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  1. #1
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    Need help with learning anatomy

    I thought it would be a good idea for me to focus on one body part at a time. So I decided to study the muscles of the arms for one day, then legs the next day, and so on. But I'm having trouble finding actual references for them.

    Like the arms for instance, I can find the basic muscle diagrams to study from (front, back, side, flexing, etc) but when it comes to finding a particular angle or pose that I want to learn (like a foreshortened arm at a certain angle) I can't find any.

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    I basically just draw an arm at one view until I commit it to memory, then I move on to another view until I can't find anymore references.

    At that point should I just forget about drawing the actual muscles and just focus on surface anatomy? And is this even a good method for me to learn anatomy?

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  3. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo_7 View Post
    but when it comes to finding a particular angle or pose that I want to learn (like a foreshortened arm at a certain angle) I can't find any.
    Use a mirror with your own arm and then plot the muscles to that based on the muscle diagrams?
    Not sure if I manage to say it so that it comes out like I mean, but try to concentrate on learning the muscles so that you can use the knowledge in other things, and don't just try to draw a view until it's in your memory (which is a good exercise but aside the point I'm trying to make) but get stumped when you have to draw the same from another view but don't have an image to copy it from, you know?

    Last edited by TinyBird; May 26th, 2012 at 04:47 PM.
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  5. #3
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    Here we go...if it helps you learn how to draw then great. But, knowing the names of things like flexors and tensors of the forearm is for hand surgeons...knowing how to draw light on form in perspective is for artists.

    In other words focus on learning to draw simplified primitives in perspective so they have volume and create the illusion of three dimensions (foreshortening). You can always reference yourself, books or others when you need to get down to the specifics of a pose.

    This notion of "committing anatomy to memory" is a distraction. A little knowledge of anatomy goes a long way...a little knowledge of drawing doesn't.

    Edit: That is a nice page of studies btw, and probably all you'd need to understand the shapes and wrapping of the forearm muscles.

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    I looked at your sketchook thread, it seems like you've been doing essentially the same thing for years. All the copying from books in the world ins't going to do anything for you until you start doing more actual observational drawing. Honestly, I wouldn't even worry about the mechanics of anatomy at all until you get a lot more figure drawing under your belt.


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  9. #5
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    I think learning first how to measure proportions and how to create illusion of depth when drawing from life (operating with line thickness, foreshortening, overlapping, using shading) is more important than anatomy. Once you got this skill, you can more efficiently learn other things. Otherwise you'll draw forever flat, badly proportioned, not simplified enough arms that just have the right amount of muscles.

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    They are right, but there's nothing that says that you can't learn both at the same time. Draw real people as much as you can and anywhere you get a chance. Another thing I like doing is, I pose a semi-superposable toy action figure (Captain America) and draw it. In some ways it is more helpful because you have complete control and the musculature is slightly exaggerated while still being mostly anatomically correct. It is great for studying shadows and forshortening.

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  13. #7
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    Thanks for the comments guys. So should I just focus on observational drawing and forget about anatomy until I have good understanding of perspective, foreshortening, shadows, and shading?

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    They all go hand in hand...learn and focus on that which moves you forward. For the most part that is working from life...supported by reading, study, visiting museums, hanging out with fellow artists, etc.

    It's like learning to be a musician...you hang out with other musicians, go to concerts, listen to tunes, hang out at the music store, read about your heroes, etc. And you practice your instument.

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    Buy a good ecorche sculpture (or better yet, put in the time to learn to sculpt your own). Then start drawing from it instead of drawing from flat books. That will start to move you in the right direction. (Drawing from life, a lot, will also be of great use to you.)

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    Sculptris - a small and FREE digital sculpting program.
    Start "sculpting" with it. As soon as possible. Making things in 3D is a whole new perspective (no pun intended) b/c you have to focus on how muscles look in space, how they interlock etc...AND it`s super, super fun.

    Also - Tumblr. For instance, just today I found this one and this one (NSFW!) and there`s plenty more like that. Just keep looking.

    I don`t know if you have access to life drawing sessions, and if you do - take them. Now. If you`re less fortunate (like me), it will take some creativity and more hard work, but it can be done. Just hang in there.

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  19. #11
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    If you have an iPad, there's an app out now called "l'ecorche"... Looks like a good way to study anatomy in 3D, and very well designed. The free lite version is available now, and there's supposed to be a full paid version soon.

    Though a buttload of life drawing will get you much further than any anatomy book or app ever will. When I first started life drawing, I improved exponentially compared to what I'd been doing before, and all the stuff I'd been having trouble with in anatomy books began to make more sense.

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  21. #12
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    Probably just repeating what everyone else said, but..

    Never thought there was a right answer to this (do this, don't do that etc). It's an intuitive thing. As already stated, learning anatomy isn't synonymous to learning how to draw. Understanding some anatomy is, at best, to understand the functions of the forms you see. You can't do that just with diagrams. You have to have a feel for form as well.

    This notion of "committing anatomy to memory" is a distraction. A little knowledge of anatomy goes a long way.
    Don't see anything wrong in committing the forms to memory. I tend to see anatomy exersises the same way as a improvising musician looks at scales. Essentially they are mechanical, but when you are trying to refine your improvisations, or to see/hear with more spesificity, thourough knowledge inevitably becomes a tool that can lead to greater freedom.

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  23. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndreasM View Post
    Probably just repeating what everyone else said, but..

    Never thought there was a right answer to this (do this, don't do that etc). It's an intuitive thing. As already stated, learning anatomy isn't synonymous to learning how to draw. Understanding some anatomy is, at best, to understand the functions of the forms you see. You can't do that just with diagrams. You have to have a feel for form as well.



    Don't see anything wrong in committing the forms to memory. I tend to see anatomy exersises the same way as a improvising musician looks at scales. Essentially they are mechanical, but when you are trying to refine your improvisations, or to see/hear with more spesificity, thourough knowledge inevitably becomes a tool that can lead to greater freedom.
    The problem with the idea of "committing the forms to memory" are two-fold:

    1 - you can't commit to memory every possible combination of form, variation of pose, foreshortening and light...let alone the fact that specific anatomy is unique to each individual. You can develop an awareness of the generalized form, proportion and how light may generically define the form...but that is pretty simple...a tapered cylinder for the forearm for example.

    2 - the problem is this idea of "committing"to memory distracts from the real effort and study of learning the basics of drawing. That's all I was saying when I said it is a distraction.

    Now if by "commiting the forms to memory" you mean remembering the forearm is a tapered cylinder, the torso has a certain general shape and volume, etc. then sure...I just consider that developing you awareness of general anatomy and proportion.

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  25. #14
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    Thanks again for all the comments guys I really appreciate it.
    I have another question but I don't want to start another thread.

    I'm trying to do more observational drawing, and I'm trying to work on shading as well. Should I wait until I get better at drawing from observation or should I continue to practice shading my drawings...

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    Because I really don't know what I'm doing...

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  26. #15
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    Both. It's the same thing.

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    I'm no better than you skill wise but in my opinion, I think you could try taking more time and thinking about what lines you'll make, as in the shading looks really rushed and you're making rough guesses about proportions and the angle and magnitude of lines, as well as their quality

    I'm currently reading 'The Practice and science of drawing' by Harold Speed and I'm finding it extremely useful, it goes into foreshortening, shading, form and measuring angles etc as well as other fundamentals, it's on Gutenberg for free

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