Using Body Painting and Other Art-Based Approaches to Teach Anatomy

  • Gabrielle M. FinnEmail author


Recent years have seen a change in the teaching methods utilized within human anatomy education. Fewer cadavers, coupled with time constraints and limited numbers of trained staff, have forced anatomists to formulate new approaches to teaching. Student-led dissection has been replaced by the use of prosection; student–teacher interaction has been replaced by self-directed learning. In response to such challenges, faculty are opting to use novel methods of teaching, often drawn from outside of the medical context, including virtual dissection, wearable anatomical garments, and life drawing classes, all of which have added new dimensions to the classroom. One of the most popular approaches is body painting.

Body painting involves painting anatomical structures, such as muscles of facial expression, dermatomes or abdominal viscera, on the surface of the skin. It is cost effective and can easily be applied to large classes. Students are expected to paint, following detailed guidelines, and are (optionally) used as the canvas to be painted themselves. This process of painting internal structures onto the body, promotes knowledge retention, creates an exciting teaching environment, and improves students’ engagement in their anatomical studies.


Facial Expression Teaching Session Bony Landmark Anterior Thigh Instruction Sheet 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hull York Medical SchoolUniversity of YorkHeslingtonUK

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