Ways to Learn Anatomy

This week I will share with you a small summary on the different ways you can learn human anatomy.

So let me explain you what advantages and disadvantages the different approaches have:

  • Reference/anatomy books: This is a good and often cheap way to start. You can either buy a book or you can simply go to a nearby library/friend and borrow one (I recommend Gottfried Bammes, Bridgeman and Andrew Loomis). You can even get some good books for free (and legally) on the internet. Learn some theory on the human body and then you will start understanding and using reference better.
  • Videos: You can learn a lot from videos too but don’t expect them to be as thorough as books. On the other hand you are given a nice explanation with real models!
  • 3D images: It’s always nice to have a video of a body part but it’s even better to have a 3D model you can turn and scale whenever you like! In order to use this option you’ll either need a CG (Computer Graphic) program and a model or you can use some video games with 3D character gallery, but make sure the humans are realistically proportioned (that’s why it’s a good idea to learn some theory first!)
  • Nude life drawings: Honestly, I can only recommend you this after learning at least the basic bone and muscle structure of the human body. Most of the times your model’s muscles aren’t going to be that prominent so you’ll be forced to sketch something you don’t really understand. You should use nude drawings to consolidate your knowledge and get a better feeling of proportions and motion.
  • Figures: And finally one really good reference in my point of view. Although you can’t use figures for motion studies you can see and feel the bone/muscle structure. It’s really a different experience than with CG models. Additionally figures can have more pronounced muscle areas than real humans in nude drawing courses.

Unfortunately real good figures are expensive and hard to find but here’s a little trick: You can buy an action figure and use that for reference! But you have to be really careful to pick a realistic one. Here are some examples:

Raiden (MGS4) All rights reserved by Konami.

Raiden (MGS4) All rights reserved by Konami.

A rather bad example with unclear muscle flow

Please don’t forget that it’s always best to try as many different approaches as possible! Learning the human anatomy takes a lot of time and experience and you can use any help you can get 😉

Reference in Other Artist’s Artwork

Tip of the week time!

Got a favorite artist/artists? Then you should find some of their artwork and start analyzing it!

Let’s say you like how someone draws people. Then pick out a few simple images made by this artist and try breaking it down to simple rules you can remember. These rules (like proportions, forms, colors etc.) don’t need to be conventional. Try really finding your own helping anchors, patterns and definitions, this way you’ll memorize them much better than anything you are taught from the outside. Make the image’s construction your own invention! Perhaps there is more than one way to draw the human depicted. Don’t be afraid to create some crazy formulas! The more unique the better 🙂

Nevertheless you should avoid applying too many different patterns. This is going to get you confused later on when you try to remember how you constructed the image. Use what you already know and combine it with a unique theory you came up with. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not about inventing a whole new way on drawing no one has ever thought of. This whole exercise is about the process not the outcome. Your brain learns and remembers your own inventions over external ones.

I actually started using this approach not so long ago but I have to say it really works better for me! I learned a lot of things by only drawing them once but concentrating on finding my own patterns. By the way, this really trains creativity 😉