21 January 2021

#DrawnToGeoscience: Cosmic Bodies and Medical Art

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#DrawnToGeoscience is a series of posts by artists who draw about science and explain their process and inspiration while also showcasing their pieces. Learn more about contributing. This week, Karli Mogen.

Throughout my life I have been drawn to both science and art. Animals, plants, and rocks interested me greatly as a young kid, and in high school I became intrigued by internal human anatomy, particularly hearts, brains, and skulls (to match the emo and metal music I listened to, of course). All the while, I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil and depicted anything I found remotely interesting. Animals, mermaids, people, mythological creatures, bones and plants can all be found in my stacks of early sketchbooks.

Entering undergrad, my passion for creating led me towards a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts with a concentration in Drawing (and, like many artists, the math requirements of STEM programs had me shaking in my combat boots). Towards the end of my BFA degree I stumbled upon the field of medical art and, with a vast interest in human anatomy and physiology, I pursued a Master’s of Science in Medical Art.

As a freelance artist I work both inside and outside of the medical art sphere. At this point, I have my hands in quite a few creative avenues, but for my personal work I find that I keep coming back to traditional media depictions juxtaposing human anatomy, cosmic imagery and botanical subjects: anatomy as representative of mortality, fragility, and the general human presence as a whole, plants as literal representations of the environment, and cosmic imagery to place the viewer in a big picture mindset. The cosmic side says, “we are specs of dust in the vastness of space,” yet the plant and anatomy aspects remind the viewer of our impact in the present. Generally, I am inspired by environmentalism, anatomy, biology, psychology, and spirituality.

Rising. Credit: Karli Mogen, 2020

For these pieces, I am inspired by the eternal contradiction of humankind as simultaneously important and insignificant in the broader scheme of existence. Important, in that each action or inaction matters. From pollution and climate change to over-consumption and species extinctions, our impact is irrefutable. Insignificant, in that 1,000 years is a blink of an eye to this planet and whether we thrive, survive, or perish as a species is of little to no consequence in the long term survival of the Earth. It will continue to attempt its own homeostasis, whether we are involved or not.

While I do also work with digital media, each of these images is made in the real world on mixed media paper. “Rising” and “Root Cause” are both made with watercolors, watercolor pencils and black and white ink pens (Root Cause being on a tan toned paper). “Floral Heart” is actually made using home-made watercolor paints from crushed up natural sources like beet juice, spinach, fire bush flowers, butterfly pea flower, charcoal, ashes, dirt, turmeric, and coffee. “Root Cause” and “Floral Heart” are both on 9 x 12 inch paper, while “Rising” is on 24 x 36 inch paper.

Root Cause. Credit: Karli Mogen, 2019

Karli Mogen is an artist, designer, and illustrator. Find more of her work on her website, on Redbubble, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter

Floral Heart. Credit: Karli Mogen, 2020