Bryan Christie was born in 1973 in New York City. He grew up around artists; his mother was a painter and his father an illustrator. At 11 he began playing saxophone and went on to graduate from LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts. He shifted from music to the visual arts when at 20 he began interning for his father’s illustration and animation studio, SlimFilms.
Bryan Christie was born in 1973 in New York City. He grew up around artists; his mother was a painter and his father an illustrator. At 11 he began playing saxophone and went on to graduate from LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts. He shifted from music to the visual arts when at 20 he began interning for his father’s illustration and animation studio, SlimFilms.At age 24 he was hired as an art director for the magazine Scientific American and fell in love with science and its visual communication. He discovered a similarity between the magazine’s editors and the artists he’d grown up around; they both had a passion for seeking reality. He came to understand that science and art are branches of the same tree, both giving meaning and context to the world but from different perspectives and modes: namely, logic and reason for science and intuition and emotion for art.
In 2002 he started his own scientific illustration studio, Bryan Christie Design. The studio specializes in medical, anatomical, and architectural illustration. His studio’s work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, WIRED, Esquire, and National Geographic.
His life took a radical shift in 2005 when he saw Michelangelo’s Pieta in Rome: “It truly was a spiritual experience. To see how stone could be turned into flesh, and that flesh—the way Michelangelo sculpted it—could hint at something of the spirit. I was looking at three things at once; I was looking at spirit; I was looking at flesh; I was looking at stone. When I saw that this concrete, inert material could hint at something, could be a window into something so sublime, so beautiful, it completely changed the direction of my life. And it was at that point that I decided to start making art in earnest.”
In explaining his painting technique, Christie says, “Using 3-D software I create renderings that are visually similar to MRIs. To create the imagery I pose an anatomically correct human model with its internal system in virtual 3-D space. These models are the same I use for the medical and anatomical illustrations my studio creates. I spin the camera around the figure and make renderings at every 15 to 30 degrees. I then composite three to 12 layers in Photoshop. From there I print each individual layer on silk. Covering a panel with encaustic I lay a layer of silk on it and then weld it to the encaustic using a blow torch and heat gun. I then add another layer of silk and repeat the process.”
“I look at my work,” Christie says, “as a meditation: a search for our hidden infinite nature. By using layers I’m obscuring some of the imagery. My experience of life is that much is obscured, from the physical to the emotional to the spiritual. Our epidermal layer obscures our fat and musculature and skeletal system. Emotionally I am unclear much of the time with what is bringing up the feelings I experience. I rarely experience the wonder and mystery of life; this is obscured by the grind of daily life and the realities of corporeal existence. I believe this obscuring and layering is a requisite in being human.” He goes on, “Everything is so fleeting; everything is changing constantly; there are beautiful things happening; there are awful things happening. There’s birth; there’s death. But I hope that if we step away from it and see it in its totality, there’s a certain beauty to it all. And from a certain perspective, it’s all perfect.”
Christie lives in Maplewood, N.J., with his wife and two children.