Illustration of a canine heart with heartworms. An Irish Setter is in the background

Pets & Parasites

  • Client:
    Colle Mcvoy
    Minneapolis, MN

 Illustrations can show the seriousness of the matter while minimizing the shock value.

A perfect assignment

Certain subjects just cry out for illustration, and this is one such subject. Pets and parasites are certainly a serious subject, but photographs of the damage heartworms, ringworms, hookworms, etc., can cause might be excessively disturbing to most pet owners.

Illustrations can show the seriousness of the matter while minimizing the shock value. Perfect for the client and owners, and I love drawing dogs and cats so it's perfect for myself as well. My client for this project was Colle McVoy and their client was Merial, the makers of Frontline Plus.

Illustration showing topical flea ointment being applied to a tabby cat
A spot illustration showing the application of Frontline Plus and the way it spreads through the skin from a single application point. But the cat is the real star of this illustration.

The decision was made to keep the images looking like artwork, so textured backgrounds with obvious pencil and brush strokes were used. There's a strong tradition of animal artwork that tends to resonate with owners.

An art to abstraction

Abstraction literally means to pull out or reduce a concept to its essence, which ideally makes the concept easier to grasp and remember. This is important to most forms of art and illustration, and is the essence of modern medical illustration.

Case in point: parasite life-cycles are typically abstracted – sometimes to the point that they become less, not more clear. There was a need to keep this small illustration simple, but we tried to keep it as clear as possible. Then, in order to make it something interesting and exceptional, we focused on drawing the stages realistically, with an emphasis on the flea taking her blood meal.

close-up Illustration depicting a flea feeding on an animal. A simplified flea life cycle is also shown

Simple but not simplistic: the concept is simple and clear (the accompanying text mentions that these stages occur largely away from your pet), but the illustrations add further understanding, with a bit of drama.

A good one gets away

There were several other parasites in the original project description, including Roundworm, Demodex, and Hookworm. These were canceled along the way, which made me quite sad in the case of the Hookworm sketch below. I so wanted to finish this illustration!

pencil sketch showing hookworms in a cat's small intestine

Like something out of the movie Dune, this Hookworm is dramatic. The intent was to emphasize the hooks of the mouth – and to add a dynamic quality. Unfortunately, it never went to final... ah well :/

Exceptional Talent

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