One might learn something from staring at the tattoos of Italian artist Michele Volpi (previously). The composition, detailed dot work, and precise lines of his tattoos transcend both ink-infused skin and science textbooks. The Bologna-based tattoo artist relishes in scientific books—from Frank Netter’s painterly medical illustrations to the exquisitely rendered biological specimens and marine life of Ernst Haeckel. He often visits bookshops during his travels to discover and acquire these new sources of inspiration.
Volpi’s customers seek him out to tattoo an array of botany, astronomy, physiology, and chemistry-based compositions. Sometimes customers let him choose the branch of science, in which case he renders his favorite subject—anatomy. Even then, Volpi combines subject matter like in his tattoo comparing the shape of a human pelvis to that of a butterfly or another that features a human skull being stretched absurdly through a wormhole.
The artist tells Colossal that his “dream is to make a scientific book with all of my conceptual scientific illustrations that I love.” View Volpi’s body of work and booking information on Instagram. For those not ready for the permanence of a tattoo, there are prints of his pen-and-ink, anatomical illustrations available in his shop.
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Being with oneself takes on a literal meaning in the works of Anders Krisár. The Stockholm-based sculptor and photographer focuses on the human body, creating analog casts from live models using silicone and plaster.
A self-taught artist, Krisár uses his own meticulous techniques and methods for creating a finished piece—constantly reworking the casts to a state of simplicity and smoothness. The impeccably smooth contours and precise cuts that he achieves makes each piece look more digitally rendered than created by hand. Krisár shares on his site, “I’m a perfectionist because I have to be. It’s not really a choice. And it’s not a striving for satisfaction. It’s rather to avoid pain.”
He tells Colossal that the most difficult anatomical features to perfect are the hands and fingernails. And it’s through the palms that the complete figures hold onto the other tightly—each side simultaneously pulling the other closer. Krisár’s cloven figures play with the human brain and its craving for visual symmetry. The two halves create a psychological tension—beautiful yet unsettling in their incomplete wholeness.
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For a hypochondriac, any sense of pain or discomfort can be a point of fixation, something specifically known as somatic symptom disorder. This type of obsession inspired paper artist Julie Wilkinson to create a project that would not only distract her from this consuming condition but also bring awareness to an often misunderstood disorder. Her project is aptly titled Manifestation.
Wilkinson told Fubiz that she’s “been hypochondriac for as long as I can remember, and I have always had a fascination with medicine and the psychology related to certain conditions. This project was a way of visualizing the endless cycle that hypochondriacs often find themselves in, where every feeling is magnified, amplified, and where one little ache can turn into multiple symptoms—real or imagined—which take up our thoughts entirely.”
These layered illustrations of anatomical parts in a mandala motif were cut by Wilkinson with none other than a scalpel. The result is a visual expression of somatic symptom disorder—a dizzying array of magnified and multiplied sensations across various interconnected body parts and systems. The mandala is befitting of the meditative and healing nature of the project.
Wilkinson and Joyanne Horscroft make up the transatlantic creative duo behind Makerie Studio. While Wilkinson lives in New York, Horscroft is based in London. Not only are they master paper artists but they’re also set designers, who create imaginative and exquisitely detailed paper sculptures for window displays, events, advertising, and special artistic commissions. They’ve gained the attention of Google, Gucci, Nike, and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few. Wilkinson and Horscroft have developed their own unique paper techniques and are inspired by nature, steampunk mechanicals, and whimsical worlds.
Follow Makerie Studio’s magnificent paper creations and installations on Instagram.
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UK-based embroidery artist Amber Griffiths is riding a wave of anatomical inspiration in her latest designs. Typically inspired by nature, Griffiths tells Colossal that her series kicked off when looking to put a non-traditional spin on the iconic Valentine’s Day heart. “I’m not particularly someone who’s into all the mushy classic love hearts, so I thought the anatomical route would be much more interesting,” Griffiths says. That set off an obsessive exploration of human anatomy through her primary embroidery technique—the punch needle. This method pushes yarn or thread through the fabric while staying on one side, in comparison to normal stitching during which the needle moves in and out of the fibers.
Griffiths finds the ways the organic shapes, layers, and textures fit together endlessly fascinating. While anatomy is an enjoyable yet challenging subject to dive into, she also finds it educational. She spends time researching the particular organ or system, finding at least 20 to 30 reference images before starting. The embroidery artist embellishes her anatomical pieces with various beads and even mimics a fused spine using real metal screws.
Although she learned how to sew at a young age, Griffiths took up embroidery as a way to relax while on holiday break during her final year at university and hasn’t put down the punch needle since. She’s also become a resource for those wanting to try the difficult punch needling technique and shares her process on YouTube.
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Based in Austria, Natalia Lubieniecka scours Vienna’s markets for antique objects, fabrics, and anatomical posters that eventually inform and meld into her peculiar sculptures. Whether it be a blush-colored heart enveloped in florals, a supine frog with exposed entrails, or a deceased bird covered in a lace bodice, her fantastical works speak to the fragile relationship between life and death.
The sculptor tells Colossal that her interest in organs and bodies began after a visit to Naturhistorische Museum Wien, where she encountered taxidermy of birds, insects, and other animals. Her favorite piece, though, is her faux anatomical heart because it pushed her to expand her source material. “I think that human and animal anatomy has something magical about it. Each organ is responsible not only for the functioning of the body, but also for feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and these transport us to another magical dimension,” she said.
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Back in the early days of anatomical illustration (c. 1500 – c. 1800), artists often rendered the human figure within the lavish landscape of the anatomist’s hometown. These historical illustrations are part of what inspired photographer Jan Kriwol and CGI artist Markos Kay to create the photographic series Human After All. The main character is the human circulatory system in the context of mundane urban life—grocery shopping, eating a burger, and even taking a cigarette break.
The Warsaw-based Kriwol is influenced by his connection to the Polish urban skateboarding scene, and he often infuses his photography with optical illusion and humor. So when he saw his girlfriend’s drawing of a human circulatory system smoking a cigarette, he thought creating a realistic version was the perfect challenge.
Kriwol approached several CGI artists with his idea, but the complexity of the project proved too difficult. He finally found Kay, a self-proclaimed visual alchemist based in London, who immediately took to the challenge of figuring out how to render the circulatory system in a way that looked as natural as possible. Kay found inspiration in the anatomy textbooks of Andreas Vesalius, Giulio Casserio, and Henry Gray. The two artists also studied images of the plastinated human circulatory systems pioneered by Dr. Gunther von Hagens of the infamous Body Worlds exhibits.
Kay shared with VICE Creators Project that, “the biggest challenge for this project was creating an anatomical character that looked life-like and integrated with the real environment. We spent a lot of time experimenting with different postures, and oftentimes we had to exaggerate the posture greatly so that it could translate visually with the deconstructed structure of the circulatory system.”
Kay started by modeling the main arteries and then used generative simulation to organically grow the thinner arteries and capillaries to fill out the figure. Meanwhile, Kriwol shot the urban settings in Warsaw, Tel Aviv, Masada hill in Israel, Grenoble, Berlin, and Brussels, as well as Cape Town, South Africa. Kay then recreated each photographed environment in 3D so that he had control over the reflections and shadows. The end result is a harmonious render of a delicate anatomical figure within its environment. Especially fitting is the circulatory figure at the bus stop with its reflection of the rivers and tributaries in the topography map.
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