“How to Be a Stomach” represents the scientific process of digestion with an emphasis
on the role of the stomach and its sphincters. My goal was to create a fun twist on the typical scientific illustration by personifying the stomach as a friendly cartoon character named Mr. Churnley, as well as letting the viewer see inside the various structures of the gastrointestinal tract.
While the intricacies of digestion and nutrient absorption are quite detailed and complex,
Mr. Churnley breaks down the process of digestion within and around the stomach into four main steps. The process is explained through words and images from the time chewed up food enters the stomach from the esophagus to when the partially digested, liquified food is expelled into the small intestine.
The simplification of this scientific process appeals primarily to young viewers (i.e.
elementary school-aged children) who are learning the basics of the human body. My main
inspiration for this project came from the television series The Magic School Bus, an animated show that I enjoyed watching as a child. In each episode, an enthusiastic science teacher takes her elementary school-aged students on exciting educational adventures. “How to Be a Stomach” was specifically inspired by the episode of The Magic School Bus where the young students learn about digestion by shrinking themselves and exploring the inside of the digestive tract firsthand. With this young audience in mind, I designed “How to Be a Stomach” to be an educational graphic that might be featured within the context of a children’s magazine like Highlights. However, this piece also appeals to older viewers within the general public because it converts a rather mundane and unappealing process into a light-hearted illustration.
In addition, I simplified the process of digestion through several artistic means. I used
black Micron pens on white paper to create a high contrast, graphic line drawing that would be easy to read and understand. Arrows are employed to help the viewer follow the path of the food through the digestive tract. I created my own tubular “stomach” font for the title that highlights Mr. Churnley’s playfully plump features, and I added additional text and lines by editing the drawing in Photoshop and Illustrator. In order to emphasize the stomach’s role in my illustration, I added the most value and texture to the large stomach in the center of the composition. Mr. Churnley narrates the process of digestion, essentially serving as the viewer’s human body tour guide. Through repetition and specific placement of this character, the viewer is led through the slightly diagonal composition in a purposeful way. Finally, detail boxes allow the viewer to “zoom in” on critical areas of the system, including the opening and closing of both the cardiac and pyloric sphincter, as well as the churning and mixing that occurs within the stomach walls. Therefore, through both scientific and artistic methods, this illustration aims to give viewers a better understanding of the process of digestion in an entertaining way.