Exciting news – I’m starting a new job with a company downtown to create animations in Flash for the purpose of patient education. This is something I’m really excited to be doing; I’m happy to be not going the pharma route. Although I do respect and still enjoy projects that part of the industry, I feel more fulfilled working on the patient/medical education side of things.

I wanted to share my “audition” piece I did for the job; I’m pretty happy with how it came out, and excited to be doing more!

Humidifier from Laura Schwartz on Vimeo.

And in a similar vein, here is a (very) quick piece I did also in Flash, just for fun.


Upper Brain/Hippocampus

I think my favorite piece of anatomy ever is the pes hippocampus. I remember seeing them in neuroanatomy dissection after carefully cutting through the temporal lobe and seeing these cute little toes.

I was getting rusty on my Maya modeling, so for now am skipping ZBrush to build at least the basics in here. Not all of the anatomy is there yet/size relationships are off for the time being, but here at least is the beginning of the mesencephalon and the hippocampus. I want to get the entire limbic system constructed; it’d be a good modeling/sculpting challenge! And potentially useful for future projects.

Pes hippocampi!

Sizing still needs to be adjusted….

Looks like an alien, right?


This is an old piece from my internship that I realized I never posted on…so here it is! This I think got lost in the shuffle of graduation and vacation, but here it is now. I think this might have been my favorite piece to work on during my internship, and it was fun to have my mom model for me (and she actually does have rosacea).


To learn more about the condition itself, visit the Rosacea Patient Page that this piece was created for!

Surgical treatment for CHF

One of the projects I completed last month was a small illustration series demonstrating a surgical treatment method for congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF is a condition where the heart is essentially unable to effectively pump blood to all parts of the body anymore. If your heart can’t push happy, oxygen-rich blood to limbs, organs, etc, there can be a buildup of fluid in those areas. Obviously, this is not ideal. This condition is typically long-onset; it doesn’t often just happen overnight. It can come about from disease, high blood pressure, or alcohol abuse, among other things. Treatment is pretty varied; it can be managed through simple lifestyle adjustments, medication, all the way up to surgery with a ventricular assist device (a mechanical pump that is inserted to help pump blood through the body).

I created three illustrations for this – the first shows the full setup; the arterial interface device (AID) connects in at the subclavian artery, which connects down to the balloon pump that sits in the aorta. The balloon is inflated/deflated to increase/decrease arterial pressure by the outer driver, which the patient can carry like a satchel. The driver can be connected by the patient at the skin interface device, which connects the entire pumping system. This device is also where electrodes are connected, so that heart rate etc can be monitored. The surgical illustrations show the initial steps of the surgery, where the graft housing the AID is sutured into place (top) and the final placement of the AID in the graft (bottom).

The turnaround on this project was incredibly fast (a little less than one week), so I didn’t get to develop the illustrations as much as I may have liked to given unlimited time (ha), but I think they still came out nice and clean, and more importantly, show what needs to be shown. For the system illustration, I decided to let the sketch mostly carry the image of the figure with minimal color, since the focus was on the system anyway. I kept the sketch in the illustrations, and layered color over that (just about the same style I worked in when I interned at the American Medical Assocation). Overall, a great quick project that made for a really nice break from animating!


Another Patient Page from the Journal of the American Medical Association on…Urinary Tract Infections! features an illustration I completed during the internship with the medical illustration department there. Check it out here (Patient Pages are free to the public – no subscription needed!)


A couple bits of exciting things to share…

First, my illustrations for the Ligament of Treitz and Nasogastric tube insertion from my JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) internship are in this week’s issue, and online! To see the online version you might need a subscription, but regardless, here’s the link to the article my illustrations are in:

“Does this Patient have a Severe Upper Gastrointestinal Bleed?”


OR, check them both out here.

In other news, I was informed today that my Stonefish was selected as a finalist for the UIC Graduate College Image of Research Competition – hooray!

And finally, I got a domain set up for my website: check it out at laura-schwartz.com .

Heart animation progress

Still running a little behind on this project – everything has been brought over from ZBrush to Maya now though. I’m having issues with the displacement and normal maps on the heart morphs I built to have it beat – I’m losing my maps and the polygons are getting boxy and fragmented once I leave my target mesh, so that’s something to puzzle out. Otherwise, here are some stills (minus the venom – I’m doing that in AfterEffects to cut some corners) from the animation. I think the cut heart still needs some refinement, or a different lighting setup…


Heart model

I’ve been sick the last week, and since I’m unable to really study neuro I’ve switched back to getting some work hammered out on the heart venom animation – I sculpted this up in ZBrush, and will be working on a cut version of the heart so you can see the chambers as it beats. I’m trying to keep it fairly simple looking, with basic textures applied.

I had been thinking keeping the color scheme blue, but that seemed too soothing for what the content is, so I’m trying red…strange though, once I switched the color scheme I found myself more tense while I worked on it. Color theory in action!

Heart scene - test render

And now, back to my movie marathon and gallons of tea. Getting a flu shot next season.

New trick!

For part 2 of the stonefish animation I’m trying to get more involved in the AfterEffects side of things, just because I don’t know very much about the program and it seems like you can do some pretty awesome stuff in there. For my EKG line, I found a tutorial that lets you chain a particle system to a single point, which you can then animate to form, say, an EKG monitor. You can view the entire tutorial for creating a 3D Stroke Effect here.

Syncing the audio with the imagery was tricky and still in refinement, but I’m pleased with what I have so far!