Drawn to Anatomy

February 13, 2018

Drawn to Anatomy

Sketch of Javelin Man

With the exhibit of Body Worlds RX now at the Museum of Natural History, Nova Scotians have a unique opportunity to learn about their anatomy and ways to improve their health. The exhibit is attracting record audiences, demonstrating that people are interested in learning about the anatomy of the body. The exhibit includes dramatic posed bodies that have been disected to show anatomy in action.

sketch of skeletonWith this unique exhibit, I decided to explore the exhibits further by sharpening my pencil and bringing my sketch book. There is nothing quite as powerful as drawing for improving observation and learning.

I started my drawing with a quick sketch of the human skeleton that is seen at the beginning of the exhibit.  The skeleton is a great way to warm up with drawing. The shapes are complex but well defined. The human skelton provides the foundation on which the rest of the exhibit and our bodies are built.

The Body Worlds RX show includes many great exhibits, and has lots of excellent information. I found it incredible to think about statements like… every cigarette a person smokes takes 12 minutes off their life. Wow! The importance of education for promoting health is found throughout the exhibit.

One of the most dramatic exhibits that caught my attention was Javelin Man. I started with a few very quick sketches, to explore the dramatic olympic pose and to warm up my observation and drawing skills. 

While I was drawing, students from a visiting school group would quickly look over my shounder to see what I was drawing. They quickly moved on though, as they were excited and engaged by the exhibits.  They talked about anatomy as they explored Body Worlds and answered the questions for their class trip. With the drama of Javelin Man, I expect they will remember this exhibit and its lessons for the rest of their lives.

quick sketch

As I looked more carefully at Javelin Man, I was amazed to see the care and skill that was used to expose the brachial plexus, the group of nerves that provide movement and the sense of touch in our hands and arms. These important nerves originate from our neck (cervical) vertebrae.


Sketch of Javelin Man

I was spell bound with the care that the anatomists had taken to expose the full length of the nerves, from their origin in the neck, through the upper arm, lower arm, and all the way down into the hands. The artistry and skill of the anatomists is quite amazing. By drawing the exhibits you get a much more detailed appreciation of the anatomy and structures.

sketch of brachial plexus

While drawing these more detailed sketches, I explored the muscles and bones that surrounded the nerves. As I moved the pencil on the paper, my brachial plexus moved my fingers and hands, creating lines and shadows on the page.  While drawing, I also heard small snippets of the discussions and stories being told by visitors around me. I was clearly not the only one learning a lot with this exhibit.

See Body Worlds RX at the Museum of Natural History, on until April 22, 2018.

The exhibit is encouraging people to learn about their bodies, and to consider ways to improve their health. If you get a chance to see the exhibit, consider bringing a pencil and your sketch book. You don’t get this kind of opportunity very often to be drawn to anatomy.


Post by Dr. Tim Fedak, Curator of Geology, who has an interest in drawing and learning.