Lesson 2- Accurate draughtsmanship Art in Physiology: Posterior Cardiac Anatomy


You have practiced tracing, and some exercises on controlling your pencil and also shading types

For each session you will be given tasks to improve three elements of your critical thinking;

  1. Accuracy
  2. Draughtsmanship
  3. Knowledge of cardiac anatomy

This week:


Copying grids onto paper (especially if you don’t have a printer or its broken)

Using shapes and negative spaces to define the shape


Working on your shading and tonal ranges using a variety of different pencils

Content assembly  to create a study page


 Label the posterior side of the heart- including dots

There is a lot of emphasis on your drawing skills this week and also the creation of study pages; what are they and how do you make a good one.

cardiac sketch

Posterior STRUCTURE- gross anatomy

1. Accuracy

Using an HB pencil

Make lightweight preparatory sketching marks first to plot the basic dimensions, these marks can be removed later.

Think about the basic shapes within the subject that you are trying to portray by identifying simple geometric shapes. Take some measurements of the subject, such as height and width.

How do you go about drawing something accurately without a tracing? 

Tips for accurate drawing


  1. The best way to measure the height and width of a subject is to use either a transparent ruler held next to the subject, you can also use calipers also the simple method for estimating proportion can be done is using your thumb held against your pencil. Hold the pencil vertically at arms length and close one eye, use your thumb on the pencil to gauge the height and width move the pencil around to find and observe the angles
  2. Alternatively- place a grid or marker against the image on your computer- so that you can transpose the lines to scale.
  3. Try to think about the subject sitting within a more formal shape (into either rectangular, triangular or square shapes. so that what you are looking at fits
  4. When drawing always begin by lightly plotting in the shape that the subject sits within (into either rectangular, triangular or square shapes. 
  5. Make light pencil marks initially.
    Use your pencil and thumb to judge the angles of the subject and any curves.
  6. If there are overlapping features, draw the subject in the initial sketches as though all parts are transparent, this is called a ‘skeleton drawing’ which enables you to see how parts are connected and reduces the possibility of alignment errors with overlaps.
  7. So far we have discussed drawing ‘only what you see’ so this might seem a little contradictory at first but in this case you are simply drawing all of the overlying parts. This approach will help you to gain a better understanding of the perspective and achieve better connections and continuation between vessels and chambers of the heart and you will have the peace of mind of know that your drawing makes sense!
  8. All too often potentially good work is ruined by misaligned lines




Creating a study page

  1. The purpose of a study page is as follows:

    • A study page is simply a collection of drawings illustrating the component parts of our organ with some written notes about it. It is your visual annotated research which deconstructs the organ. The purpose is to ensure that you fully understand your subject before undertaking a full tonal study of it.
    • A study page is also where you work out your approach to a final drawing, e. g. tonal technique and grades of pencil. It can contain small sections of finished drawings and line drawings. It doesn’t need to be perfect but is a place to work out ‘how to draw’ your subject.

    Here are some points to consider when creating your study

    Research Once you have selected the major viewpoint of your organ (this week its posterior) , you can start to collate reference material, look in books and online to see what you can find out about the posterior side of  heart. Identify  any structures that are visible, and also any interesting facts, learn about the story of the heart- (who first discovered what went where?). Make notes and rough sketches initially.

  2. Take photographs produce a photographic reference library, black and white photographs are particularly useful for pencil work because they can help you to identify the tonal differences across the organ. Creating reference material in this way is good practice and can be referred to for your final piece. It is advisable to keep photographic reference in a folder on your computer or on a drive.

    Observation – is the key to success keep using text books

    Measuring and identifying characteristics

    –If you have a your heart specimen in front of you (ie during the dissection class)  take measurements of it, identifying the basic shapes and characteristics. A few points to consider

  3. Lenth from apex to aorta. Width of heart. Length of aorta, and other major vessels  the length and shape of vessels

    Draw– use a combination of line and tone, and a range of pencil grades to allow you to achieve the correct tonal values. If you created a tonal strip, you can use this to identify tone

    Positioning  & composition– Understand the key morphological features  understanding of these components will help you to identify the best positioning for your final composition. Look at the lines, curves and shapes – does it make a good clear illustration? Ideally, drawings should be made from different positions, such as front, side and back. Remember that the final composition (lesson 5/6) needs to be accurate, balanced and aesthetically pleasing, so creating a good balance between these requirements is important.

    Clarity – Always ensure that definition between parts is clear and that there are no areas of uncertainty.

    Lighting and Tonal Values Light your subject well, and keep the lighting consistent in in all parts drawn when shading.

    Review.When you have finished your initial studies, sit back and think about whether you have everything that you would need to produce a finished drawing. is anything missing?

Reflecting on your Progress

Please answer the following questions:

At this point you should reflect on your progress. Are there any specific areas of the exercises that you found difficult or overly challenging?

Is there any help or resources that would have liked to help you with these exercises, or are the resources provided satisfactory?

You should now have a complete page, tracings, and annotations with notes. Do remember to date it. When you have done so, upload a PDF or photo of your work into the forum AND email to me


Enter your work here

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More Updates

Critical Thinking in Physiology:Cardiac anatomy

For the next session on the interior of the heart (right ventricle) click here

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