All the same.
Then: Figure Drawing (2012)
Now: Clinical Anatomy (2016)
The world becomes a little bit brighter when your passions intersect.
Figure Drawing References
I’m not actually that good at figure drawing (unless I really, really work hard at it for several hours at the very least). But I did try my hand or two at studying the how-to.
Many resources would recommend studying the way the muscles and bones are arranged first. Personally, I found that kind of commitment superfluous. While it did help in surface anatomy, there are simply a lot of muscles which aren’t apparent when viewing from the outside. They aren’t even immediately palpable.
Nowadays, I do most of my figure and gesture drawing (rare as it is) through surface and shape analysis. I don’t really think much about what goes on under the skin, though naturally things like perspective, proportion and the invisible mannikin still matter.
If you’re starting out, I have no doubt that Vanderpoel’s The Human Figure was recommended to you. While the drawings were fantastic, I found the format and text of the reference too dry.
Here are the ones I used and enjoyed instead. I think most of these are available either online or on sale. If you need any help with sourcing, just send me a quick e-mail or comment below!
Andrew Loomis’ Figure Drawing For All Its Worth is a helpful start for classic techniques in perspective, proportion and flexibility. There’s also a good section on drawing the classic mannikin. I didn’t finish the whole book (I found it also too text heavy) but skipping to the pictures and examples still helped.
If I’m not mistaken, the rib cage and pelvis technique (which I found immensely helpful), was drawn from Michael Hampton’s Figure Drawing: Design and Innovation. The dynamism was great for determining balance as well as for practicing different poses. I remember drawing different boxes/shapes randomly, and then trying to connect them together in meaningful poses.
A lot of the muscle studies are also from that book.
Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing From Life is absolutely wonderful for its discussion on forms. And the samples were gorgeous. They looked drawn from movement, so you can clearly see how dynamism and repetition affects the posture and values of the forms.
Journana Medlej has one of the most comprehensive, public and online resources on figure drawing. I love her work. I think you can still find her many guides on DeviantArt.
Erik Gist has short guides to interlocking forms and shape analysis, which is helpful for drawing from pictures.
Stanislav Propenko has online guides on the head and features like the eyes, ears and nose. I personally loved the guide on the head, as the techniques helped my drawings look more natural in terms of shape, movement and alignment of features.
In terms of model resources, there are many ways you can get reference photos. One of my go-to favorites is the site Figure & Gesture Drawing. You can choose the time settings, class mode or type of models (male or female, nude or dressed) you want to see. I also go to several Tumblr blogs for inspiration, like Figure Drawing References. Whenever any of their photos appear on my dash, I sometimes just pull out a piece of paper and start sketching.
Of course, the best resource is still live drawing. Though it might be difficult to find a model who’ll sit still long enough!
As a neophyte student of anatomy, I found Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy as the most helpful. While there is little to no text in this reference book, the drawings are gorgeous and inspirational. They seriously kept me motivated.
My opinion is that you don’t really need to read a lot for anatomy –at least if you’re a visual learner. As long as you can remember where the bones and muscles and nerves go, you can reasonably infer what their function and actions are. But then again, this assumes you have enough time to process the information. For exams, it’s still best to stick with reading and memorization!
The other reference I and most of my batchmates use is Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy. As the title suggests, the book features a lot of the common injuries and mechanisms of injuries as the parts of the body are discussed.
This has an edge over Netter, naturally, because while you can infer what happens when nerve so-and-so is cut simply by thinking about it, you won’t know the name of the condition if you don’t read. The drawings are less gorgeous though.
Going around the class, I observed that one of the most popular mobile/tablet/PC apps is Essential Anatomy (website here) developed by 3D 4 Medical. I personally adore how the app clearly shows the different nerves, muscles and so on. It allows you to visualize the structures in any perspective, as an isolated or connected structure, in its own system or region, and in different levels. The app even gives a brief description of attachments and functions, if I’m not mistaken.
Of course, as someone without a tablet (yet!), this isn’t a big option for me, but it seems to be a great boost to studying.
I’ve also been told that Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy (website here) is also a great resource. I already have copies of his videos, but I haven’t gotten around to viewing them yet. Following my batchmates’ reviews, I think the videos would help significantly. It’s like having a rewindable lecture, I suspect.
The best teacher to anatomy is still the human body. Firstly, you can start out with a visual and physical examination of surface anatomy of yourself and of your friends. Moore has several instructions on how you can make muscles palpable through action. Repetition of movement alongside recitation of muscle attachment and action can also help you remember how they work.
And ultimately, as a med student, the best lessons still happen during cadaver dissection. With a healthy serving of respect, the cadavers can show you the wonders of human evolution. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of tracing nerves from origin to point of innervation, and from reflecting muscles to see what’s underneath.
The human body is poetry in motion. Good luck, and all the best.
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THESE ARE AMAZING