid going into the BVIS computer lab because I spend so much time there already.  But how much schoolwork, if any, should I do or feel compelled to do?  I've got some time to figure it out, particularly this weekend, ha.  I will put some contemplation in and let you all know how it goes.

Assembled Southwestern Burger

Breakfast Potato Rancheros

Peach Cobbler Oatmeal

Avocado-Yogurt Dip

Brand New Retro Blender from Grandma!

Blended Applejack Smoothie

Vegetarian Delight

Apple Crisp Muffins

Breakfast Banana Split

Bombay Breakfast
Black Beans & Sweet Potato