Sunday, May 27, 2012

I Hope Print Isn't Completely Dead Because I'm Making a Book!

A recent occurrence in the life of a friend (to be elaborated upon later) spurred an unexpected dive into a project I've been thinking about for years. Writing and diagramming for a blog is all fine and dandy, but despite my love of electronic media and its infinite educational possibilities, I still have a soft spot for print. So I've always dreamed of creating a book. A book with thick creamy pages that smells like a printing press. A book I can crack open for the first time and run my fingers over after hugging the UPS guy and dragging my eagerly awaited shipment box into the house. Until recently this dream has been next to impossible without an official publisher, but now that the printing process has evolved beyond the expensive and limiting, it's possible for us less-than-famous-or-well-known-or-prolific writers to get some of our own goofy little projects printed.

As such, I'm inhaling deeply and jumping into the world of print-- for a short time anyway. Yep, I'm making a little booklet of anatomical landmarks references for figure artists. It will include diagrammed photos, illustrations, and concise explanations of labeled structures. Its intended purpose is to function as a handy reference guide for figure artists who are stuck on any particular area of the body and would like some extra anatomical guidance.

The book will be organized by body regions, including head, neck, shoulders, anterior, lateral, and posterior torso, upper arm, forearm, hand, hip, thigh, lower leg, and foot. Heck, I may even throw in an ear and eye page is there is enough space. Each area will be shown from a variety of angles and everything will be labeled clearly and thoroughly.

Below is a sample photo from the book, showing the axilla and medial upper arm. It also shows one of my cabinets and some dishes in it because, yeah, I'm not a professional photographer. No matter, we can see lots of anatomical structures, right? Not sure if this specific image will make it into the final cut (I'm still shooting and slashing and re-shooting and editing) but we'll see. Regardless, why don't we take a little time now to talk about what we're seeing here?

OK, first a word about the weird numbering. In this image, I used the same numbers as in another photo on the page (in which they are in order.) Ah, it'll make sense when it's in print. I hope!

The axilla (the anatomical term for the armpit) is formed by two muscles-- the pectoralis major (10) anteriorly, and the latissimus dorsi (11) posteriorly. Up inside the axilla, we can see a short muscle called coracobrachialis (12.) It is given this name because it runs from the coracoid process on the antero-superior scapula down to the humerus bone in the upper arm. (The Latin root brachio- refers to the upper arm.)

Just before coracobrachialis inserts on the humerus, it tucks under biceps brachii (4), the most obvious superficial muscle on the anterior upper arm. Just deep to biceps brachii at its distal end is the brachialis muscle (13) which can be seen peeking out on either side of biceps brachii (although its borders are not very obvious here.) We can also see the long (8) and medial head of the triceps on the medial upper arm. The only bony landmark we see on the medial upper arm is the medial epicondyle at the distal end of the humerus. Another visible structure in the area is the deltoid muscle (3) that covers the top of the shoulder.

Just posterior to the coracobrachialis (12) we can see another soft lump of tissue labeled with an F. This is not a muscle, but a small mass of fat tissue that cushions and protects a few structures that course through the underarm, including the basilic vein, the median and ulnar nerves, the brachial artery, and some lymph nodes, which feel like lumpy little jelly beans in the armpit.

There are also a few structures in the image that, while unrelated to the upper arm, warranted acknowledgment for their clarity. Those are the clavicle (C) and the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle on the anterior neck.

The book should be printed and on sale by sometime in June! I will post more information then. See you next time!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Vestigial Traits: You May Not Need Us, But We're Still Here

Short post today. I have a side project in the works, the details of which are soon to come! Until then, how about a short post about human vestigial traits! 

Because my anatomy course is for art students, its content is designed almost entirely around the human body's superficial structures-- mostly muscles and bony landmarks-- that dictate the external human form. But occasionally (well, OK, often) we go off on random tangents during which students asks about other anatomical structures or physiological processes. And I have to admit, these random questions are one of my favorite parts of the class.

One subject that comes up often is that of human vestigial anatomical structures. Vestigial structures are those that had a purpose in earlier evolutionary forms of ourselves, but now have little or no function. As evolution allows us, as a species, to slowly adapt to our environment and our circumstances, certain structures become unnecessary. With each generation these structures become slightly less prominent, until they are slowly phased out altogether. Our vestigial structures (and reflexes, for that matter) are those which still remain in some form but no longer serve much of a purpose. One example is our coccyx bone, which is the remains of what use to be caudal vertebrae, or bones of a tail.

Here is a nice summary of ten vestigial traits that still occur in humans today. Enjoy, and I will be back soon with a new posterior torso post as well as more news about my new project!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Annular Ligament: Full Circle!

It's a big day here today-- it's Human Anatomy For The Artist's first anniversary! Yep, it was one year ago today that the debut post, The Ventral Forearm: What are those Tendons? went live. Today, 366 days, 28 posts, and 80,314 page views later, I am happy to say that my goofy little blog is still going strong. As of this morning, Human Anatomy for the Artist has 89 Blogger followers, 51 Networked Blogs followers, and 2,032 Facebook followers. Writing and drawing about this topic is such a great joy, so I want to thank you for all the wonderful forms of encouragement, including your regular visits, words of gratitude, and messages from around the world. It's so gratifying to know that people are learning from these posts. Please keep spreading the word as we head into our second year!

Year 2 dangles many new post ideas before us; there are so many structures and concepts I still want to cover. It is quite awesome (and reassuring somehow) that a finite science like Anatomy can still have such vast depth. I can't imagine trying to write about a subject such as space or philosophy, whose possibilities are truly endless, without going a tad crazy.

The fact that we've come full circle today gave me the idea to write about an anatomical structure that also comes full circle. The annular ligament is named for its circular, or ring-like structure; the Latin word anulus means ring, so annular means "ring like." Quite fittingly this morning, both the words annual and anniversary come from a related Latin root; when an event is annual, it has come full circle from the previous year. Like the annular ligament, this blog comes full circle today. And even more fittingly, this structure was discussed in the very first post a year ago today.

Here is the image from that post again, with only the ligament and some related tendons labeled. Before going further, I should point that this particular annular ligament is not the only one in the human body. This name is given to most any ring-shaped ligament, and this is just one of at least five. As you can see, this one is located at the distal forearm. (Some of the others are located on the proximal radius, the ankle, the knee, and the trachea.)

The annular ligament in the wrist isn't something we artists think about much when we draw the human figure. You can't really see it on the surface. But it does affect surface appearance. There are two fairly visible tendons on the ventral wrist, the tendon of flexor carpi radialis and the tendon off palmaris longus. The tendon of palmaris longus is usually more visible than that of flexor carpi radialis because it runs outside the annular ligament. So if you're drawing the two ventral wrist tendons, it's important to make sure the correct one is more visible. Palmaris longus, the more visible of the two, is closer to the ulnar (pinky) side of the hand. This is explained in much more detail in the first post from one year ago, and some photographic and illustrative examples are shown there as well.

The function of the annular ligament on the distal wrist is to retain the position of the long forearm tendons that reach into the hand (with the exception of the palmaris longus tendon, whose distinction is its unique course outside the annular ligament.) This annular ligament's function is reflected in its more commonly used name, retinaculum. This term comes from the Latin retinere, which means to hold back.

Thank again for sticking around for the past year, and I look forward to working on upcoming posts! There are several series from the past year that need to be continued, including those on direction and location, back muscles, and the elbow joint. More in those series to come soon, plus more new material. See you soon!