healthcare discomfort depicted as a woman undergoing a dental examination

Healthcare Discomfort


  • Client:
    U.S. Surgical / Medtronic
    Norwalk, CT / Minneapolis, MN
  • Share: difficult it can be to make some images pleasant!

Unique challenges

For this series I was asked whether I might be able to adapt my style to match another illustrator who was retiring. The series was an ongoing collection of booklets addressing the apprehension most patients have when needing healthcare – the cover art was intended to depict positive interactions between physicians and patients.

I contacted the previous illustrator, who very graciously stepped me through his technique. He achieved his beautiful rich tones by layering increasingly softer graphite pencil, from 6H to 6B and eventually black Prismacolor for the backgrounds.

That sounded like fun, so I accepted the challenge. Little did I realize just how difficult it can be to make some images pleasant! For example, very few of us enjoy a visit to the dentist. Depicting that apprehension in a positive way proved tricky.

a pencil illustration depicting healthcare discomfort with a young boy getting an annual checkup

The Annual Checkup image was deemed too suggestive and required digital reworking and creative cropping.

Unintended implications

The sensitive nature of these situations came to light with the Annual Checkup piece above. I had originally included the doctor's hand on the boy's shoulder, but this was deemed inappropriate in the final so I removed it. The finished image was still unnerving to the editor, so we worked together and found a solution: by cropping out the doctor's hands altogether and reducing his face, the boy's face became more prominent. The doctor's eyes were then directed away from the boy and his smile reduced in Photoshop. After several rounds of discussions and alterations, the image was approved.

Exceptional Talent

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