Studying Anatomy

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  1. #1

    Studying Anatomy

    Hello CA,

    I have a question regarding the studies of the subject anatomy, as the title states. I've been looking around the forum for the answer that I'm looking for, but sadly I'm unable to find any.

    For around 2 weeks now (not that long) I've been studying anatomy from a few anatomy books that I bought. Most of the time I'm reading the explanation in the books about how certain bones shape, and after that draw them in my sketchbook and then I try to draw it without looking at any reference, in the hopes that I remember it, but something seems wrong with my studies.

    For example: I've been trying to draw human faces out of my head, I know where the nose is positioned, the eyes, mouth, ears, hairline, you name it, but the faces feel absolutely off, as if somebody went over it with the smudgetool and called it a day. Sadly, when it comes to drawing skulls, the skulls are in proportion and look absolutely fine.

    So I'm wondering, have I been studying in the wrong way all the time drawing bones only and should I figure out more on how the skin is formed around the bones, because as far as I can understand now, understanding what the bones "look" like in the human body, is only essential for drawing the human body in motion and somewhat proportions, but not for making a face an actual face. I'll scan in some drawings that I've made to clarify it if it's somewhat hard to understand.

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  3. #2
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    I'm going to start a shit storm with this but here goes. I believe that you should be concerned about learning to draw first and then studying anatomy. If you can't draw drawing bones is counterproductive. Learning to draw is about developing the trifecta of hand, eyes, and brain. Listing things like muscles and bones exercises a different part of your brain.

    I have had this discussion for years with other teachers who begin their figure drawing classes with tests about anatomy and labeling. For me that is completely counterproductive. Draw from life. Learn to make marks, about line, shape, value, composition etc. then expand your studies to include the minutia.

    OK everyone, have at it.

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  4. #3
    "For around 2 weeks now"

    I'm far from an expert (I have almost no idea what I'm taliking about), but I'm going to call this your main problem.

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  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by stgodd View Post
    "For around 2 weeks now"

    I'm far from an expert (I have almost no idea what I'm taliking about), but I'm going to call this your main problem.
    That might be the case indeed, it could be that I'm impatient, although you would expect a slight improvement after 2 weeks of drawing pretty much everyday. I did notice how drawing a skull improved for me even the first day that I decided to study anatomy, so that's why I'm wondering why drawing faces doesn't seem to improve for me.

    EDIT:
    @Bcarman
    Well I'm certainly not going into your opinion, simple because I believe that everybody has their own way in teaching themselves. This is also the reason why I'm asking if I'm doing anything wrong; in order to get different opinions, try to those, and hopefully find a way that works more efficient for me. I'm not expecting to be an anatomy master within 1/5/10 year or whatever amount, but I do expect to see improvements, which I sadly do not on the grounds that I wish to improve on. Being able to draw skulls is nice and all, but that's honestly not what I truly want to learn, else I'll find myself drawing nothing else but skulls, I want to draw characters, starting with faces first, the body can come later simply because I believe that the face and expression of a person decides majorly what kind of character he or she is.

    Last edited by Redystra; April 6th, 2012 at 01:19 PM.
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  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Redystra View Post
    That might be the case indeed, it could be that I'm impatient, although you would expect a slight improvement after 2 weeks of drawing pretty much everyday. I did notice how drawing a skull improved for me even the first day that I decided to study anatomy, so that's why I'm wondering why drawing faces doesn't seem to improve for me.
    The skull is important, but the face also has muscles, cartilage, fat, and flesh to give it form.

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  7. #6
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    I'm inclined to agree with bcarman... In my experience, anatomy books are a lot easier to understand and absorb after you've done a fair amount of life drawing. Otherwise it's a bit like trying to learn a language by memorizing word lists before learning how to construct a sentence. Drawing experience gives you the context and tools for understanding anatomy.

    I remember muddling over anatomy books before I'd started doing any life drawing and mostly confusing myself... When I looked at the same books after doing more life drawing, everything made a lot more sense. After observing and drawing people for a while I could look at muscle diagrams and say "Aha! So that's what that funny lumpy bit is that I've been drawing! Cool, now I know how it works!"

    Plus, yeah... If you're going to try drawing bones or faces or anything else from imagination and you want to do it well, what you really need is lots and lots of drawing practice, not memorized data.

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  8. #7
    @Bcarman (again):
    I'll certainly try to draw from life (especially people) from now on, in the hope that it's going to give me more insight.

    @Tim Murphy:
    I'm aware of this fact, although I doubt that I'm going to have to think through every piece of muscle, fat, etc in order to be able to draw a face. Ofcourse you'll need the basic understanding, but if I'm planning to study everything related to anatomy then I might aswell become a surgeon.

    @QueenGwenevere:
    My gut says that I agree with you and Bcarman, because rather I like it or not, what I'm drawing now pretty much is memorized data (atleast in the context that you put it), sadly on school I've never had the chance of lifedrawing people before, I only had one lesson drawing a classmate, a few stillifes, but that's about it. The only true anatomy lessons that I had, was only based on the human skull. I don't quite have a decent amount of people willing to just sit still for me, in order for me to draw them, any ideas perhaps what I could do to get a wide variety of people that I could draw? Drawing from books is nice and all, but drawing from life is on a whole other level.

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  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redystra View Post
    That might be the case indeed, it could be that I'm impatient, although you would expect a slight improvement after 2 weeks of drawing pretty much everyday. I did notice how drawing a skull improved for me even the first day that I decided to study anatomy, so that's why I'm wondering why drawing faces doesn't seem to improve for me.
    Two weeks is barely any time at all in learning to draw. It takes several years to get halfway decent.

    want to draw characters, starting with faces first, the body can come later simply because I believe that the face and expression of a person decides majorly what kind of character he or she is.
    Actually, no. In character design, the whole body is as important as the face. The shape and silhouette of the body can convey much of a character's personality even if the face is hidden. The gestures and attitudes of a person's body convey as much expression as the face. Hands can express as much as the face, or more.

    Focusing on faces and facial features is a typical beginner mistake. You'll learn more by focusing on the whole package and how all the parts work together. In fact, it's easier to draw a face if you don't focus on the face, but instead draw the head and shapes of the head... The face falls into place naturally when you do that.

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  10. #9
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    Well I'm certainly not going into your opinion, simple because I believe that everybody has their own way in teaching themselves. This is also the reason why I'm asking if I'm doing anything wrong; in order to get different opinions, try to those, and hopefully find a way that works more efficient for me. I'm not expecting to be an anatomy master within 1/5/10 year or whatever amount, but I do expect to see improvements, which I sadly do not on the grounds that I wish to improve on. Being able to draw skulls is nice and all, but that's honestly not what I truly want to learn, else I'll find myself drawing nothing else but skulls, I want to draw characters, starting with faces first, the body can come later simply because I believe that the face and expression of a person decides majorly what kind of character he or she is.
    Bill is right, you are trying to reinvent the wheel with your misguided efforts. Representational drawing has been around for about 2000 years and they have all the bugs worked out as far as learning to draw. Start with simple geometric objects , sphere, cube, cone, cylinder. Draw those until you can draw them perfectly with correct shading on them from life .This will include perspective, which you can't draw a face without. Then move on to more complex subjects incorporating those simple shapes as the basis for the structure of everything you see. People have been training artists this way for hundreds of years, with great results.

    Last edited by Arshes Nei; April 11th, 2012 at 09:52 AM. Reason: fixing broken quotes :P
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  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redystra View Post
    sadly on school I've never had the chance of lifedrawing people before, I only had one lesson drawing a classmate, a few stillifes, but that's about it. The only true anatomy lessons that I had, was only based on the human skull. I don't quite have a decent amount of people willing to just sit still for me, in order for me to draw them, any ideas perhaps what I could do to get a wide variety of people that I could draw? Drawing from books is nice and all, but drawing from life is on a whole other level.
    Well, if and when you can ever find a life drawing class or life drawing group you can join, jump on the chance immediately. It really does speed up your learning amazingly. Do a search for life drawing in your area... Sometimes there are classes, or casual groups, or sometimes art schools have life drawing sessions you can join even if you're not part of the school.

    If there isn't anything like that available, some of the options are:

    1: Bug friends or family to pose...

    2: go to places like coffee shops or parks and sketch people on the sly. You probably won't get detailed sketches this way, but it's great practice for observation, gesture, and getting the hang of proportion, attitudes, movement, expressions, and a feel for drawing all different kinds of people... Performances and concerts are also good sketching practice, and you don't even have to be sneaky about those because it's totally okay to stare at the performers.

    3: Draw yourself in a mirror. This is pretty good for practicing specific things, because you control the pose and can draw for as long as you like. A full-length mirror is best. Two mirrors is even better if you can wrangle it, because you can do side and back views.

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; April 6th, 2012 at 01:52 PM.
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  12. #11
    @dpaint:
    "Start with simple geometric objects , sphere, cube, cone, cylinder. Draw those until you can draw them perfectly with correct shading on them from life .This will include perspective, which you can't draw a face without."

    Just to clarify it, so that I understand what you mean: You're saying that I need to draw geometric objects first from observing them in real life, and draw them with shading, and after that draw it out of my imagination with the correct light and shade added? Because I have been drawing geometric shapes for quite a while, but I have never drawn any geometric shapes with the correct light and shade out of my imagination.


    @QueenGwenevere
    It's not like I decided to start drawing just two weeks ago, I decided to start studying anatomy two weeks ago, which isn't that long ago either way.

    You see this is where I'm having a problem, and this is also where it's starting to confuse me majorly. I have been trying various methods before: drawing the whole body, drawing the form of the head and then face, none of these ever seemed to work well enough for me. So due to that, I decided to study anatomy, in the hopes that I would understand the human form better and reproduce it a bit better in due time.

    Yes, you're right, bodylanguage does involve majorly when it comes to creating a character, but as I stated a few lines above, I've tried various methods in drawing characters, because drawing a whole character didn't work, I decided to scale it down to just faces instead, and see where that would get me. Sadly, it seems to have gotten me nowhere.

    I'm certainly going to try and bug more people to pose for me from now on, and drawing myself seems like a good option too, luckily I do have a full-length mirror, so I'm going to give that a try in a bit.

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  13. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redystra View Post
    @dpaint:
    "Start with simple geometric objects , sphere, cube, cone, cylinder. Draw those until you can draw them perfectly with correct shading on them from life .This will include perspective, which you can't draw a face without."

    Just to clarify it, so that I understand what you mean: You're saying that I need to draw geometric objects first from observing them in real life, and draw them with shading, and after that draw it out of my imagination with the correct light and shade added? Because I have been drawing geometric shapes for quite a while, but I have never drawn any geometric shapes with the correct light and shade out of my imagination.
    No I'm talking about drawing them from life. It doesn't matter how long you've been drawing them, it only matters if you can draw them without any errors in drawing or prespective, until you can do that, you aren't ready to draw anything else.

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  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    No I'm talking about drawing them from life. It doesn't matter how long you've been drawing them, it only matters if you can draw them without any errors in drawing or prespective, until you can do that, you aren't ready to draw anything else.
    That's what I typed..., didn't I? Nevermind, I get what you mean, and I'll keep it at that.

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  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I'm going to start a shit storm with this but here goes. I believe that you should be concerned about learning to draw first and then studying anatomy. If you can't draw drawing bones is counterproductive. Learning to draw is about developing the trifecta of hand, eyes, and brain. Listing things like muscles and bones exercises a different part of your brain.

    I have had this discussion for years with other teachers who begin their figure drawing classes with tests about anatomy and labeling. For me that is completely counterproductive. Draw from life. Learn to make marks, about line, shape, value, composition etc. then expand your studies to include the minutia.

    OK everyone, have at it.
    You'll get no argument from me.


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  16. #15
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    I agree with Dpaint and Bcarman, study from life first and foremost, once you get a sense of gesture, mass, action etc. it is more useful then to learn anatomy, as you'll know how to put that knowledge into context.

    I've been going through 'The Natural Way to Draw' by Nicolaides, and you start with gesture drawings and mass/ contour drawings of people. It certainly gives you a more tactile appreciation of form before tackling anatomy.

    If you can't draw from life well, how will you be able to draw things from your imagination well? I hope you get a chance to go to life drawing classes, and if you do or you don't, just go to public places and draw people.

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  17. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I'm going to start a shit storm with this but here goes. I believe that you should be concerned about learning to draw first and then studying anatomy. If you can't draw drawing bones is counterproductive. Learning to draw is about developing the trifecta of hand, eyes, and brain. Listing things like muscles and bones exercises a different part of your brain.

    I have had this discussion for years with other teachers who begin their figure drawing classes with tests about anatomy and labeling. For me that is completely counterproductive. Draw from life. Learn to make marks, about line, shape, value, composition etc. then expand your studies to include the minutia.

    OK everyone, have at it.
    I will just add a little personal tidbit to this post:

    When I was 18, I could name every major (and not so major) muscle in your body, their location including their origins and insertions, and their function. I couldn't draw for shit. Knowing where things go does not help if you just can't draw. So please, consider this advice.

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  18. #17
    well my art teacher use to say start drawing real stuff first. pretty much what the guys up there said

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  19. #18
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    What comes with line shape value edges? Materials. Start there. It is easily overlooked as reading a black berry manual is but it will be helpful when you use more complicated media beyond a pencil and sketchbook. I am an advocate of mastery on how materials must communicate.
    By the way, I spent six years learning to draw at before I learned anatomy. I now teach it to students who have a strong drawing foundation.

    - Kinjark
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  20. #19
    I want to thank everybody for their input in this topic, you guys certainly gave me the answers that I was looking. It's around 8 AM now, I decided to wake up a whole lot earlier today. It's time to go out and do what you guys adviced me to do. I'll see you in Sketchbook!

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  21. #20
    Practise makes you perfect it's all about practise , practise drawing faces , make a challenge like drawin 100 face

    Change is such hard work

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