I am painfully aware that nearly all my paintings and drawings seriously lack in terms of proper anatomy. The figures often look unnatural, twisted, deformed etc. More advanced colleagues told me I need to work on my anatomy.
But here’s the problem: how do I do that?
What can I do to help my practical understanding of anatomy and the ability to apply it? I studied some anatomy textbooks and I have an idea of the bones and muscles of the human body, and I can tell the difference between the lats and traps. Still, I can’t apply it to have realistic looking figures and heads.
What should I be doing? Drawing skulls and then faces on them? Painting over skulls on faces? Same for figures – should I be drawing bones on photos / well drawn figures? Should I be drawing the pics from anatomy books? Are there any others I should be doing, that I can’t even think of right now?
I want to have a practical understanding of anatomy, I even bought some books (like Tom Flints & Peter Stayner’s anatomy for the artist), but I don’t really know how to use them! There are just some cool drawings of people in different poses, but no actual advice on how to practice it and learn it!
Besides advice on what I should be drawing, I would welcome advice on how I should be drawing. I mean the things I should have in mind while studying. Should I be trying to envision the form? Should I try to imagine the muscles beneath the skin while I draw nude figures? Or maybe I should be trying to simplify the forms? These are just examples of the type of advice I would like to receive.
Please note, I want to study anatomy in order to be able to draw anatomically correct figures from my imagination later, when I’m more advanced. This will probably affect the way I should be studying anatomy. Making an analogy to studying rendering forms and lighting, I was once told: “mindlessly drawing just what you see won’t help you improve your rendering skills for imaginative objects. Try to think about why a shadow is placed where it is and why is it shaped so, why so it soft or hard, where the reflected light comes from etc.”.
No book you can buy or advice you can get will replace the experience of drawing from real pyhsical models.
The thing is, drawing from references like books or other drawings can help you understand how the drawing has to look. For example, looking at a drawing you might realize how incredibly weird lines can run with a certain perspective distortion and how they look drawn.
But that is not the real knowledge you use when trying to capture or imagine an anatomically correct figure. Only looking at something physical and transforming it to lines on paper will really train this skill. Things that I can personally recommend:
- croquis drawing sessions; that means, one posture from a model every 1-5 minutes, so you train your ability for fast perception and naturally inforces drawing from big to detail, not the other way around
- ask friends, family to pose or draw them while they watch TV, draw strangers on the bus, in the coffee shop, at the mall, anything and anyone that is in a place for more than 20 seconds can be your model
- drawing other real life objects and situation
- in drawing sessions, make a point to try out different approaches and pay attention to different things(books might recommend some more) for example: figure – ground, light – shadow, weight and tension, draw with your left hand, draw without looking at the paper, draw with materials that you don’t normally use, draw with a single line only
- take a look at what you have drawn a week after you’ve drawn it to identify what is off and what is spot on; you might redraw from your drawings