Maya's blog.

Peek inside the life of a medical animator and illustrator.

Getting outside for some printmaking

My undergraduate fine art degree is in Printmaking. Mostly screenprinting (serigraphy) but lots of etching, lithography, monoprinting, and also painting of course. Not a ton of relief printing for me back then, but just enough to love it. Fast forward blankety-blank number of years to today and I’m spending much of my time in the digital world at work. I’ve been trying to paint more and more as an artist release, but it can be hard to fit in with a growing business and a couple of small children.

This weekend I was able to attend a pirate printmaking workshop at Michigan State University’s Broad Museum Art Lab. First of all, I am so excited to even know about the Art Lab. It is just what it sounds like, a place you can go to make art! Thoroughly impressed; will be back. And the workshop was just what I needed. I don’t believe there’s anything stifling about doing most of your work digitally - however, you do need to get out and LOOK at the world around you for inspiration and to breathe. I’ve been lucky to do that recently with gardens, libraries, children’s museums… but are you sensing a theme here? It was nice to get out as an adult, and do something just for me on a Saturday. Many thanks to Britta Urness for teaching!

I’m getting ready to add some scenes to a medical device animation about hip replacement cup augments, a very specific treatment needed to make a hip replacement work in a pelvis with bone loss… this is something that has to be accurate, but a creative eye helps make it look good too. I’m so glad to be refreshed and feeling artistic before getting back into it!

The logo, redesigned

In the end, going with an outside designer was key. I was able to give some final input that I think makes it “my own” but Brett at Creativibe did the heavy lifting, and made this a success! Here are some of the concepts, along with the final. Yay!

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Logo Redesign Continued

I have an update: a few weeks ago, I decided to hire a creative agency. I am too close to the problem, so an outsider's opinion is invaluable, and I'm an expert in illustration whereas others are experts at this very thing I need, branding. Sometimes I help with branding too, but it's not my main job, and in this case... it was not working. I also want to focus on my clients' needs during my time at work. I have been very excited about the new project, and tomorrow I am meeting with Brett Wilson at Creativibe to see the concepts. 

I am so ready for an updated logo that's less "Victoria's Secret" and more "Shoemaker Medical."

Thanks for all your input along the way! I can't wait to show you the new look later this year. 

Logo Redesign Part 3

I've had some very good logo discussions already, and now I'd like to share some basic information about my business which could be represented in my logo, or elsewhere. 

Mission statement (written about 5 years ago) - We provide expert, high-quality service in medical illustration and animation, giving clients the power to communicate visually.

Description of myself (grabbed this from LinkedIn) - I am a medical illustrator with graduate level training and CMI board-certification. I take complex scientific ideas and translate them into visual tools for communication. 

I run my own studio, and I'm so grateful for my amazing clients.

Specialties: digital painting, 3-D animation, orthopedic device, spinal implants


Here are my ideas from today, exploring the pencil and "play button" triangle. I'm not sure either of these is the answer, but I'm sharing anyway! I do like how the pencil is suggested, but Clint and I don't want it to be too "cute."


Logo Redesign Part 2

Here are some brainstorming doodles I've done. "No idea is a bad idea" at this stage. It could also be a name-only logo with no "mark" or picture associated with it. As you can see, I like brains, kidneys, cells, DNA (although I just spotted a left-handed spiral in an "S" - whoops! Can you see it?) and pencils... I'm not sure any of these are the right choice but I'm getting somewhere; I can feel it.

Here are some fonts I've been playing around with. They are not very connected to the above sketches yet, but just looking for something I like. (If I move forward with one, I'll be tweaking spacing, kerning, maybe playing with graphic elements.) 

Two questions for you, my dear readers: Do any of the sketches resonate with you as a good representation of my business? Which font looks like a better fit than the old one? Thanks!

Edited to add this screenshot of facebook comments. 4/23

Logo Redesign

I'm in the process of updating my website. Along the way, I've questioned some branding elements, and of course, the logo has come up. Clint suggested a redesign and I'm not sure, but I think I am leaning towards a new one.

I'd like to share the process, and get your feedback along the way! My options are keeping the old logo, designing something new myself, or hiring an outside designer if it turns out I'm too close to the problem - in any case, I'll have made a decision by the end of this series of posts. Thanks for following and thanks in advance for your comments! I figured it would be cool to see inside the logo creation process, and some of you will have great ideas I hadn't thought of.


Here's the current logo in its two versions:

I made this logo in 2010.

The two rectangles were meant to represent either Maya and Clint coming together to create a company, or art and science overlapping in medical illustration. These meanings are obviously not seen by the viewer without my commentary, so I think they are only serving as a design element. The green color was chosen because I wanted a light, fresh feel and it matched a previous website. I still like green, but again, it doesn't need to be kept. The typeface was intended to be professional looking, and it is, but looking back it's also reminiscent of hand-lettering on old anatomical drawings. I might want something a little more bold, modern, and clean for the font. (I do work that's shiny and often high-tech, and even though I build on what my predecessors in medical illustration have taught me, I don't really want an "old-school look" - or pen and ink anatomy - or Leonardo DaVinci references in my logo.)

Thank you for joining me in this project! Thoughts on the new logo to come in the next post.


Hello, Readers!

Hi everyone. Ok, so it's been a while. I've been here, just not posting. And by here, I mean, all over the country again. If you follow me on facebook, you are probably in the know, but here are some updates:

We have had a child. He just turned two and he's awesome, although we haven't gotten to sleep through the night yet. Parenting equals pure joy and complete sleep depravation, battling one another for your sanity. Pretty good though! 

We moved ourselves and our medical illustration business to Michigan last year, to be near our families. Miss Texas, but happy to be with our people.

Clint is no longer animating for me. He was recruited to help in another business, but he still helps me with office management and accounting stuff from time to time. I'm enjoying the animation side of things.

Probably some other major life stuff I'm not thinking of right now. 

Work is good - I'm loving my clients which is something to be grateful for! I'm updating my website, blog (see? right now?) and branding, and that leads me to my next post, about the Shoemaker Medical logo. See you there!

Day in a tree... coming soon!

Many of you saw the fundraising portion of my project "Day in a tree" last month, in which I raised over $1000 for homeless youth. I have yet to fulfill my pledge and spend my workday in a tree. I'm scheduling it for next week, I believe. This weekend looks sunny, but I did promise a workday!

Check out my project page here, and check back next week to watch my "day" which will be streaming live like those webcams of birds in nests! (My fave are the Decorah eagles.)

You can call me to chat or conduct business while I'm tree-bound. If you have any other ideas about the work you'd like to see me doing, let me know! I'll be taking suggestions ;)

Contest #2

Free medical illustration! **EXTENDED until Friday at midnight** For this contest, we are giving away TWO prizes. Two is better than one, no? We'll draw from comments on this post made before midnight Friday (Nov. 18, 2011).

1. For anybody, one signed medical illustration print!

2. For art buyers*, a $500 credit towards a custom medical illustration or animation! (No purchase necessary to win or redeem. For example, could be used for one free line drawing + reproduction rights, or as part of a larger project.)

To enter: Leave a comment below! Not sure what to say? How about... which organ is the best; heart, lungs or kidney? Make a note if you are an art buyer so we can add you to the $500 drawing.

*you make or are involved in the purchasing decision on medical illustrations, at an agency, device or pharma company, or related organization.

Social Week

Social Week at Shoemaker Medical is November 14-18, 2011 Help Shoemaker Medical celebrate our first anniversary! We were officially launched Nov. 8, 2010 and I can't believe a year could go by so quickly.

We'll be giving away anatomy t-shirts, illustrations, and original art on this blog, facebook and twitter all week long.

Contest #1 Congrats Erin Harmon, t-shirt winner!

Contest #2 Congrats to Theresa Chursh!  $500 medical illustration credit

Contest #3

Contest #4 Congrats Jared Johnson on winning my painting "Spinal Sunset" valued at $800. Congrats Carla on winning some small bonus art for asking art questions during the live paint!

Live-painting at NASS

"NASS" stands for the North American Spine Society, and each year it holds an annual meeting much like other associations to become smarter, inspired, and updated in the field of spine surgery. This year I was invited by my client, Orthofix Spine, to attend the Chicago meeting with them and provide interest at their booth in the Technical Exhibition. I'd be painting fine art pieces [incorporating the spine] on the booth, and interacting with passersby. Then we would auction off the works to raise money for a donation to the NASS research fund.

I accepted the job, excited to use my looser fine-art painting techniques with a medical illustration client. Usually I do glossy product marketing images or operative technique illustrations for Orthofix Spine. This would be a chance to show off my drips and paint strokes outside my studio.

I showed Orthofix various pieces and got their feedback about which styles they liked. We decided to mix pen and ink drawings with messy loose background color. I drew the spines, vertebrae, and bone scaffolding I'd need ahead of time, on vellum, and adhered it to canvas with soft gel medium. (I've had good luck with this in the past, and can even get some of the canvas texture to show through my collage.) I can paint around and over the vellum after it's dry. We decided on four canvases, so I went ahead and finished two of them during the weeks prior to NASS. Then I arrived with two "blank" canvases that weren't all that blank, for painting on Wednesday and Thursday at the show. I'm very glad I approached it this way, as I had a plan and finished drawings to work with publicly. As I told some of the attendees, it wouldn't be as much fun to watch me draw a spine all morning. And it took the pressure off.

I was a little nervous - this was my first time painting live - and I stepped up to the easel with all my paints, brushes, and canvases prepared. For the first 30 minutes I felt butterflies, but then I settled in to the task. It was pretty fun, and even made me consider doing more live-painting in the future. I didn't mind groups of people watching me; in fact I tried to encourage questions when I could. My main challenge was timing my spurts of creation around the scheduled speakers who shared the same podium area. Yes, I'm saying that in the future I'd like fewer breaks!

After the paintings were complete, Orthofix held a silent auction at their Education and Technology Suite - which was at the Museum of Contemporary Art - and raised money for the NASS Research Fund. (Pretty cool stuff to be connected to.) It was a lovely evening, and fun for me to meet the surgeons and others who were bidding on my work. Can I say my work was "in" the MCA, even though it was only in the atrium? Probably not, but it was in the atrium, and that's awesome.

So, just wanted to share this new experience with you! My take-away is that I'm considering doing more live-painting events. I came home and immediately set up a permanent easel in my studio. The couch had to go... but who has time to sit? I can lounge around after I leave work for the day.


I always try to share the more uplifting elements of my life and business - however, I am going to let you in on my challenges today. I just finished checking and answering emails (and that's ALL I've done), and it's already noon! What the? Usually I am past this by 9 or 10, and usually I have a better attitude about the time I spent. I generally enjoy checking my emails. Not today!

I have a LOT of production work to get done this month. This is supposed to be a good thing. Instead of tackling it one day at a time, today I am worrying about the entire month, which is not helping me at all.

I am afraid, as all artists are, of the blank canvas.

I am four days in to a new journey in yoga and health. I've been going with my husband to an awesome hot yoga studio nearby, and eating good foods and drinking plenty of water. In a few MORE days I am going to feel amazing, but I currently feel grouchy, sore, and like I'm getting the flu. Toxins are moving through me on their way out. This affects my business-self (since hey, I'm the same human in my life and in my work.) I'm a grumpus about the fact that my previous yoga experience didn't have me in tip-top shape to handle this with ease. I feel I've been lazy, and I'm judging myself.

Finally, a part of me is afraid that my dream of owning my own business - and having extra vacation time to spend with family - is going to turn into having a busy schedule like everybody else, and maybe even less vacation time. This fear is not based in reality; so far, I have had more flexibility at the holidays and have been able to write my own calendar within reason. I can become very "busy" before it starts eating into Christmas time. Maybe I'm just resisting growth in general today. Supposedly we are all a little scared of success.

ahhh. I feel better already! Thank you friends, colleagues, clients and even potential clients for the space to be honest. I'm going to go take care of myself with lunch and tea and then I'm going to "kill it" this afternoon. A little illustrating and I'll be back to myself in no time.

If you have any fears today, I want you to know that you are not alone.

Also... it is Friday!


I used to think I could and should do EVERYTHING myself. I would be a renaissance Maya. With my first business (a retail art supply shop) I took control of everything and accomplished... not a lot. I hired people but didn't give them meaningful work to do. I tried to be marketing, marketing communications (even though I didn't know that term yet,) sales, janitorial, IT, purchasing, and everything else. Many things were thus half-assed; pardon my French. There were many wonderful things about the business - but it disproved the Maya-should-do-everything theory. That store is just one example; I bit off more than I could chew in many areas of my life. "Then"... I "saw the light."

For a long time, I thought Shoemaker Medical should stay very narrow in its offerings. Medical illustration already spans several scientific subjects and can vary quite a bit from project to project. This would provide all the excitement I could ever want. I would only sell medical illustration/animation no matter what. This is what I was trained for. This is what I do.

I kept saying things like "stick to what you're an expert at" (not grammar, it would seem) and "I should only sell services that I am realllly good at doing." It was a good sentiment. I didn't want to sell anybody crap or subject my clients to my learning curve while picking up a new skill. OR bite off more that I could chew, again.

I am now realizing that a brilliant middle ground exists, where I can expand my business and at the same time take BETTER care of my clients. I'm just beginning to subcontract others (experts in other vocations,) to take care of needs such as medical writing, social media, and design. This came about when I started listening to what clients were saying, even if they weren't consciously asking me to sell them a new service. I finally realized that my advice to my client - to hire a qualified professional to write something, or to design something, or whatever - was not helpful enough. (Even if the company has hired that type of vendor before, chances are your contact has not personally done it.) I found out that by finding, hiring, and managing a medical writer for one of my clients, I was easing their mind and taking care of something big for them with much less effort. The look of relief on my contact's face was enough to tell me I was doing the right thing.

So far we are wrapping up the first couple of projects using subcontractors and they've been great. My job is to make sure everybody has what they need, the job gets done, and the files go to the right place. Sometimes this makes my life easier too! For example, we're writing copy and I'm doing illustrations related to that copy. Now, I'm in the loop, I have a better understanding of the content faster, and I don't have to spend the time hunting for that copy - I know exactly where it is! Pretty cool.

If a client wants my advice on who to hire without paying me to manage, I still gladly refer them to great vendors; however, if they need my help, I am willing and able to offer that now.

So, is Shoemaker Medical going to turn into an "agency" for Healthcare Communications? I don't know. I don't think so. Am I going to actively market medical writing and web design? I'm not sure. But I know I am personally adding one additional service - project management - and hiring experts to provide real needs as I see them for my clients. Turns out I am good at project management, so the "don't want to sell crap" excuse holds no water. It's a new day for my business, and maybe I'm experiencing a little personal growth too.

If you're interested in learning more about subcontracting for your small business, check out this article on Freelance Switch.

all siblings all the time

You may have noticed that my company, Shoemaker Medical, has been hiring a lot of people lately, and that they are all my relatives. It's true, we've added 6 brothers and sisters to our team of associates - it sounds crazy, but these people are a great fit (in 6 different ways), and we know that because we've known them forever. We are lucky to have super siblings, and we think the world of them. Siblings by Anne RuthmannSo I just wanted to take a moment to introduce you to them as a group and to point you to our team bios page, where you can learn more about each associate individually.