Lesson 1- Getting to grips Critical Thinking in Physiology: Cardiac anatomy


This is a unique pilot study that aims to improve your knowledge of general cardiac physiology through close observation of cardiac anatomy and the critical observation of physiological structures.

This short study is intended to supplement dissection practicals , however, can be done at any time and independently of that course.

You should find that your dedicated appreciation of the cardiac structures will give you an advantage over the simple dissection practical that you have experienced. This supplementary study should help you in your studies going forwards.

There will be 5 or 6 short lessons spread out over the next two months. You will be required to upload work and/or undertake practise exercises to improve your abilities of sketching, draughtsmanship and general anatomy.

These lessons will be found on the “art in your heart” page on the this website.   

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

By the end of this pilot study you will have created a book that enables critical analysis of the structures found in the heart.

You must:

  1. Create a workbook with pages for each session
  2. Take a photo of your sketches and send me a PDF or a document and upload your work to the website
  3. Write answers to the questions asked neatly at the bottom of the page


1. Accuracy


  1. Using a darker , finely sharpened pencil  and some tracing paper, trace the photo of the heart provided below- drawing every line you see (either black & white or colour images).
  2. Identify as much of what you see in the drawing  as possible as you go along.
  3. Take your tracing and transfer it onto paper
  4. What is your first impression of the heart image?

Tracing an image that is initially the correct way round

I used a 2B pencil to trace the image initially, which is quite soft. I then traced the back of that image on the tracing paper, using the same grade pencil.

To transfer into my book, I turned the image right side again and then used a 6F pencil which is hard and remains sharp, to transfer the image into my drawing book.

Play Video

Drawing of a fixed human heart, including preserved cardiac vasculature.

In this section we will be focussing on close  observation structure and first impressions.


Notice its shape. Floppy at the top and firm at the apex.

Drawing of a fixed human heart, including preserved cardiac vasculature.

  • Down load the  photo of the heart provided for you to trace.
  • You can take the picture here and  alter it if that makes it easier using your phone/computer setting to emphasise black and white, tone and contrast.
  • You can also fiddle with the settings to increase brightness or any other settings that make the picture more appealing to you.
  • I would suggest creating an outline to copy the shape of the heart- which contains the coronary blood vessels and the major blood vessels going into and out of the heart.
  • Make outlines of the major structures. As with all accurate drawings it is essential everything is in place.



  1. Trace it
  2. Transfer your tracing to paper
  3. Tidy up your image- you can either outline this with a fine pencil or fine nibbed pen (0.3mm)

Notice its shape. Floppy at the top and firm at the apex.

You may find it easier to trace something that is black and white. I have altered the photo here to define anatomical structures.


Here is the Mirror image for printing then tracing

LAMB HEART ANTERIOR b:w mirror image for tracing


How easy was it to identify as much of what you saw in front of you?

What was your first impression of the heart-


That there’s a lot of fat

It looks really shiny

I can barely see anything.

These are the sorts of  notes you can append to your final drawing- see Draughtmanship exercise

2. Knowledge of anatomy

  1. Take your anterior heart tracing (just completed) and superimpose it onto the printed image that is the same size- alternatively take a tracing of the printed image here below and superimpose it ontop your first drawing
  2. Identify any structures that  that you did not get before

Often we see images like this- but it incredibly difficult to relate what we have seen in reality to the image. 

Go to next tab:


Trace this image and directly superimpose it over what you have drawn. Try and identify and label the following anatomical structures correctly on YOUR drawing. 

Superior Vena Cava

Ascending Aorta

Pulmonary Trunk

Left Ventricle

Right Ventricle


Left atrium

Right atrium

Anterior intraventricular artery



Drawing of the heart

Superimposing the two to help you label



Its really tricky to see any relationship doing it this way unless you flick between your superimposed tracing and image


SUPERIMPOSITION for PHOTO tracing stage 2

Ultimately it makes sense through continued observation


SUPERIMPOSITION for PHOTO tracing stage 3

Hopefully after a bit of work you should have identified through observation alone those gross anatomical structures 

see next tab

3. Draughtmanship

  1. Take either your first tracing of the anterior cardiac surface or create a new one and  create a 3D drawing of your heart.
  2. Use shading techniques- either stippling, hatching/crosshatching, or continuous shading to create a 3D effect.
  3. Highlight those major structures and draw straight lines using a ruler to identify them with legible annotation.
  4. Don’t forget :Date, title and legends

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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Critical Thinking in Physiology:Cardiac anatomy

For the next session on the posterior heart click here

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