Kaitlin Walsh– Merging Art With Anatomy
by Arthur H. Bleich–
Kaitlin Walsh is a biomedical artist– a rarity in the art world. Her beautifully crafted, abstract anatomy watercolor paintings celebrate the wonders of the human body in ways so imaginative it’s sometimes hard not to fall in love with her deadly cancer cells or even mundane parts of the human body, like an ankle, so beautifully are they executed.
These are not those sterile pictures you see hung on the walls in your doctor’s or dentist’s office– where pieces and parts are labeled in scrupulous detail, like different cuts of beef.
“As a young girl, I was fascinated with both art and science,” recalls Walsh, “so when I enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I took medical courses alongside fine art ones eventually receiving a graduate degree in Biomedical Visualization.”
She regularly receives commissions by physicians, physical therapists, researchers and others to paint specific anatomical structures or pathologies [diseases] which she finds very enjoyable.
“I get to research and paint such fascinating subject matter, things I never would have even thought to paint— the histology [microscopic tissue] of a dog’s retina, for example.”
Walsh says she’s usually given great artistic leeway, to depict subjects in ways she thinks highlights them best. “I love this. I love the challenge of making hard science imagery into something alluring and beautiful.”
Working out of her home studio in Omaha, Nebraska, she chooses her own subject matter to paint between commissions. “I paint anatomy to showcase the beauty in the human body,” and says she frequently lets her mind drift back to anatomy and physiology classes, recalling countless anatomical structures that resonated with her and inspired her in a way she has never forgotten.
“Sometimes it was with the seemingly chaotic intricacy of the anatomy, such as the brachial plexus, the bundle of nerves that allow for all the movements of the hand. Sometimes it was the clinical significance of an area, as in the triangle of auscultation, an area on the back where physicians can best hear respiratory sounds. Thanks to this knowledge base, I have more ideas than I have time to paint, which is a rather wonderful conundrum.”
By now, she has hundreds of paintings which are all scanned. “My smaller paintings are scanned using an Epson Perfection V550 scanner which my husband got for me one Christmas. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Makes high-quality scanning a breeze,” she says.
“The results are superb. I can easily stretch a 9×12 inch painting to 16×20 without compromising resolution. And it also results in very little post-production work to do in Photoshop– just cleaning up the white space, so you can’t see the teeth of the watercolor paper.”
Her prints are output on an Epson SureColor P800 printer with pigment inks, allowing her to print up to 17 inches wide, necessary, she says, for some of her larger 16×20 print orders.
“We use Red River Aurora Art White paper exclusively for prints,” says Walsh. “We’ve tried other papers including, Epson, Moab, and Hahnemühle but we really enjoy the clean smooth texture of this paper. It does a great job of reproducing the paintings as close to the original in both vibrant color and surface texture. It’s also reasonably priced which is a big plus.”
Walsh’s reproductions range in size from 5×7-inches to 16×20. ”A typical 11×14 print goes for about $50. Each one is signed, carefully packed and shipped from her studio. She also offers framing for clients who want that service.
“I paint anatomy to showcase the beauty in the human body,” Walsh says. “I know that the human interior looks random, so messy and unplanned. But the truth is the opposite.”
She goes on to explain that every inch of the body is put together in a defined and methodical way, making possible both the functions of which we are all capable and also the uniqueness of every individual.
“The human being is phenomenal,” says Walsh, with admiration, “and my work has allowed me to fully appreciate its miracles.”
Red River Paper Aurora Art White .
Visit Kaitlin Walsh’s website where several hundred of her extraordinary paintings are displayed.