Tag Archives: bubbles

Chest 116; Lobectomy

16 Jan
Chest 116 C Lobectomy

Chest 116; Lobectomy

I have begun thinking about the exhibition in September which at the moment is conceived as an installation; the allocated space a rather small, very intimate area. At the moment I’m considering projecting the development of one of my works as an animation, but am having difficulty working out how to incorporate the “story” without text or sound.

This image is one in which I’ve been experimenting, linking the various components – a whirl of sea foam, a large fern leaf, setting sun disappearing behind the trees, a spray of grass seeds. In my mind they illustrate the anatomy of the lung – branching bronchi ending in arrays of small grape-like bubbles. In the normal lung the ascini (Greek for a bunch of grapes) are roughly equal in size, but in the lung disease known as emphysema the ascini are very variable in size like bubbles floating on water. In the same way that small bubbles often combine to make big ones, so the ascini of the lung when damaged by pollution, cigarette smoke, and other factors, combine to make large cavities, useless for air exchange known as bullae (Bulla, meaning a bubble).


Diagram of the ascini of the lung. Dr Frank Gaillard, Radiopaedia.org

This chest X-ray from the radiology museum is of a man who survived cancer of the lung. It was taken after removal of his entire left upper lobe (lobectomy). The surgical clips and staples are clearly visible. He has a background of emphysema, the lungs are over-inflated and full of bullae, and the remaining lower lobe has over expanded to fill the space.

The images combine to give tortured movement with bubbles swirling around the central figure against a background of herringbone textures breaking up into irregular zones. For some reason it puts me in mind of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures of slaves swimming inside the marble trying to break free of it.


Michaelangelo, unfinished sculpture (Image from sienamystic.dreamwidth.org)

Senses 5; Taste

2 May


The Senses 5; Taste


The sense of taste is such a difficult thing to define that composing and making this image has been very difficult. It has been through about ten iterations, all were rejected, and still what has been achieved is not really to my satisfaction, perhaps I’ll return to this after a while.

Taste is the discernment of food sensed on the tongue; the perception is very heavily overlaid by the sense of smell. The sensations of different tastes are allocated to various areas on the tongue – an experiment we did as medical students was to find and describe those loci; bitterness, right at the back of the tongue, sweetness, right at the front, sourness and salt on the sides of the tongue. Since those days another taste – called umami has been described (Japanese, umai “delicious” mi “taste”). This can be recognised asthat mild aftertaste of savoury especially after eating meat. There is still controversy over whether it is a basic taste – or not.

Quite apart from the influence of smell on the taste of food is the effect of temperature, and especially texture on perception is important. The bubbliness of a carbonated drink for example changes the experience. This is sensed through specialised nerve endings on the tongue and palate.

In this picture I have fused images in my environment in an attempt to indicate a variety of taste sensations. Salt sea is overlain by a field of sugar-cane, and the horizontal lines of the waves compete with vertical curves of the grassy sugar- cane in an exciting way. I’d intended to layer it with aloes to provide bitterness, but in the end the radiating lines from the shadow of a bitter aloe help to focus the eye into the right lower third where a stream of bubbles rises within the outline of a champagne glass. I chose the rather old-fashioned champagne coupe rather than the modern fluted glass. Legend has it that the coupe glass was moulded from Marie Antoinette’s left breast.

Finally the chest X-ray is from a man with severe long-standing bronchiectasis – a condition that causes dilation of the air-passages of the lung which become filled with infected mucus. These unfortunate people classically have foul smelling breath and live with an awful taste in their mouths. Behind the beauty and excitement of the champagne lurks the darker side of this grave disease

How I do it

25 Apr

A very kind fellow blogger suggested I put the sequence of my digital image development onto this blog, so here goes. If it looks as though everything was efficiently planned believe me – it wasn’t!


X-ray Pneumatocoele

I wanted to use an X-ray with an air-filled cyst in the left lung – a pneumatocoele – a cavity resulting from lung damage caused by pneumonia.

So in the clinical setting the X-ray was asking to be linked to air, breathing. It needed to be placed where you can’t breathe – under water.






Gradient posterised

A recently photographed roadside white-line full of grain and fissured, seemed to be the perfect background. Given a reddish coloured gradient it was posterised to emphasise the cracked texture.

The X-ray was then segmented into three layers. The first placed on the background. The cyst had to be visible and the structure of the lungs needed to show through so it wasn’t altered much. It was positioned where I thought it would look good and still moved around the picture a hundred times. The second two are shown here (on red backgrounds just for contrast), the outer segment enlarged and warped.

5 Pneumo segment a1

X-ray segment 1

13 Pneumo segment c 1

X-ray segment 2 & 3

12 Pneumo segment b 1

X-ray segment 2


The rather homogenous background needed modulation, a photo of light streaks falling on a wall was segmented, made almost transparent and layered over the background to subtly alter it. An invert layer converted reds to blue.

6 light1

Light on wall

7 Light segmented 1

Light segmented

The subject in mind was a whale painted on an oak board, a shop sign photographed at Martha’s Vineyard. (The artists name Riley 2001  is visible at the bottom). It was roughly cut out and a mask placed to exclude the surrounds. Using a coarse spray-paint, texture was layered over the top to lift the image. I stretched it for better movement, and placed the whale over the X-ray.

8 Subject 1

Painting on board

9 Subject cut 1

Subject cut out

10 Subject mask 1

Subject with mask layer

The element of breathing and air had to be introduced somewhere; into a new clear layer a series of bubbles was painted, they were beveled and given inner glow to make them stand out.  (They’re shown here against a red background.)

11 Bubble layer 1

Bubble layer

The second X-ray segment was flattened to a simple pattern and darkened using curves. It was placed in front of the whale for the impression of depth to give the sense of swimming out of a box like structure. The outer distorted ring was further placed over that to form a frame within a frame and to draw the eye inwards. I considered painting it red but rejected that thought.

13 Composite without background 1

Composite without background

The final image is shown in its first form here.

Chest 59 v1C

Chest 59; Sea song

Being me I couldn’t stop playing with it.

It now has two variations; the second looks simpler but actually required much more work to achieve. I think is more effective. It’s exactly the same picture with further effects added to the layers and I changed my mind about the inner frame it is now red after all and I cut a bit out of it to give the impression that the bubbles are passing in front of the frame. Oh, and I also resuscitated the whale’s dorsal fin lost in the first cut.

Chest 59 v2 C

Chest 59 version 2; Sea song

The message inside this picture relies on recognisable symbols and associations between a child with cavitating pneumonia that might, without treatment, have caused a respiratory death, and the impossibility of people breathing under water. Fortunately pneumatocoeles have a good prognosis once the pneumonia is treated, and they usually resolve with time. The whale is a strong symbol of freedom and gentleness – a massive air-breathing mammal that lives in the water – the exact opposite of the tiny child with his lung disease. By swimming away from the X-ray it carries forward hope of life and recovery.

%d bloggers like this: