Tuesday, July 18, 2017


BEST SUMMER, EVER! (Next to the time I went to Paris for my birthday.)

Le Catgut! Guess what it's about!
(Catgut is made from sheep intestine, BTW.)

You know why this is such a great summer? Because I am spending it reading centuries-old books on the topics of sutures, ligatures, and the materials they were made from. And then I use what I've learned as inspiration for embroidery, drawing, comics, and writing. 

A few artists have asked me how I became A.I.R. at the Academy Library's Historical Collection. The joking answer is that I haunted the library so much that it was easier to make me official than to charge me with loitering. But this statement is also partially true (not the the not the charging me with a crime part). The Academy is this incredible vault of treasure and I have been mining it for years. The best part is that anyone can mine it. Before becoming A.I.R. I got to know the Collection and the staff at the Academy through research and by attending (and presenting at) some of the great programming there.

My first presentation was at the Academy's Vesalius 500 celebration doing what I do best, blathering on about anatomy. I also drew on a live model using the 16th century anatomist Vesalius' illustration as reference material.

For more about drawing on the body see this post.

Shortly after that I used the collection to assist in the adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Body Snatcher. The story takes place in 1830's Edinburgh around the time that the anatomist, Knox had hired the infamous Burke and Hare. The incredible (librarian) Arlene Shaner found books and articles from Edinburgh published at the time; dissection textbooks written and illustrated by two Edinburgh brother (John and Charles Bell) from the late 17- and early 1800's; and visual reference for anatomy theaters and labs. My version of the story spends a little more time at dissecting than the original. It will be published in the Seven Stories Press' Graphic Canon:Crime series. I don't know whether it is in volume one (coming this fall) or volume two (to follow).

A page from my EC Horror Comic-inspired version of 
R.L. Stevenson's The Body Snatcher.

I just finished teaching my second Visualizing and Drawing Anatomy workshops using the Library's collections and live models. You can read more about the workshops here, and here.

I enjoy exploring medical history and I enjoy researching needlework so why not do both? To that end I'm studying the history of sutures and ligatures, which is sewing, after all. Galen's* instruction on stitching up the body was my earliest area of focus. Then I went on to read the "Major Surgery" of the French medieval surgeon Guy de Chauliac*, published in 1363. From there I am staying in France to read the works of Ambrose Paré*.  After him I will continue on to Edinburgh and John Bell*, and then... we shall see!

What I see at my desk. 
I am using illustrations from the collection to experiment with 
different methods of depicting these images on various fabrics.

For each surgeon I'm reading biographical information, background on the general state of medicine in that time, and works by that surgeon (or their translations). I'm also researching modes of production of the materials for making stitches such as flax, silk, catgut, etc. Additionally, I'm doing some reading regarding gender roles in textile production and gender roles in medicine over the centuries. To my surprise there are even books that discuss textile production during different eras! I'm also pouring over visual reference from the Library's collection as well as sources from the nefarious internet when I've come to a research impasse or just need a quick fix. 

Ultimately all this data and inspiration will coalesce into a graphic narrative, much of which I hope to render in (you guessed it!) needlework.

*Yes, I'm giving you their Wikipedia links. For more interesting information about these people, visit the Academy Library!

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