2021 Best in Book Arts – Sophia Chen

Morphology of Skin Disease

Medium: Charcoal, watercolor, gouache, graphite, Adobe InDesign

This project is a combination of the study of plant and human form. The final book contains four skin conditions which I have compared to either the texture or the structure common fruits or vegetables. The concepts illustrated are structure of plants, presentation of diseases, antigens and pathogenesis.

Over the semester, I have made multiple observational drawings of both the human figure and plants. Throughout the process, I began to notice the overlap between the organic forms. Searching for inspirations for my final project, I fell in love with the book named The Sick Rose: Diseases and the Art of Medical Illustration by Richard Barnett, which contained gruesome drawings of diseases. I became fascinated with the presentation of skin diseases and noted how much certain rashes looked like seeds with find in everyday fruits and vegetables, and for my final project in senior studio at Stamps, I decided to combine everything I’ve learned this semester in what I thought was an interesting way, by presenting fruits as diseases on the human body.

The four skin conditions covered in this book are pustules, blisters, maculopapular rashes and filiform warts. For each one, I have done side by side comparisons of how the disease/plant develops, and on a separate page, I included more hand drawn details of the antigen which caused the disease and its pathogenesis. I compared the texture of pus to smashed banana, blisters to pomegranate, measles rash to spots on apples, and filiform HPV warts to broccoli. I am in the class Microbiol 405 which covers immunology, virology and bacteriology, so I have a basic understanding of pathogens and immune responses. The process of deciding upon which fruits to compare with which diseases has been interesting too. I’ve gotten knowledge and inspiration from my microbiology class and had a rough idea on which skin diseases I wanted to cover, and after that I started to pay attention to the fruits and vegetables around me. For pus, I considered using passionfruit which also has a yellowish green color, but after looking more into it, I’ve noticed that it’s actually a juicy fruit, and smashed bananas, on the other hand, have the thicker, more solid texture that I’m looking for in pus. I drew by hand all the images and arranged the layout in InDesign, and the book is now finalized and printed. Overall, it was a fun and educational experience to be able to work on this project.