Skip to the content

Kansas State University

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Anatomy and the artist

Medical illustrator helps faculty, students see the animal inside


Whether she's creating detailed drawings of an animal's bone structure or helping a researcher design a poster, Mal Hoover has learned patience.

Hoover is a medical illustrator and graphic design specialist with Digital Information, Support and Creative Services in K-State's Veterinary Medical Library.

Mal Hoover"Every day is different," Hoover said. "I never know what kind of project I'm going to get each day or who I'm going to work with."

An example of her patience paying off? One of her illustrations -- of a jockey on a horse in mid-stride -- made the cover of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. That was in July 2002, 10 years after she had submitted it.

"The editors waited until they had an equine-themed issue," Hoover said. "It was a very cool surprise."

Hoover belongs to the Association of Medical Illustrators. Members are primarily artists who facilitate the recording and dissemination of medical and bio-scientific knowledge through visual media, according to the group's Web site. She is pursuing board certification through the association.

In her cubicle on the fourth floor of Trotter Hall, plants coexist with the computer Hoover uses to run Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop programs. An electronic tablet makes it easy to upload sketches. But she hasn't abandoned analog art: One corner of her work space holds the lamp and colored pencils necessary for some projects.

Of her 27-year career in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Hoover says simply, "I help instructors by providing visual materials." This is something of an understatement.

Hoover also creates logos, PowerPoint presentations and illustrations for researchers writing journal articles. She also turns out tone drawings and stippled pieces.

In addition to relying on her for that work, faculty, staff and students also turn to Hoover for instruction on a variety of software packages.

"She has a unique position and a lot of talent," said Cindy Logan, manager of the Digital Information Services Center. "The detail she can create with an illustration is superb."

Hoover's drawing of a cat's skullThough she has since made a career of her artistic abilities, Hoover didn't even know she had a talent for drawing until college.

"I took Drawing 1, figured out I could draw and fell in love with it," said the K-State graduate.

Anatomy drawings are Hoover's favorite task.

"They are three-dimensional and I get to make them really lifelike," she said.

Surgical drawings are the toughest; Hoover says she usually has to brush up on anatomy to complete those projects.

"I try to see the procedure in 3-D and put it on paper so that it makes sense," she said. "It's not unusual to have multiple revisions with a project."

This patience and flexibility has led Hoover through a career that she finds rewarding.

"I couldn't do it without this team," she said. "I don't think I could work anywhere else or be happy anywhere else."


Photos: Mal Hoover works with such software as Illustrator and Photoshop, but she still uses pencil and paper to render illustrations like this one of a cat’s skull. Photos by Dave Adams