The confusion of anatomy books.. How to use an anatomy book correctly?
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    The confusion of anatomy books.. How to use an anatomy book correctly?

    Hi there,

    I have just started summer holidays and have planned to dedicate this 4 month period to improving my art and draftsmanship by any means necessary. To achieve that goal I am starting with an intensive study of anatomy and to aid this pursuit I have gathered a number of sources on the issue:

    1- Master Class in Figure Drawing, by Roberet Beverly Hale
    2- Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist, by Peck
    3- Albinus On Anatomy by Robert Berverly Hale and Terence Coyle
    4- Anatomy for the Artist, by Jeno Barksay
    5- Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards.

    Now I've been sitting for a couple of days looking at these books and trying to figure out the best way to go about studying from them with no success, as I move on from one to the other. I do not know what to start with, do I start by drawing individual bones, or by drawing the skeleton, or different muscle groupings or by life drawing from the various images found in these books. Do I need to worry about the shading when dealing with muscles and bones or is the line the most important factor. I am willing to put in 15 hours a day or more but I need a point to start from. What is frustrating me is the lack of instructions. Shading is an important part of making a realistic form but non of my books touch on it.

    I am planing on going to life drawing classes but as these are expensive to attend and are limited in time, I figured studying from books is the best way to go.

    Your help and insight is much appreciated as I have been a lurker for some time and have read many many useful posts.

    Thanks for time!!

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    Betty Edwards isn't an "anatomy book." It's a basic primer on how to "see like an artist." So you should probably start with that.


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    im not sure how advanced you are, but i think a good thing would be just start drawing from life, and when you stumble upon things, look what book provides the answer

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    Thanks for your reply guys, but I am also curious as to how to actually learn from anatomy books. Do you draw every single page or is it more like familiarizing one's self with the different bone structures and how the system is linked?

    Sorry about Betty's book, it was added by mistake. I read it though and kind of understand what the point of the exercises are.

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    Well, to go by what my life drawing instructor last term did, you should draw what's in the anatomy book to really understand how things like muscles and joints work as a supplement to drawing the real thing. When you're studying from the books, and thinking of bone structure and the like, keep in mind those real bits of anatomy, and when you're doing life drawing be aware of what's going on under the surface.

    At least that's how she approached the topic. You may find other points of view that are just as helpful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Logo View Post
    Thanks for your reply guys, but I am also curious as to how to actually learn from anatomy books. Do you draw every single page or is it more like familiarizing one's self with the different bone structures and how the system is linked?

    Sorry about Betty's book, it was added by mistake. I read it though and kind of understand what the point of the exercises are.
    You read the books and do what they tell you. I know Anatomy books aren't just picture books, they do tell you how to use them. Especially the ones you listed.

    Your second statement kind of tells me you need to do the exercises, not just "kind of understand the point of them" Do that first, then come back when you have more questions. So start with Betty Edwards, because she gives you a starting point. (Yes, it's not an anatomy book)

    1. Do what they tell you. (If you don't understand what it's asking then ask us)
    2. Understand why you're doing it...how does it apply? What is it training you to do?
    3. Learn it's ok to make mistakes, sitting around pondering how to study it isn't gonna make you a better artist.

    So stop overthinking it.
    Just DRAW.

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    For anatomy books, draw out every single drawing in there. If you don't you won't remember it, or understand it fully. By drawing it out you put it solidly in your memory. To help keep it in there, what I did was copy something out, hide the book, and draw the exact same thing again from memory. I would then compare the two and write down what differences I could see. That way I was really aware of the forms and where I would naturally be off. It's all about repetition--I remember Dave Rapoza (who is awesome) saying he would copy every single drawing from an anatomy book 18 times!

    It is best to start with bones and then once you have a firm grasp on them, you can move onto the muscles. Many people start with muscles because they think that is all that matters, but without the underlying structure of bones it is all moot. Plus you need to know the bones to understand where the muscles originate and insert and what exactly their function is.

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    Try reversing all of the drawings in the book that you see. When you can't draw the anatomical images exactly how you see them in more of a copying manner, you must understand the construction of what is happening and as you draw you'll learn much more than by simply copying straightforward.

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    Only books on anatomy you really need are Bridgman's.

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    Personally I think you're going about it backwards if you plan on studying mainly from books. To learn how to draw the majority of your effort should be drawing from life - still life, figure, architecture, nature, et al.

    An excellent book for learning to draw through observation is "Drawing Essentials" by Deborah Rockman. It has a great section on sight measuring, drawing the figure, still life, shadows, etc. There are good ways to learn drawing that have been laid down over hundreds of years - and there are ways that will take a much less direct route, much more time and still not get to the heart of what drawing is about. Go for the approach that will get you the most from your efforts - and good luck! Sounds like you're very motivated!

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    "Only books on anatomy you really need are Bridgman's"

    Bridgman's illustrations aren't for everyone, in my experience. His style is too idiosyncratic and can be hard to read. I am sure it would work great if I could see him giving a demo and sketching on the blackboard as he explained - but as static images they are very stylized and can be hard to parse.

    Myself, I find that comparing data from several books works best. Less chance of mistake that way, and some books are better at explaining certain detail than others.

    Tip: don't copy drawings from the books. Use them to understand the structures and take your own notes.

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    Thank you all guys, you're bloody great!

    Well, I followed the advice of Arshes, stopped whining and started sketching. I am finding Hale's book very good and I have been copying from it all day yesterday and since I woke up today.

    I really do see the limitations of just copying from the anatomy books as one has to understand how that translates to real life in order to become a better artist. The problem is I can only go to life drawing classes for two hours a week, which is good, but not enough time to 'draw from life'. So I have a question, does drawing from anatomical references, or videos of life drawing classes help improving ones skill? I ask because although you will be represented with a real body, the representation will be in 2d in the case of a photo or video. What that limit the understanding of the 3d object?

    I hope I am making sense.

    And thank you so much for all your comments, I really do appreciate your input.

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    It is much easier if you draw from life, not from a picture of any kind. Binocular vision helps greatly to discern the form, and pictures are flat. Perhaps if you can find stereo photos of nudes? Anyway; you need a fairly solid knowledge of anatomy before you can deduce the form from a flat picture.

    But you do not have to limit yourself to life drawing classes. Observe and sketch people everywhere. Even if you don't sketch, observe and think of their form and what makes it up.

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    Drawing from life isn't limited to the figure - people sometimes confuse it with "life drawing", which is the study of the figure. You can draw anything from life, still life setups, nature, architecture, etc. There is a huge difference between drawing from life and working from 2D reference sources. So yes, draw from life rather than videos, photos, etc. Some 2D practice is ok but it isn't much help with learning. Eventually, when you have a good grasp of the fundamentals, you can use 2D reference effectively.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Logo View Post
    So I have a question, does drawing from anatomical references, or videos of life drawing classes help improving ones skill? I ask because although you will be represented with a real body, the representation will be in 2d in the case of a photo or video. What that limit the understanding of the 3d object?

    I hope I am making sense.

    And thank you so much for all your comments, I really do appreciate your input.
    Yes it definitely does. I encourage it over photos since we have 2 eyes and the camera has one.

    You'll definitely pick up more color than a camera does since it also tends to flatten shadows.

    If you can, pick up one of these: http://amzn.com/B0012OELRG It's a model skeleton. It's not as flexible as a real person or as "poseable" as a wooden mannikin, but it will be helpful in looking at the foundation of building a figure and with the right lighting fun for other studies too.

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    Bridgman's books are hard to understand at first. His writing is brief but highly allusive, follow all of his instructions. He argues and proves with his drawings, the only way to follow his meaning is with exact copies.

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    Just agreeing here with armando. Bridgman is my hero. Before him I couldn't really apply my anatomy very well. I sorta knew the muscles and bones, but couldn't draw a figure. After studying Bridgman, however, I suddenly understood it all, and my figures and anatomy improved tenfold. I finally understood the forms and how the muscles interlock.

    I have heard some say that his drawings are too sketchy of stylized, but never found this to be a problem. A couple times there were drawings that I didn't understand, but once I drew it out it made sense.

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    I recommend starting out just learning the simple construction of the figure using cubes, spheres, and cylinders. Learn about proportions and perspective as well. Then it's just a matter of going through anatomy books and doing studies, then trying to apply it from memory, then reviewing to see what you still need to work on. Anatomy is a very long journey of learning, so don't expect to master it in a few months. Just try to do an hour of anatomy a day for a year or so and then see where you're at. Vilppu and Bridgman are great for learning anatomy too by the way, and also figure drawing from life or photos is great. Good luck on your journey, and just don't give up; after a year or two it won't be so intimidating, haha

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    first,sorry for my english.
    i'm a italian man and im'not good in order to problem solving just now i've learning to watch but i've always the "ability" of understand what is good and what is a bad art.
    i've always feeling that what i see is incorrect.
    my old professor tell me ever of "formal information"
    for example:
    two fruit can have identical formal but in the reality can't have!
    good art is(and good masterclass figure)
    is the ability of undestand what is really do!
    the ability of transmit what you feeling.
    so...
    for me the correct use of anatomy book is:
    forget the name of thing..
    learn connection!
    see the object then draw,
    try to understand what is back and what is up in order to skeletal framework.
    countorn drawing is good in order to semplicity non in order to sculpture the figure..
    the result is manikin not a man!
    a man is meat!
    example:
    when was young i did look to my professor two artist:
    alex ross
    frazetta
    when he see alex ross he tell me " is'nt good"(by the way my professor was symply the best watercolor artist what i see)

    when he see frazetta tell me "this is good!"
    so

    ONE LINE!!
    this is good art!
    and good masterclass of figure.
    construct anatomy is good in order to rember!
    this is my opinion.
    symple line pure color.

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    for a good primer in using anatomy books as well as an inspiring lecture on the subject, I have to recommend the streaming class by marshall vandruff thats available here on CA.

    First person who managed to clear out a lot of questionmarks i had about how to use various anatomy books, including bridgman.

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    I dislike how people say Bridgman is too stylized to understand. I think all he does is amplify and simplify the shapes of masses in the body, to make them more comprehensible on a basics shapes level. Hell, he even leaves a lot of his drawings unfinished for YOU to finish them!

    And figuring out what the fuck is going on in some of his drawings is just half the fun - it can take a bit of analyzing; but really that's what you should be doing, trying not to be a just a copy maker.

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    What I noticed lately is that the books all fail at telling you how to analyse a form. Every book present's the author's explanations and his personal analytical style.

    This still helps and sheds light and helps you push out the sides of the bubble for understanding the forms but eventually to go further you need to close your eye's and, find your personal analytical symbols for understanding what you are looking at.

    I guess what is important that these books all indicate is that you do learn to analyse and code your understanding.

    These books atleast helps so you can see a foot when you close your eyes eventually and not a vague impression of one.

    The best books for me have been Gottlieb's stuff "Der Nachte mench" is awesome. Just start with the anatomy section and work your way through it copying every picture and his diagrams. He sticks to realism wich make it more complex but he includes technical machanical accuracy of the funcions of movement etc. Rather brood over the complex ideas than fly through them. I havn't seen another book that covers the stuff that well. Eventually you will have eaten the elephant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by armando View Post
    Bridgman's books are hard to understand at first. His writing is brief but highly allusive, follow all of his instructions. He argues and proves with his drawings, the only way to follow his meaning is with exact copies.
    Bridgman is one of the best books for anatomy, yes! But there is another german book "Gottfried Bammes - Die Gestalt des Menschen" which kicks Bridgmans ass

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