Hey there people! Just your friendly neighborhood Mtn-Man here to bring you another one of his lengthy, drawn out, long-winded Tuesday Tip! So, as some of you might or might not know has recently started hosting an advice column for members to ask questions to the admin team. Well, for our most current advice column, the questions all seemed to be centered around one specific topic: Anatomy. Not all questions were exactly the same, so for this tip, I'm pretty much just going to do a basic run through of a bit of human anatomy, proportions, and gesture.
Human Anatomy Many artists debate the question, “Why should you study anatomy?” But it’s less often that you hear an equally important question: “How do you study anatomy?” A lot of times for artist just starting out, their drawings of people are flat and formless, with arms and legs that look like rubber. There is that apparent need to study the anatomy to bring better volume, depth, and structure to your figure drawings. So like most people, the first thing you do is head right over to the anatomical charts, staring incredulously at the complex mass of muscles that comprised the human body. None of the muscles are easily definable or confined to an individual body part. Instead, they seem to incoherently criss-cross bones, with muscle masses diving in and out of one another. Fortunately though there is an easier and better way to study anatomy. Many art teachers evangelize against the study of anatomy. I can certainly understand their fear; quite a few students who have studied anatomy end up jumping the gun by drawing their preconceptions of the figure’s anatomy instead of the visual reality in front of them or even the visualized reality of creating your own work from thought or memory. But this is a limitation of the student who hasn’t studied enough, not an inevitable result of the study of anatomy itself. As the great anatomy teacher Robert Beverly Hale has noted, "The study of anatomy is the 'scientific' side of art, meant as a tool to help you understand the model’s volumetric nature and find subtle visual details you might otherwise miss". This means you should dedicate a certain amount of time solely for your anatomical investigations so that your “scientific” endeavors don’t pollute your artistic efforts. Your anatomical efforts, though, should always include drawing the human figure from life, which gives you something compellingly real to keep you motivated and to judge your studies against. A brief study of form concepts will help simplify your initial efforts to understand anatomy. Unsophisticated as it may sound, all your knowledge of anatomy will do you no good if you don’t understand how each limb and digit can be visualized as a tapering cylinder; the head as a type of cornered sphere; and the torso as a blocky, tubular form. With this basic understanding as a foundation, you can then proceed into a more intensive study of the bones and their joint systems, followed by the individual muscles along with their origins and insertions. Ultimately, the idea is to learn anatomy so well that it becomes part of your subconscious so that you don’t have to think about it while you draw. Incorporating anatomical knowledge into your art should become a fluid, intuitive act, rather than a focal point that detracts from your creative process. As it stands, there are many resources available to help you pursue your studies, including books, videos, lectures, and sculptural approaches.
Drawing From Life If you’re like most people, you may reach your frustration level rather quickly when drawing from anatomical charts, and you might find that there is a limit to how much information you can absorb in this way. To extend your motivation and energy levels, attend a sketch group or figure-drawing class as often as possible. It’s extremely important to trust your eye instead of imposing your knowledge of anatomy on the model. But turn to your anatomy book as soon as you see a shape or lump on the model that defies the limits of your anatomical knowledge, and try to find the muscle or bone causing that shape. Although studying anatomy through books alone can become tedious and seem like an artificial process, using the model in front of you in this way will help you to build a list of compelling questions that an anatomy book can help answer. It’s not all about bones and muscles. Skin, fat, veins, the model’s age, and the influences of the environment all have an effect on the muscles underneath and are an essential element of your studies. Use life drawing sessions to drill yourself. Look at the model for superficial anatomy, and question yourself on the boney and muscular landmarks below the skin. When drawing from life, it may seem difficult to identify some of the shallower, broader muscles, such as the serratus anterior, external oblique, and the rhomboids. However, as with the other more pronounced, tubular muscles, you merely need to determine their important point-to-point origins and insertions. As just one example, when looking at Anthony van Dyck’s drawing 'Seated Man, Leaning Backward', you may have a hard time finding the rhomboids muscle until you determine its origin along the spine and its insertion along the edge of the scapula. Besides their flatness, these muscles can seem complicated because of the way they often interweave with one another. Nevertheless, you can usually find some sort of rhythmic relationship between the muscles to help you accurately place their complicated forms. Once again, the key to finding these subtle rhythms is to know each muscle’s origins and insertions. In the case of the interconnected serratus and oblique, their joined boundary runs along a curving line on the front of the rib cage that points toward the nipple. The rhythmic boundary line between these two flat muscles also happens to be the same point on the rib cage where one inserts and the other originates. As you become more adept and informed about anatomy, it can be dangerously easy to think you already know everything. So, when drawing from life, make it a point to actively question your presumed knowledge with each new pose. Don’t just assume you know what causes all of those bumps and shapes in front of you. Artistic anatomy is a never-ending subject. The more you know, the more you’ll discover what you don’t know, and the more you will want to know. But, unless you are investigating anatomy as an end in itself, remember why you are studying the subject. It’s a tool to enhance your awareness of visual subtlety and structure on the human form.
While there is significant variation in anatomical proportions between people, there are many references to body proportions that are intended to be canonical. body proportions are the study of relation of human or animal body parts to each other and to the whole. These ratios are used in veristic depictions of the figure, and also become part of an Aesthetic canon within a culture which is always adept to change based on the origin of the artistic style.
It is important in figure drawing to draw the human figure in proportion. Though there are subtle differences between individuals, human proportions fit within a fairly standard range, though artists have historically tried to create idealized standards, which have varied considerably over different periods and regions. In modern figure drawing, the basic unit of measurement is the 'head', which is the distance from the top of the head to the chin. This unit of measurement is reasonably standard, and has long been used by artists to establish the proportions of the human figure. In the idealized version of the human body, the format would be that a full grown adult would stand at approximately eight 'heads' tall. This is a standard form of anatomical proportions that has been viewed as the mainstay, and most agreed upon by artists world wide.
Note that you’ll want to determine the height of your figures on page, divide the height by 8, and work from there, you’ll see there are specific ratios for certain areas of the body. The measurements are determined by head units, one of the 8 divisions you set up is the size of the human head, everything is in relation to that one size as an "Idealistic" form. Most contemporaries feel that the average, or "standard" head unit proportions put the human figure closer to 7 1
head units. If we are to take Greek and Roman sculpture into consideration as well as modern comic book illustrations, or our "Heroic" body models, those are placed much closer to 9 head units proportionally. To successfully learn basic human proportion, try the following exercises.
- Do a series of sketches on paper first to get the feeling for drawing human forms based on head units.
- Make sure you draw three views – Anterior (front), Lateral (side) and Posterior (back). This will give you a good sense of where parts should be in relation to others.
- Repeat the process a number of times and make a wide variety of body types using the other proportion techniques (standard, ideal,and heroic) If you do this enough times, you’ll get the hang of the proportions of body parts a lot faster than assuming they should be a certain way and drawing by trial and error. You wont make blatant mistakes either.
What you are essentially doing is conditioning yourself to draw the human form in proportion consistently. After doing some gesture drawings, bust out a proportioned human form if you feel you’re not quite getting the sizes down right. Then go back to your subject and try it again!
A gesture drawing is work of art defined by rapid execution. Typical situations involve an artist drawing a series of poses taken by a model in a short amount of time, often as little as 30 seconds, or as long as 2 minutes. Gesture drawing is often performed as a warm-up for a life drawing session.
In less typical cases the artist may be observing people or animals going about normal activities with no special effort to pause for the artist. For example, drawing from people on the street, performers, athletes, or drawing animals at the zoo. More generally, a gesture drawing may be any drawing which attempts to capture action or movement.
The primary purpose of gesture drawing is to facilitate the study of the human figure in motion. This exploration of action is helpful for the artist to better understand the exertions of muscles, the effects of twisting on the body, and the natural range of motion in the joints. Basically, it is a method of training hands to quickly sketch what the brain has already seen. Staying "focused" means sustained concentration. Gesture drawings may take as long as two minutes, or as short as five seconds, depending on what the focus of the exercise is. Sometimes called "scribble studies", a completed gesture drawing need not accurately resemble the subject when done correctly.
The practice allows an artist to draw strenuous or spontaneous poses that cannot be held by the model long enough for an elaborate study, and reinforces the importance of movement, action, and direction, which can be overlooked during a long drawing. Thus, an approach is encouraged which notes basic lines of rhythm within the figure. The rapidity of execution suggests an aesthetic which is most concerned with the essence of the pose, and an economy of means in its representation, rather than a careful study of modeling of light on the form. For some artists, there is a calisthenic logic: just as an athlete warms up before exercising or participating in sports, artists use gesture drawing to prepare themselves mentally and physically for a figure drawing session. The fast pace of gesture poses help an artist "loosen up" to avoid a stiff drawing style.The artist who undertakes gesture drawing also receives the benefits of self-training their drawing ability. This kind of very rapid drawing of the figure builds (through the act of frequent repetition) an instinctive understanding of human proportions which may aid the artist when executing more extended works.
For some artists, a gesture drawing is the first step in preparing a more sustained work. Other artists, who seek to capture brief moments of time in a direct manner, consider the gesture drawing to be the end product. Drawing from life is often preferred over photographic reference as it allows the artist to view the model from multiple angles and without distortion of the lens or lighting. As well, the repetition of short drawings without pausing forces the artist to work intuitively.
Drawings longer than two minutes are usually not considered gestures, as they inevitability allow the artist more time to measure and plan the drawing, or to begin to define the form with modeling. Once the artist begins measuring, erasing, shading or otherwise improving the drawing with a second pass, they have ceased to gesture draw and begun rendering. They will be improving the complexity of their current drawing, but they are no longer practicing their ability to draw correctly from an instant impression.
Summary So it seems that this "little" topic of the human anatomy is something that can be taken as quick notes to artistic perfections, or something that you'll spend your life time trying to master without every being completely adapt at. One thing is certain though, anyone who draw figures, whether in a very cartoonish design, anime/manga, or realistic, you need to know the fundamentals of the human body and proportion before you can begin to apply them in your specific "stylistic" approach and begin to warp them. How do you warp a form that you don't even understand? The Answer is hit and miss for the most part. Some people can do it based off a good hand-eye and mind-eye coordination, but for most of us its just something we need to practice over and over again until it becomes second nature. Another thing I didn't hit on with this weeks tip was "Camera Angle". As an artist we are free to draw whatever we want, however we want. A lot of times though we tend to lean on what we know, and seeing as we see the world on a horizontal axis at eye level, that's where most people seem to start/base their art. When trying to make more dynamic and unique pieces of art, one thing that people should always consider is that, "You are the director of your own work". If you think that your figure drawings is as good as its going to get, then why not try the same picture from a vastly different camera angle? You can even keep the same pose, but without a comprehensive understanding of the human anatomy, you might find yourself falling a bit short on something you thought you'd just mastered. So maybe next time I'll talk a little bit more about drawing the figure in space. Foreshortening, and character pose dynamics. Sound good? Well ok then, until next time folks. -Mtn-Man
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