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  1. #1
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    How much anatomy do you really need to know?

    I've been around here for a few years, trying to soak in as much as I can, and I've seen so many anatomy studies that my head is filled with more body parts than anything else, which sounds creepier than it is.

    Anyway. I really want to get back to basics again and do it right this time, so my question is - how much anatomy is necessary?

    I understand that it depends on an artists chosen path and personal preference, but is there a general middle ground?

    Take muscle groups for e.g - some, like the ones beneath the outer muscle layers aren't even noticable through skin, and I feel like it's not really necessay for me to learn about them.

    I know this sounds like I'm asking if there's a shortcut, and I guess I sort of am, but believe a lot of beginners, like myself, ask themselves the same questions.

    Can anyone tell me if there is any real benefit from studying extensive anatomy, like sub muscle layers?

    Cheers!


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    As much as you can get. Even a little is a help. More is better.

    So some muscles are hidden under the skin and other muscles. But there are surprisingly few of them that are completely hidden. There are the short muscles of the femur, which are not visible under other muscles, or the iliopsoas which is entirely on the inside. But even something well-hidden like the rhomboid can still affect the form or peek through, and it definitely is important for the motion range.

    The benefit of studying it is not in knowing the muscle groups. It's in knowing the action of muscles and tendons, and being aware of what they do in a given pose. It's all about understanding the form in front of you, and the muscles are sliding about and moving around in ways that can be quite challenging to identify if you don't know what connects where, and how the joints shape and limit motion, how everything interacts with each other and gravity and what pulls and pushes what. Otherwise, your knowledge will be formulaic and limited, and you won't be able to read the endlessly changing form as well as you could.

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  5. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    As much as you can get. Even a little is a help. More is better.

    So some muscles are hidden under the skin and other muscles. But there are surprisingly few of them that are completely hidden. There are the short muscles of the femur, which are not visible under other muscles, or the iliopsoas which is entirely on the inside. But even something well-hidden like the rhomboid can still affect the form or peek through, and it definitely is important for the motion range.

    The benefit of studying it is not in knowing the muscle groups. It's in knowing the action of muscles and tendons, and being aware of what they do in a given pose. It's all about understanding the form in front of you, and the muscles are sliding about and moving around in ways that can be quite challenging to identify if you don't know what connects where, and how the joints shape and limit motion, how everything interacts with each other and gravity and what pulls and pushes what. Otherwise, your knowledge will be formulaic and limited, and you won't be able to read the endlessly changing form as well as you could.
    My knowledge, as it is, is very formulaic, so what you said there struck pretty close to home. Thanks. I think I understand now.

    All the stuff I know today is pretty much based on general rule of thumb, like proportion grids - where limbs begin & end, how high, how low - and of course, only outer layer muscle groups.

    I should get some books, like Loomis and Bridgemen's complete guide. The only book I have right now is Barcsay's "Anatomy for the artist", which is okay for learning about the human skeleton.

    You have a really nice sketchbook, btw.
    Last edited by Christoffer; May 2nd, 2012 at 10:45 AM.

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    It's not at all important... That's why so many artist do them. Artists are stupid like that.

    Why even ask this question? You have to already know what the answer is going to be. You yourself said that you have bodyparts floating around in your head, from hanging around here.

    You need to know just enough to make your art look the way you intend it to look. If you want it to be accurate then you'd better study.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Shorinji_Knight View Post
    It's not at all important... That's why so many artist do them. Artists are stupid like that.

    Why even ask this question? You have to already know what the answer is going to be. You yourself said that you have bodyparts floating around in your head, from hanging around here.

    You need to know just enough to make your art look the way you intend it to look. If you want it to be accurate then you'd better study.
    No need for you to be sarcastic about it. :|

    I asked because I wasn't sure how much in depth anatomy, like sub muscle layers really matter.
    Thanks to arenhaus, I was provided with a clearer perspective on that.

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    If you take really good photo reference for every piece, or if your work is really cartoony, then you might only need a basic understanding (though more is always better). If you want to construct semi-realistic figures from imagination then you'll need a very deep understanding.

    You are correct that you only have so much time, and it's wise to balance your study of anatomy with drapery, lighting, perspective, composition, etc... but don't shirk on the anatomy. It's foundational.

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  10. #7
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    You know, while we're on topic of 'How much do you really need to know' I'm going to further a point that I made a little while back and put it out there that it's good to know absolutely everything. Because hell, I love this sort of stuff and I don't see it nearly often enough.

    Don't ignore any piece of information that you can get your hands on, because understanding the universe is key to being able to reverse engineer it and put it on paper and make a great concept out of it. Case in point - by viewing your sketch book, you seem to be doing a lot of Half Life themed work, and the vast majority is science fiction work. Right there, you've got subjects of advanced theoretical physics, nuclear decay, robotics, industrial design, microbiology, Zoology, anthropology, projectile weaponry and the philosophical ramifications of Gordon Freeman's crowbar. Knowledge from everything in all of those disciplines has been taken and put into the original designs, and then derived into your Gordon Freeman piece. And I haven't even mentioned the fundamentals yet.

    As for sub muscle layers and skeletal system, of course there is. You're not just learning superficial form, but understanding the range of motion that's involved in the mechanism of the human body, where they attach to the bones, where the force is applied to the bones by which muscles to make them move. This isn't just for understanding how, but also why, and reverse engineering the human body (Or any animal for that matter) to create new organisms makes for a great designer too. It's why Terryl Whitlatch and her Zoology degree makes for such a great creature designer.

    And also, researching the various forms of Chain mail and plate armor wouldn't do your inclination to draw Chain mail bikini's any harm either But whatever you do, don't ever ever ever try to circumvent learning something.

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    At a certain point anatomy study without a solid understanding of perspective is a waste of time. I think everybody here can agree that it's one thing to be able to recognize the various muscles and be able to maybe draw a diagram of them from the front or side, and quite another thing to turn them in space and keep them properly related to other forms.

    I'd echo what others are saying, but with a twist- study everything but don't shirk on the perspective! By this I don't mean to go crazy making vanishing points for everything. Instead, I mean that everything is made up of volumes/masses, which you need to be able to turn in space reasonably and organize into meaningful arrangements. Anatomy isn't really different, except that the forms can be complex.

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  14. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christoffer View Post
    No need for you to be sarcastic about it. :|

    I asked because I wasn't sure how much in depth anatomy, like sub muscle layers really matter.
    Thanks to arenhaus, I was provided with a clearer perspective on that.
    Yeah you're right. Sorry for the sarcasim. It comes from having my children ask the same silly questions over and over again. I think its starting to become a reflex.


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    Start with understanding the basic structure of the human body, how the big masses of head, rib cage and pelvis are proportioned and stick together. Use some simplified structure like Loomis mannikin or Vilppu's gesture. Study proportions and balance and stick to that until you can confidently pose you model. Study how real models fit your basic structure.

    From there, dress the model up with the main muscular masses, taking into account how they attach to the underlying structure. If you cannot see it, ignore it, for now. Study how real models fit your muscular masses.

    From there, anything goes. Refine your basic structure, which until that moment may have a box or an egg for a head. Study the skull, the rib cage, the pelvis. Study the muscles in detail.

    I will never forget the moment our model bent over in my direction, her robe fell open, exposing her delicate... erm... well.. anatomy. My teacher whispered over my shoulder, softly so that no one else could hear it, that I was so lucky: from my angle I could exactly see her levator scapulae...

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  17. #11
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    This is great. Thanks a lot for the incredible feedback.

    I've really started at the wrong ends, picking out small pieces of information from all over the place, without having any real foundation of, well, anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shorinji_Knight View Post
    Yeah you're right. Sorry for the sarcasim. It comes from having my children ask the same silly questions over and over again. I think its starting to become a reflex.
    No problem. I tend to react the same way towards my 16 year old little sister.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eezacque@xs4all.nl View Post
    I will never forget the moment our model bent over in my direction, her robe fell open, exposing her delicate... erm... well.. anatomy. My teacher whispered over my shoulder, softly so that no one else could hear it, that I was so lucky: from my angle I could exactly see her levator scapulae...
    This is great!

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    Learn whatever amount necessary to be able to see and draw well. For myself that isn't very much anatomy...no more than I knew from sports and lifting weights - basic muscle groups and bones.

    Much more important than detailed knowledge of anatomy is the ability to understand light on form and as dose, said, handling those forms in perspective. Basically you want to learn how to draw first, then absorb/study as much anatomy as you feel helps you.
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    I think one thing you might need to think about as a beginner is that anatomical knowledge =/= drawing skill. Learning anatomy is good for one thing only, and that's learning what a human being looks like. Which is important, but it doesn't have anything directly to do with actually being able to draw.
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  23. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christoffer View Post
    My knowledge, as it is, is very formulaic, so what you said there struck pretty close to home. Thanks. I think I understand now.

    All the stuff I know today is pretty much based on general rule of thumb, like proportion grids - where limbs begin & end, how high, how low - and of course, only outer layer muscle groups.

    I should get some books, like Loomis and Bridgemen's complete guide. The only book I have right now is Barcsay's "Anatomy for the artist", which is okay for learning about the human skeleton.

    You have a really nice sketchbook, btw.
    Thanks.

    If you want in-depth anatomy, Loomis and Bridgman are not the best choices. Loomis books are general drawing manuals, and Bridgman's are more or less aimed at analyzing the dynamic pose - but they are not anatomy sources. Barcsay's stuff is useless. Most of it is pilfered from other sources, and the presentation of material is completely clueless.

    Get an Ellerberger's atlas, "Drawing the Living Figure" by Sheppard, and some medical texts. You have to know the structures before you can reliably identify the visible forms, and you can't learn stuff like where each muscle attaches from an atlas.

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