Congratulations to Radius Digital Science’s medical illustrator/animator, Paul Kim, CMI, for winning the 2013 Netter Illustration Contest! The challenge was to create an original illustration based on Netter’s “spinal nerve origins” image that showed the 3D spatial relationships of the nerve root and surrounding structures in a way that could replace Netter’s version (Atlas of Human Anatomy, 5th edition: Plate 163-top) in the next edition of the Atlas. Paul’s work was selected among numerous entries by a panel of notable medical illustration experts and editors of the Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy
We asked Paul to reflect on the challenge and his creative process:
“Since the spinal nerve and its branches do not lie in any single plane, I knew that a cross section would not be the best view for illustrating their spatial relationships. Instead, I wanted to take a more dynamic view that would not only better tell the story but also help set it apart from Netter’s illustration.
In order to decide what view to take and how much surrounding anatomy to include, I used the help of some virtual 3-dimensional models. These allowed me to quickly rotate the model and turn on and off surrounding anatomy to help narrow down the shot that best told the story. Loosely using those models as a reference, I then created small concept sketches to further develop the shot.
The reasoning behind showing two vertebrae was to leave the bottom one intact while partially dissecting away the top; this way, the bottom could always serve to orient the viewer if the dissection muddied things up too much. I decided to cut away the transverse process of the top vertebra to reveal the underlying spinal cord anatomy. This also gave me more room to “explode” or layer the meninges underneath, allowing me to show the spinal rootlets and pia vasculature.
Once I completed the refined sketch, I scanned it in and painted on the tone/color and smaller vessels and nerves in Photoshop. To me, this is the most enjoyable step of the process: when I’ve completed all my research and made all the decisions about what to show and can just focus on making it look beautiful.
The biggest challenge was keeping the center of interest on the spinal nerve and its branches while also trying to show the bigger relationships between the vertebrae, aorta and spinal cord, especially because of the amount of real estate the vertebrae take up.”
Paul applies the same thorough preparation and drive to each project that he is involved with at Radius Digital Science. He is an integral part of this remarkable team and we are proud of his great accomplishment.