With only a week left in the summer semester, I’m under pressure to get my final assignments in their best shape. A couple of weeks ago I gave my research proposal presentation to the faculty and my classmates, and a week ago I attended the Association of Medical Illustrators meeting in Rochester, MN. I met a lot of great people and learned a ton of new things about my field and some amazing advances in medicine. I had the pleasure of attending a workshop on ZBrush with the incredibly talented Andrew Cawrse of AnatomyTools.com — probably my favorite part of the conference. I hope that his lessons stick with me and reflect in my future work!

I turned in a couple of assignments awhile back, but with the condensed nature of the semester I haven’t had the chance to post them. So, here they are:

eye, transverse section, eye anatomy

Transverse section of the right eye

For Clinical Sciences we were asked to draft an anatomically correct eyeball, sectioned transversely. We used specific instructions that strictly follow the measurements of the eye to make sure of its accuracy. In addition, we were asked to complete an inset figure, as well as color the final drawing. This is what I came up with. I especially liked rendering the vitreous humor, which is supposed to be a gelatin-like consistency. Any kind of translucency is always a lot of fun, and quite a challenge, to render by hand.

embryo, human embryo, child development

The human embryo at Carnegie stage 23 (2 months of development).

This is my first real sculpt done in ZBrush, a human embryo at Carnegie stage 23, or 2 months of development. This was a huge challenge, as ZBrush is kind of unintuitive in terms of graphics programs, but I really loved using it once I got the hang of the interface. The assignment was to choose any species and depict it in an embryonic stage. It was especially difficult to get used to using lighting and creating a background within ZBrush, and I still feel pretty unfamiliar with a lot of the techniques I used within the program. I’m sure with a little practice, ZBrush and I will become old friends.

Hemostat and Retractor

A hemostat and a retractor, both instruments frequently used in surgery.

Here is part of one final assignment due in Surgical Illustration, a class where we learn about surgical history, instruments, and procedures. This illustration was a beast for me, as I am not the best of friends with Adobe Illustrator. It was a good opportunity for me to practice using the cursed pen tool, and I feel a lot more acquainted now that I’ve finished two of the three final illustrations.

We are also required to attend at least two surgeries performed in the hospital, where we sketch what we can of a procedure. So far, I have gone in one time to sketch in the OR. The surgery I observed was a breast biopsy on a young woman, who had a 6 cm fibroid tumor in her left breast, which was removed. I was able to stay for most of the procedure, but had to leave a bit before the surgeons were finished. Needless to say this was a very unique and incredible opportunity, and in a lot of ways I’m looking forward to going in again this coming Monday.

Coming up are quite a few challenging projects, including using ZBrush to sculpt a character model showing some anatomy, finishing my first animatic, putting the finishing touches on my new and improved responsive website, and illustrating the very cool G-Protein Coupled Receptor called Rhodopsin as its conformation changes on the cue of a photon. Wish me luck.


So after a bit of time off, the summer semester began in full swing in mid-June. I haven’t had much to update in the meantime, other than a couple outings during the short break with my classmates and spending most of the time moving out of my apartment. Unfortunately, I caught a flu the week before classes began and spent the entire time in bed when I would normally be re-organizing and getting pumped for the next semester. I did make it to the doctor’s office and was given an antibiotic, which made a huge difference. I made it to the first week of classes, though with a raspy voice raw from coughing and leftover congestion.

Thankfully, I’m feeling much better now and I have a couple things to share from the summer semester so far, though most are works in progress (WIP).

embryo, carnegie stages, human embryo

A close-up of my embryo project made in ZBrush for the advanced modeling class.

The assignment was to model any species in one stage of their embryonic development. Comparatively, there aren’t a lot of reference pictures for the human embryo, but it was still something I wanted to try. This is the first full project I’ve tackled using the program ZBrush, and I’ve gotta say, I love it!

We have also had a lot of small exercises and assignments in our animation class. We’ve learned a few programs concerning video editing and sound editing, as well as how to animate 3D models in 3DS Max.

Our first exercise for learning After Effects (AE) — a video compositing and editing program — was to animate an image and change something about its color or movement within AE. This was my first time experimenting with the program, and I can see a lot of mistakes within this exercise (ex. why is the sky transitioning from left to right…?) but I’m still proud of how cute it turned out.

BVIS545, Animation – Assignment 2: Learning After Effects from Kate Lamy on Vimeo.

Additionally, we just learned about the eight principles of animation. To show my understanding I created this little video of a planet receiving its rings.

BVIS545, Saturn – Animation Principles Exercise from Kate Lamy on Vimeo.

And there it is! Next week I’ll be turning in a lot of assignments, and also giving my Project Research Proposal presentation, so wish me luck!

After final presentations a couple of days ago, school has let out for the semester and I have been highly anticipating this time to relax a bit before summer semester begins. Looking back on the last few months, I feel very proud of my program, my classmates, and the work that we’ve all made this semester. Additionally, it’s been really fun to teach BIOS223 (Cell Biology Laboratory) and learning new things along the way. Even though Neuroanatomy ended halfway through the semester, I’m so happy that I took that class. Not only did I learn a ton about the brain, but I also got to study and attend lab with my classmate Jill Tessler. It was a great experience to share with another BVIS student!

To finish out the semester, we worked on a project for Illustration Techniques that was a little out of the ordinary. We had to complete an editorial illustration. This took a lot of patience, trial and error, but it finally worked out in the end. Additionally, I completed another editorial illustration for the same journal that our illustrations from class will be submitted to — the Northwestern University Public Health Review.



An illustration for the Spring edition of NPHR for an article on sleep deprivation and its effect on the brain.


This illustration is for an article on energy and its role in public health. It will be submitted for publication in the Fall 2014 issue of NPHR.

Before this final assignment, we did a Tom Jones reproduction piece for Illustration Techniques. Taking a black and white watercolor illustration done by the founder of the BVIS program, Tom Jones, we were asked to add color using Photoshop. I chose an illustration of a thyroid surgery. This was the final result.


A digital, color reproduction painting of a Tom Jones illustration.

After all that, I’m ready to take a break to read some novels, do some sketching, and enjoy the nice weather (finally!).

In less than a week I’ll be finished with my first year of graduate study in BVIS. There’s still a lot to get done, but I wanted to share what I’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks.

This is the final composite of my Organ modeling project. Again, we used the Visible Human Male data set to isolate an organ of our choice. I happened to choose the kidneys affected by renal cell carcinoma.

Here’s the finished piece!

This semester, so far, has been a real mix of classes and assignments. The first eight weeks were dominated by the Neuroanatomy course, while the second eight were spent practicing and solidifying skills and concepts presented in my studio courses. In addition, I started my first teaching assistantship. It has been a wonderful opportunity to get a view inside the different learning styles of undergraduate students while also re-learning the concepts of Cell Biology (and not to mention learning how to operate a Zeiss fluorescence microscope, wow!!). I’ve also just begun using the I-share library system, which I’m sure will come in handy once my research begins to take off. So far I’ve checked out a few books on developmental biology and grammar. After grading seemingly endless lab reports this semester, I’ve gained some interest in correct grammar and writing technicalities to ensure my writing can communicate as well as possible. With the end of the semester just around the corner, I only have a few projects and a final presentation to complete, and then there will be some time to recuperate from my first year in the BVIS program. It’s been amazing so far, and I’m beyond excited to see what my class comes up with this summer!

As per usual, here are a few images of what I’ve been working on lately.


Exercise 8 for Computer Visualization

This exercise helped the class learn the power of the program Mimics, which allows a user to input medical imaging data (like MRI) and construct a 3D model from that data. The mandible that you see in this image was taken from the Visible Human Project male dataset. My classmates and I used Mimics to scroll through the individual MRI slices and mask out the mandible from the rest of the tissue. We had to do this for each slice, but the program has a couple of options that make this process somewhat less taxing. After we masked out the data, we saved a file that could be imported into Max. This model has an excess of polygons that make the model’s functionality less than optimal, so to alleviate this issue we re-topologized the model by drawing on our own polygons. Eventually, the model was brought into Mudbox for some painting and this was the result.

Our last exercise for Illustration Techniques was to digitally reproduce part of a carbon-dust drawing from one of the masters of medical illustration, Max Brödel.


The original Brödel drawing from 1917.

Max Brödel was one of the pioneers of modern medical illustration, and started the first program at Johns Hopkins University in the early 20th century. He was a master of anatomical drawing, pen and ink, and carbon-dust techniques. His work is delicate, nuanced, extremely accurate, and beautiful.


…and my digital reproduction.

At first, I felt afraid of butchering his wonderful work by reproducing it myself, but in the end I learned so much from this exercise. Brödel uses tone with such success, and by studying his technique I feel I am a lot more at ease with digital rendering.

Next, I’ll be re-topologizing kidneys and doing another digital reproduction piece, this time originally by Tom Jones, the founder of the BVIS program! I’m really excited, as this piece is all about color (finally!).


The first project for Computer Visualization was due for critique yesterday. I can’t believe how far the class has come and all of the final scenes turned out amazing. I got a little caught up in modeling the blastocyst for my scene, which is supposed to illustrate implantation during human embryonic development. Earlier this month we met with small groups to talk about what scene from our storyboard would be most appropriate and dynamic as an animation still.


Here is a small part of my storyboard, which has 6 sketches and descriptions in total.

The blastocyst hatches from the zona pellucida before it implants on the endometrium to continue its development. This hatching process seemed right for the project, and this is the result.
This image was not what I turned in, but rather what I came up with after taking advice from my talented professor and classmates during our critique. I can’t believe how much more comfortable I am with 3D software, despite the accelerated nature of the course. It will be exciting to see what we come up with for our next assignment!



Finally, the half-way point of the semester has passed. Neuroanatomy and the online research methods class are both finally finished, and the rest of the semester will be all about mastering 3DS Max and Mudbox, along with fine-tuning illustration skills. A couple of exercises into Computer Visualization later, and I’m finally getting the hang of Max.


Here is my finished scene for the blood vessel project.

Next time I’ll be sure to put a little more consideration into the specular levels to make the cells seem more glossy and shiny.


Here is my syringe model complete with materials, lighting, and compositing.

It was really fun to play around with the mental ray materials in Max. There are so many fun surfaces to try out on your models, and so you can apply so much customization to each material. I can’t wait to see what happens when we bring models into Max from MudBox.

Compositing is tricky, but in the end it’s really worth it. The initial “beauty pass” of the model within Max is flat and boring compared to what you can do with your scene in Photoshop. Though I’ve never used Adobe AfterEffects, it’s supposed to apply the kinds of changes you can do in photoshop to animation scenes. That won’t be until next semester though, so I’ll make an update regarding that later on.

In other news, assignment 2 for Illustration Techniques is finally finished. I have critique on Wednesday, so wish me luck!


My final assignment 2 for Illustration Techniques. We were asked to illustrate a clinical process in Adobe Illustrator. Though I normally dislike Illustrator, after messing with it for a few hours I started to get a better idea of how the program works. I’ll definitely be using Illustrator more in the future, especially when trying to illustrate geometric objects (like a laryngoscope!).

Our next assignment is to complete a copy of a Tom Jones illustration in Photoshop. I hope I can pay proper homage to his work, as he founded the medical illustration program at UIC. I’m really looking forward to doing some digital painting to render a piece, and I know I’ll learn a lot from the process.