Alexandra Baker grew up fascinated by both science and drawing, and like so many other medical illustrators when she first heard about the field it was a eureka moment for her. Based in Asheville, North Carolina, today she’s a leading medical illustrator, working for an array of book publishers and magazines, illuminating some the latest discoveries in medical science.
Texture and atmosphere are important elements in her work. She recalls the day when her father – who worked with electron microscopes – first showed her scans of the surface of a leaf and the proboscis of a butterfly. Today she uses various kinds of nature photography as sources of inspiration. Underwater images help her create the right mood when depicting the human body from the inside, and pictures taken in caves can help with bodily cavities. The branches of trees are reminiscent of arteries, and nature’s textures and patterns provide endless fascination for an artist who is dedicated to getting the details right.
She’s also inspired by the artists Stephen Gilbert and Frank Armitage, both of whom are medical illustrators. Outside of her art, she loves to run and took up training five years back. Since then she’s completed seven marathons and more than 20 half-marathons. A keen reader, she says her house is like a secondhand bookshop.
Alex has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia, and a Masters of Science in Medical Illustration from the Medical College of Georgia.
The medical subject matter means a good deal of research goes into each project Alex works on. After gathering information, she lets her mind wander and perhaps goes for a run before coming up with some concepts. Although she says her pencil is her most important tool, she does almost all her painting in Photoshop. The area of the body she’s painting and whether it’s internal or external will often influence the colour scheme.
Alex works in two main styles, depending on the intended audience. The first is light and sketchy, with the pencil drawing showing through for a hand-made feel. Her second style is darker and heavier. Alex imagines being a small spectator inside the body, like in the film The Fantastic Voyage, where the surroundings are like an alien landscape. She works with atmospherics, textures and depth of field for a style that breaks from the expected.
Best Cover, American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors: