Paris created this in 30 minutes tonight. It is not for her fashion show.

from Instagram:

Medical Illustration Gallery

Here are just a few of the medical illustrations I’ve prepared for clients. Feel free to contact me with any questions about the illustrations or about pricing.

Laura Maaske, B.Sc., M.Sc.BMC, Medical & Science Illustrator | e-Textbook Designer

November 11, 2013

Medimagery Medical Illustration & Design

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Another Artist Seeking Patterns in Nature…

“Beauty and seduction
are natures tools of survival.”
-Louie Schwartzberg

Louie Schwartzberg is an filming artist who captures patterns. Because I spend time in nature, photographing the patterns I see, I have loved his high and slow-motion time-lapse photography, and his vision. He says he learned to create it when he was young, patiently working for an entire month to make each four-minute film of flowers as they bloomed.

A little bit more about his personal perspective:

This recent focus on patterns has turned his work into a more philosophical direction and returned him to his first love of film-making. But Louie Schwartzberg’s award-winning career work reaches broadly. He’s worked on projects for films and television programs such as Crash, E.T., Men in Black, Sex and the City, The Bourne Ultimatum, Syriana, and American Beauty. He directed Disney’s America’s Heart and Soul.

And how bees see the invisible:

More recently, he produced Wings of Life, a documentary feature for Disneynature, and narrated by Meryl Streep. Watch the film trailer below and you will see a delicate interaction between flowers and pollinators. 

Enjoy your nature.

“If you do nothing else,
cultivate your response to nature”

Laura Maaske, B.Sc., M.Sc.BMC, Medical Artist

November 10, 2013

Medimagery Medical Illustration & Design

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The Pull to the Countryside

Drawing Physicians to Rural America with the AHA

This October 1st opened enrollment of the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), which is the most sweeping social change for Americans since the Social Security Act Roosevelt signed in in 1935. The AMA has praised this event as historic. And with the government taking a stronger control in healthcare, there will be a guiding hand.

One only need look at the news headlines and the Health Provider Shortage Areas (HPSAs) to understand that rural Americans face greater health risks than urban Americans. Only 10% of American physicians practice in rural areas, whereas rural regions compose 25% of the American population.

The ACA offers coverage to millions of otherwise uninsured Americans. Particularly, the change affects 60 million who live in rural areas of the United States. Presently, one out of every five uninsured Americans lives in a rural area, compared to one in six for the population at large. And because of lower income among rural residents compared to urban residents, there will be an even greater need for doctors to an area that has historically suffered a doctor shortage.

With 32 million Americans harnessing new access to healthcare, between 4,307 and 6,940 additional primary care physicians would be needed to accommodate this increase by 2019.

But despite the need for physicians in rural areas, the incentives have remained low. Physicians in rural areas perform tasks that would be performed by specialists in more urban areas. Call schedules remain a burden in rural areas, with a one in two or one in three call ratio. Educational resources are not available in rural areas to the degree they are in urban areas. Typically, even local physicians who want to practice in rural areas where they grew up must go out-of state to urban centers for residency, which has resulted in less interest among physicians to practice in rural hometowns.

How will the ACA bring physicians to rural areas?

Initiatives of the ACA to increase physician distribution to rural areas:

Increases competition among insurance providers, allowing the Health Insurance Marketplace to lower costs.

Authorizes funding for additional medical residency training programs through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the ACA’s own Prevention and Public Health Fund. Training would preferentially encourage primary care and general surgery. In general, the ACA will offer incentives to physicians for more necessary specializations. Presently, the ratio of primary care physicians is one-third, to two-thirds specialists. In a report completed this by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), this ratio is not in proportion to the health needs of patients.

Allocates money to increase the primary care workforce by training more doctors.

Requires that Medicare-funded residency training slots be redistributed from hospitals that are not using them or that have closed, to hospitals seeking to train additional residents.

Allocates a greater amount of money for scholarships and loans for all health professionals. It relieves the basic need for physicians by training an increased number of physician assistants and nurses.

Expands the number of general staff who work in rural health centers.

Increases the number of nurse-managed clinics at nursing schools where nurses in training treat rural patients.

Offers a 10 percent bonus, through 2015 for primary care doctors who offer services to Medicare patients.

Subsidizes loan repayment or offers education grants to professionals trained in undersupplied specialties such as pediatrics, mental health, geriatrics, behavior health, and general surgery, in exchange for serving in under-serviced areas.

Plans to increase physician productivity.

Encourages increased efficiency and coordination among all personnel in medical homes, clinics, and hospitals, as well as other care organizations.

Reduces isolation among physicians by offering access between rural centers and colleagues, and by increasing further continuing educational opportunities to rural physicians.

Establishes a National Health Care Workforce Commission to develop economic incentives and grants and contracts for physicians, encouraging greater support of primary care training and greater distribution to rural areas. This includes distributing Residency slots to rural areas. It also encourages physician training in community-based settings to offset the greater orientation toward specialty care in hospital-based residency training. This may be the most important aspect of the new law, as it creates a regulatory commission which will continue to promulgate rules and regulations to improve delivery of healthcare services.

For more information, read the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy report, “Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Guide to Health Professions Funding“. And for an in-depth definition of “rural”, visit the USDA Website page defining this term.

As the medical illustrator and editorial artist for Med Monthly, our publisher asked me to illustrate Med Monthly’s November 2013 cover. The Affordable Healthcare Act, with its shift in perspective towards rural America, brought me to wonder what are we looking to? What do we want from this initiative? Health insurance itself is not much more than 100 years old, in the U.S. But if we can accomplish this great aim to offer healthcare more equally to all Americans, urban or rural, we’ll be a fairer place to live, and a little bit closer to our ideals.

For the full article, visit MedMonthly Magazine HERE.

Laura Maaske

Can the AHA Draw Doctors the the Countryside? Illustrated by Laura Maaske; © 2013 Laura Maaske - Medimagery LLC
Can the AHA Draw Doctors the the Countryside? Illustrated by Laura Maaske; © 2013 Laura Maaske – Medimagery LLC

Laura Maaske, B.Sc., M.Sc.BMC, Writer & Illustrator

November 5, 2013

Medimagery Medical Illustration & Design

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Untying the Knot: Your Heart is actually a Spiral

The heart is, “an arrangement so unusual and perplexing,
that it has long been considered as forming a kind of Gordian knot in Anatomy.
Of the complexity of the arrangement I need not speak further than to say that
Vesalius, Albinus, Haller and De Blainville,
all confessed their inability to unravel it”.
James Bell Pettigrew, 1834-1908

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


If anyone suggests to you that science, particularly biological science and medicine, is not beautiful and not much more than “a dissection”, as someone once said to me, I could offer you a place to begin… a place of great beauty to point to.

It is one of the fascinating details of evolutionary embryology that I loved learning as a student: the vertebrate heart evolved from a single simple tube into the complex structure we know as our heart. Here is the heart of a human embryo before two weeks:

Tubular heart. Lithograph from the 20th U.S. edition of Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body, originally published in 1918. License is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
Tubular heart of human embryo before 14 days.
Lithograph from the 20th U.S. edition of Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body, originally published in 1918. License is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
Human embryonic heart. 14 day old.


Here is great old animation depicting the human heart formation:


Circulation functions with a “two-chambered” heart in fish, as you can see in this illustration:

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons and is licensed freely.
“Two-chambered” heart of fish.


It is a three-chambered in amphibians and reptiles. And it is four-chambered in mammals and birds.

Four Chambered Adult Human Heart. Illustrated by Laura Maaske.
Four Chambered Adult Human Heart. Illustrated by Laura Maaske.

For further comparison, visit these pages which offer comparative imagery: Fish, amphibian, and mammalian hearts, and Fish, amphibian, reptile, and mammal & bird hearts.

During my undergraduate coursework in zoology, this evolution had stuck me as beautiful, that organisms tend towards complexity in their evolution. Later, as a student in biomedical communications at the University of Toronto, I found heart dissections reveal beautifully complicated anatomy compared to what I’d seen in the fish just a few years before.

In fact, while embryologists understood this folding pattern by observing cardiac development, it wasn’t until 2006 that the anatomist Torrent Guasp, using a special technique, dissected the human heart for the first time in history. In this skillful dissection he uncovered the original embryonic tube structure. Here is a video explaining Torrent Guasp’s dissection:

“When I looked at the heart for the first time I saw a circumferential basal loop. And then I saw a descending limb and an ascending limb. And they curl around each other at a helix and a vortex, except for the ventricle. And the angles at which they go is about 60 degrees. 60 degrees down and 60 degrees going up, and they cross each other in that way. For years people had wondered why this happened. I realized this is really a spiral. And I began to think about spirals. And I began to understand that spirals are almost the master plan of nature in terms of structure and in terms of rhythm.… if you pick the middle of the spiral up you form a helix. And of course the heart is a helix.”
-Dr. Gerald Buckberg, M.D.


So, for one of my own favorite illustration projects, I began my work by researching this folding pattern, and drawing its reach into the heart. As you can see, the folding works a little bit like a knot, and it is also a two-ended spiral.

The folding structure of the heart


I made a sample out of clay and practiced the folding pattern.

Mar102013_iph_0728 Mar102013_0701


And here are my illustrations to reveal the tubular unfolding pattern of the human heart:

Revealing embryology
Unfolding the Heart 1
Revealing embryology
Unfolding the Heart 2
Revealing embryology
Unfolding the Heart 3
Revealing embryology
Unfolding the Heart 4
Revealing embryology
Unfolding the Heart 5

As you can see in these illustrations, the adult human heart in its evolved form is a flattened tube, and behaves like a rope as the muscles wrap and squeeze blood. But it is a very complex knot, the dissection of which was not even achieved until the past few years, with Torrent Guasp. How remarkable that a structure so complex can be reduced, backwards, so that its simpler origin is apparent.

Gor·di·an knot
noun: Gordian knot; plural noun: Gordian knots
1. an extremely difficult or involved problem.
mid 16th cent.:
from the legend that Gordius,
king of Gordium,
tied an intricate knot and prophesied that
whoever untied it would become the ruler of Asia.
It was cut through with a sword by Alexander the Great.

Laura Maaske, B.Sc., M.Sc.BMC, Medical Illustrator & Designer

October 29, 2013

Medimagery Medical Illustration & Design

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Happy to be on Board: Designing Medicine

Written and Published by  magazine on August 30, 2013 in Research & Technology

This month Med Monthly welcomes Laura Maaske on board as a staff illustrator, writer and journalist. She will be supplying an article or illustration each month dealing with ground breaking health care advances and state-of-the-art medical images. She has been a regular contributor, with several articles during the past year featured in our Research & Technology section.

With a Master’s of Science degree in Biomedical Visualization from the University of Toronto, she is bound to amaze you with wildly colorful, graphically outrageous images and an interesting insight into her world.  Simply combine anatomy, physiology, pathology, embryology, histology, with design, airbrush, carbon dust, pen and ink and there you’ll have it; the beauty and wonder found in the human body as seen and expressed by a master illustrator.  Collaborating with scientists, physicians, and other specialists, medical illustrators serve as visual translators of complex technical information to support education, medical and bio-scientific research, patient care and education, public relations and marketing objectives.

Laura did her masters research on interactivity in computer design and experimenting with the small world being offered by a computer interface.  Laura explains, “It was like science itself, in a nutshell. I wanted to be creating small worlds where you were able to learn how things worked.”

If you review Laura’s website, you’ll notice she states that all of her work is done by hand.  Once again, having been trained in traditional art, she always begins with a hand-sketch.  “Bringing the work (sketch) to the computer is a useful step in the process, but I do this only when I feel I have captured the essential movements and curves on paper that are to be the underlying focus in the final piece.” Every project that Laura creates is custom done.  In the inception of each one she questions, “What does this individual piece have to say to its audience?” Only then can she truly begin to develop the perfect concept for her final piece.

What is the most difficult question to ask such a complex artist?  What project are you the most proud of and why?  Laura replies, “As an artist, I am in search of a balance between the chaos and rich excess of information being offered in the surgical scene and simple educational objectives about that particular procedure. There is a particular series of surgical illustrations which gave me insight about this balance. It had been a goal of mine to render the surgical scene in a way as if the surgeon were operating in a clean field.  It was my job to clear away what a photograph could not.  But it occurred to me as I was beginning to draw the series that perhaps I was avoiding something beautiful about the nature of surgery, to avoid the dissolution. During a surgical procedure, the tissues become a little swollen, and there is some bleeding, and this is all understood as a way of adapting the body for a healthier state of being when the surgical procedure is done. But it seems like a contradiction: destruction first before healing. We open the body, aware of this small loss, in favor of a greater gain. So I decided to render this dissolution in my surgical series. The results worked in a way that seemed very natural to me, compared to what my cleaner renderings had been as in previous work.  This lesson made this project very special.”

Laura shares a whimsical illustration of her creative process in the making of a medical illustration.

Medical Illustration cartoon
Inspiration works in two ways for a medical illustrator.

We welcome Laura and her creative touch to our evolving group of talented professionals here at Med Monthly magazine.

View the full article at!

Laura Maaske, August 20, 2013 • Medimagery Medical Illustration & Design
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