Origin Story: Anthony Baker, CMI

There are many unique and interesting routes to the medical illustration profession. In each blog entry, we share a different AMI member’s path to becoming a medical illustrator. We hope that people both inside and outside our organization will find these personal histories compelling.

Headshot of Anthony Baker

How did you find out about medical illustration?

My dad’s passion was drawing and painting. He worked as an engineer but taught figure drawing on the side. I spent a lot of time drawing with him. We lived in San Diego, and he would take me to Balboa Park and to the beach on sketching trips. I learned many kernels of wisdom from him such as, “light against dark,” and the best time to study the form of a tree is in winter, when all the leaves are gone. My dad preferred still life and “plein air” painting, but I was drawn to the human figure. I decided I wanted to be an artist (it was either art or acting, and I figured I had a better chance with the visual arts). So, I entered art school.

Pages from one of my father’s many sketchbooks (circa 1970s).
Painting by my father, Donald S. Baker: “Still Life with Blue Cup,” 2000.

At the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD), back in the “MTV” 80’s, my interest went from fine art, to fashion design, to commercial illustration. But one of my favorite classes was figure drawing taught by Nathaniel “Tan” Larrabee. Mr. Larrabee would often talk about how body’s form was shaped by its underlying anatomical structures. From then on I was intrigued by what lay under the surface. However, I graduated from art school without ever hearing anything about medical illustration. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I actually met a medical illustrator, that I learned about the profession.

Why did you decide to become a medical illustrator? What did you do to pursue it?

Carbon Dusk Skull, 1989. First project in medical illustration program.

For a couple years after graduation I operated a freelance design and illustration studio, and worked for a printing company. One day at the printing company a local medical illustrator, Jodi Fulks Sjogren, brought in some illustrations to be printed in a promotional brochure. We struck up a conversation, which led to some visits to her studio to find out more about the field. She put me in touch with a medical illustration program at The Ohio State University. I enrolled, was accepted and graduated in 1991. The program closed in the mid-90s. Since graduating from the program, except for a year teaching English in Northeast China, I’ve worked as a medical illustrator.

Where has your medical illustration path taken you?

At CCAD, there were no courses or lectures to expose students to the field of medical illustration. That is changing now, thanks to the efforts of Mandy Root-Thompson. As a professional medical illustrator, I’ve had the opportunity to return to CCAD and serve as guest lecturer and mentor, and introduce several interested students to the field. And after working at the Mayfield Neurological Institute/University of Cincinnati Department of Neurosurgery and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, I’m back at The Ohio State University illustrating and managing the department at the institution where I had learned so much over 25 years ago.

"Self portrait with zygoma," 1986. Note the hair. Hey, it was the 80s.
Larrabee’s figure drawing class, 1985. After sketching a pose, he would have us add overlays of bones and muscles.