The admission portfolio asks for Four examples of observational life drawing, including the human figure (clothed or nude), hands, feet or portraits. For this category, I included a commisioned digital sketch.
The project came from a (then) new mom struggling to find a good picture of she and her baby right after the baby was born. Unlike previous commission projects, where the clients would simply ask me to copy or modify a photo in the form of a sketch with artistic-looking textures and brushstrokes, the goal of this project was to recreate a moment. Here’s an excerpt from our exchange:
” It would be a sketch of me and my son. I would provide you with several photos to work from. But rather than a straight copy of a photo that I have, I would like to recreate a moment that I actually don’t have a good photo of, namely, me holding him in the hospital on the day he was born.”
The aspect of recreating a moment and telling a story, for something that’s yet to exist, is central to medical illustration. Like a medical illustration project, I looked for references –– Anne Gedd’s baby photography, photos of my client and the baby from the day of, photos of the baby alone, and my client’s favorite photo of herself. Once I’ve gathered enough reference material, I began thumbnail sketching –– quick, abbreviated sketches to capture ideas I had about composition, poses, lighting etc. From the thumbnail sketches, I then created two more refined sketches and sent them for client approval:
As you can see, the final product was a mix of the two initial sketches. There were more iterations of course, where the client pointed out details such as the way she holds her son (“I would like to see my right hand on his lower back please!” “Can we also include the wristbands from the hospital?”).
This remains one of my favorite commission because, through this project, I also developed a new technique of merging traditional media with digital media. I started the initial sketch using a hard pencil (2H or H) on grey-toned paper. I then
took a picture with my phone scanned the pencil sketch, and added the rest of the shading and highlights in photoshop. I also scanned a piece of blank grey paper over a lightbox, applied a highpass filter on the blank paper, and overlaid the paper texture on top of the strokes. This way, the final sketch retained the organic feel of a traditional pencil sketch.
The portfolio also asks you to include an illustration of a view through a window, including foregrounds, such as window frame, items on a windowsill, and the scene outside.
Watercolour has always been my favorite traditional media (that and very fine ballpoint pens). The lighting of my (very tiny) Mississauga room was especially lovely after a rainy afternoon, and I decided to recapture it.
Again, this is not a purely traditional piece. The watercolor is retouched in photoshop, where the luminance of the coffee cup and the teapot was corrected:
Thumbnail sketches were again necessary. The placement of the objects, the density of visual elements (e.g., the more attention-attracting warm-toned elements are concentrated at the upper left corder), and the view angle of the illustration was based on a Fibonacci sequence:
The portfolio also asks for “A series of sketches to show a process or sequence of events, e.g., throwing a ball, cleaning a fish, hands tying a bow on a shoe or a package, a flower growing into a fruit”. *WARNING*, this piece I submitted contains medical subjects; unless you are a content expert already, the inclusion of medical subjects in your portfolio is highly discouraged. Even though this submission was reviewed by content experts, I would still have done many things on this illustration differently on another revision.
I was very fortunate to collaborate with Stollery Children’s Hospital when I worked for Dr. Ming Chan’s peripheral nerve regeneration lab. The hospital has developed a novel thermoplastic orthosis for babies. To understand how the orthosis was constructed, I actually started from a crude 3D maquette (using the infamous Dancing Baby). I then sketched based on the maquette and a series of reference photos taken during the construction of orthosis.
The final illustration (rendered and composited in Adobe Illustrator) became part of a research poster was submitted and presented at the 2017 American Society for Peripheral Nerve Conference, and the reception was very positive. Still, I would not have included this in my admissions portfolio simply because this is a medical subject matter. I would, however, bring a print of this project with me during my BMC interview and focus on presenting the process work. My interviewers (Nick and Dave), and pre-interview portfolio reviewers (Jodie and Derek) asked me questions on rendering styles (line weight variations for certain parts of the illustration), color use decisions, why I included and omitted certain construction steps etc.