Medical Illustrations Completed in Water Colour

Series of medical art paintings for twelve journal covers

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Client: British Dental Journal (BDJ)
Medium: Watercolour
Categories: Journals, Publishing


Water colour medical art is alive and doing well. It’s one of our favourite mediums and a style that was chosen by the editing team to grace the covers for the British Dental Journal. Published by Nature Publishing Group the BDJ is the official Journal of the British Dental Association.

The role of the BDJ is to inform its readers of ideas, opinions, developments and key issues in dentistry, clinical, practical and scientific, stimulating interest, debate and discussion amongst dentists of all disciplines. All papers published in the BDJ are subject to rigorous peer review. It was therefore an honour for us to accept the commission to create the 12 front covers for their 211 journal series.

Project Brief

The purpose of the brief was to illustrate the twelve cranial nerves as it coincided with the number of front covers that made up the series. To provide a continuity it was decided that each cover was to use an illustration of the brain as the backdrop completed in grayscale, so the appropriate nerves could be highlighted each time in yellow. The purpose to show both the origin of the nerve and the areas that they innervate. Then each specific anatomical area, mostly as a cross section, was detailed in full colour traditional watercolour paint using fine sable brushes on stretched 300gsm watercolour paper on board.

The first painting was of the olfactory nerve composed of numerous fine filaments that ramify in the mucous membrane of the olfactory area in the nose and is instrumental for our sense of smell. The second cranial nerve shown was the optic nerve, with its bundle of nerve fibres that transmits visual signals from the retina of the eye to the brain. Thirdly the oculomotor nerve collectively performs most of the eyes movements innervating three of the muscles attached to the eye. This theme continued for each of the cranial nerves with the purpose to show a very anatomically correct yet engaging visual.

Client Comments 



“We are thrilled with the set of 12 illustrations that Joanna has created for us. The medium is perfect, and every single cover in volume 211 looks stunning. This cover series depicts the 12 cranial nerves, showing both their origin in the brain and the areas that they innervate. The technical accuracy of Joanna’s work is spot on; working with such a talent has been a pleasure.” Melissa Cassem

As a result of the BDJ commission Joanna was asked to illustrate a further 37 illustrations for a book on oral surgery for a clinical audience to be published by The British Dental Association, London.

“Joanna has a great eye for detail and the illustrations were loved by everyone, most especially by the client.”Stuart Banks, Digital Project Manager, Frontera
“Joanna was right at home working with us to develop illustrations that both met our clinical needs and fit perfectly into the aesthetics of our user interface. Her work is superb!”Michael Gold , Director of Product Development, CareCloud
“We have now received the new folder with your illustrations: I love it!”Lisa Ruckstuhl - Product Manager Osteoporosis, Daiichi Sankyo (Schweiz) AG
“I’m really pleased with how the book finally looks and that is in part huge thanks to Jo for such fantastic and skilled art. The level of detail that Jo achieves is incredible and her medical knowledge clearly abounds. She is always such a pleasure to work with – nothing is too big or small a job. It was all approached with the same cheery manner! Jo always delivered on deadlines too, which is a huge relief to us designers! Many thanks – it has indeed been a pleasure. I would have no hesitation to recommend Jo!”Senior Designer, Duncan Baird Publishers
“Joanna and her team are a pleasure to work with. They are responsive and creative. They turned around several excellent animations and drawings for our video series. We certainly would enjoy working with them again!”David Mathison, MD, MBA, Associate Director of Pediatric Transport, Children's National Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics & Emergency Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine
“Joanna has provided the core illustrations for a number of our iPad Apps, and her illustrations have received terrific reviews from our users. She understands our requirements clearly and also understands the specifics of illustrating for digital media and mobile applications. The quality of her work is outstanding, and she can be relied upon to hit deadlines and deliver to the exact clinical requirements of each project.”Todd Morgan, Co-Founder, drawMD
“Hello Tim and Joanna,
Thank you for the illustrations, you have done an outstanding job on the finished articles… The service provided was efficient and very thorough, we were very happy with the way you able to understand and translate the brief into an illustration which captured the desired output.”Clare Lynex, Senior Medical Writer, UBM Media Asia, Singapore
“We found to be energetic, imaginative, and efficient, a joy to work with!”Dr Sam Alberti, Director of Museums and Archives, Royal College of Surgeons of England, London