Archive for transplant

A Liver Transplant Journey

On March, 30 2017, Benjamin Hummel gave a candid talk about dealing with life long chronic illness, which includes ulcerated colitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, the two transplants that it resulted and his art journey during that process. This inspirational, and sometimes humorous, talk was presented to the students and faculty of the illustration department at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Below is a video of that talk.

This Year’s Liver Transplant Card

This year’s liver transplant card features the American bison grazing on the Colorado Front Range. As many of you know, my life from childhood has been one that deals with debilitating chronic auto-immune disabilities. One direct result of this is PSC, which ultimately destroys the liver and requires transplantation. This I endured as a 15 year old. So it is with great honor that I continue to design the annual calendar card for the great people at the University of Colorado Liver Transplant Team.


For whatever reason, all I knew going into this painting is that I wanted to paint buffalo. And grass. Lots of grass. In my head, that’s all I saw. Unlike most pieces, I did not start with a color study and barely a rough sketch. I started with a red and brown underpainting and then I began to look for shapes and forms in my gestural brush work and started sketching out from there. When I got to the background mountains, I decided I should probably pick actual Colorado peaks, so I choose Long’s Peak. After the bison were painted in (they were the easy part), I took a breath, went “here goes nothing” and just started hacking away at the grassy areas.


I painted the transplant ribbon on a separate canvas and merged the two digitally. I’m absolutely thrilled how it turned out! Being a freelance artist has been a blessing, allowing me to work when I have good days, and work around my rough days. And I do still have rough days. I’ll always have them. But the gift of organ donation has given me 24 additional full and powerfully rich years. I am deeply blessed.


Green Ribbon of Hope


Once again, I was privileged this year to create the art for the University of Colorado Transplant unit’s Christmas card. The image that we decided to go with was a more pastoral winter scene, something that invoked Colorado. Since the green ribbon has such strong symbolism with organ donation, we always try to tie it in (no pun intended) the design somehow. Some years, it remained hidden, other years it’s a part of the main attraction.

This year, we decided to weave it throughout the aspen, which then serves both as a compositional element, as well as convey the idea that the continuation of life is felt throughout. I know this first hand, as many of you are aware of my story, I’m a two time liver-transplant survivor, made necessary from the debilitating auto-immune disorder from which I suffer. These cards are very personal to me, and I’m very honored to be a part of this ongoing holiday tradition.

Once the initial concept was complete, I rendered several sketches, playing around with different value studies and color schemes. I decided to make it appear as if it is a new morning. Fewer things are more beautiful than a cold winter morning as the sun rises on freshly fallen snow, and I wanted to convey the sense of new beginnings through this idea.

All of it was done in acrylic on board (with really tiny brushes… which reminds me, I need to go buy more brushes…)

color studies

I did multiple color studies in Photoshop before moving to the final.

Customized Calendar Card for University Hospital.


Just put the finishing touches on another customized holiday calendar card for University Hospital. Specifically, this was for the division of transplant surgery, a very meaningful place for me. Every year I am privileged to design their card, and every year I am challenged with how to incorporate the green ribbon into the illustration–the green ribbon symbolizing organ donation. For those who do not know my story, I am a two time liver transplant recipient, the result of an aggressive auto-immune problem. The gift of life is very sobering, and I do not take my second chance of living for granted. Though the auto-immune still continues to plague me, I make it a point to drink in every living moment I can and to make the most of the skills and opportunities given me.

If you are curious to see more, please watch the video I made a few years back (below). It also serves as another portfolio piece and an exploration into some ModNarrative animation.

Regarding the above card, because of the client, I went back to a more realistic style, but my biggest challenge was how to make the vignettes of people enjoying life appear as reflections in the ribbon. I knew color had to be the answer, but it was really quite the brain warp mixing green skin tones and trusting that this was correct. And with every calendar card created for University Hospital, I included the honeybee. Sometimes it’s hidden, this time he’s a little more prominent. To me, nothing represents life quite like bees do and it just so happens that “Hummel” means “Honeybee” in German.