Which should be undertaken first? Drawing from life, or studying anatomy in detail?
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Thread: Which should be undertaken first? Drawing from life, or studying anatomy in detail?

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    Which should be undertaken first? Drawing from life, or studying anatomy in detail?

    I've spent about a year now constantly visiting this site, reading through forums and looking through sketchbooks as a visitor but I've had this question forming for a couple of weeks now and I thought I better make an account and ask about it.
    Going through CA there have been many people giving advice, and sometimes this advice varies. Someone will say that to learn anatomy, one must draw from life constantly, whether from a model or just out on the street, while others have said that to learn anatomy a person should understand the human body like a machine, and be able to draw the skeleton, muscles, skin, etc and know how all of these components work.

    I definitely want to reach a point where I can draw a pose from any angle any way I want, without having to use any kind of reference. What I want to know is whether it would be more useful for me to study anatomy in detail first and then move onto life drawing so I have a better understanding of the things I'm drawing from life, or if I should start life drawing straight out all of the time in a sketch book whenever I'm out and practice basics, and then move onto more detailed anatomy studies of bones and muscle structure?

    Also if someone has asked this question before and I just haven't seen it, I apologize in advance D:

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    Why on earth would you not do both at the same time? You're over-complicating a simple thing. Spend more time drawing and less time worrying about drawing.

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    Studying anatomy will help the life drawing make more sense. And drawing from life will help the anatomy make more sense. So yeah, both at once.

    If for some bizarre reason you were only allowed to do one, I'd go with drawing from life. At least you'd be learning to draw by doing that.

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    You can even get a figure wooden manikin to use a reference after you've done some life drawing/anatomy study, it's pretty handy. Even shine some light on it to simplify shadows and such when working on personal projects.

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    "I definitely want to reach a point where I can draw a pose from any angle any way I want, without having to use any kind of reference."

    Well that sounds like a lot of tedious and unnecessary memorization. Are you also planning to do this with buildings, animals, cars, clothing, and every other thing you could possibly be called upon to draw? If you're looking up all those other things to put together a scene, being able to knock out the human being doesn't seem like a big time saver.

    Not that knowing anatomy is bad in any way, it's just that aiming to dispense with reference is one of those things that ends up making your life difficult for no good reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    "I definitely want to reach a point where I can draw a pose from any angle any way I want, without having to use any kind of reference."

    Well that sounds like a lot of tedious and unnecessary memorization. Are you also planning to do this with buildings, animals, cars, clothing, and every other thing you could possibly be called upon to draw? If you're looking up all those other things to put together a scene, being able to knock out the human being doesn't seem like a big time saver.

    Not that knowing anatomy is bad in any way, it's just that aiming to dispense with reference is one of those things that ends up making your life difficult for no good reason.
    Generally, yes, you ought to be able to whip up a figure, a building, a car, an animal, a costume and every other thing you could possibly be called upon to draw without having to search for a photograph to work from. It does not have to be super-exact - i.e. if you are called to draw the Chartres Cathedral you don't need to have it memorized in fine detail because you can find photos - but being familiar with how things work is a big help, because if you are called to design a grand temple you should be able to do something right away without a lengthy Google Images hunt. Otherwise you'd spend more time looking through photos than drawing, and be limited to what you can find.

    Over-reliance on reference is no better than trying to avoid all reference. Reference is for giving you knowledge to use, not for giving you pictures to copy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Generally, yes, you ought to be able to whip up a figure, a building, a car, an animal, a costume and every other thing you could possibly be called upon to draw without having to search for a photograph to work from. It does not have to be super-exact - i.e. if you are called to draw the Chartres Cathedral you don't need to have it memorized in fine detail because you can find photos - but being familiar with how things work is a big help, because if you are called to design a grand temple you should be able to do something right away without a lengthy Google Images hunt. Otherwise you'd spend more time looking through photos than drawing, and be limited to what you can find.

    Over-reliance on reference is no better than trying to avoid all reference. Reference is for giving you knowledge to use, not for giving you pictures to copy.
    Yes, but as someone who has drawn more without reference than with, if you do this then that's what you end up with -- general knowledge. The brain is kinda lazy and prone to ruts, and the more you draw something the deeper you imprint it. So when I was drawing the last children's illo I did, I sketched out a generic monkey and some generic plants and fish from my head, but then I went to Google Search to make them specific. You shouldn't be a slave to reference, but you have to acknowledge the limitations of your brain. If you design all your Grand Temples from your head, you have to work pretty hard to not make them all look the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Over-reliance on reference is no better than trying to avoid all reference. Reference is for giving you knowledge to use, not for giving you pictures to copy.
    Yes, BUT - too many beginners believe that all the cool pictures they admire were done entirely from imagination, and this is rarely the case. Most professionals use a mix of imagination and reference. And the more reference you look at and the more research you do, the more convincing and varied your pictures tend to be.

    The idea that someday you'll be able to simply stop using any reference whatever is misleading. You can get to the point where you can draw a reasonably "realistic" scene with no reference, but it will always be a bit stylized and generalized if you don't infuse it with a bit of research and/or reference. That bit of research and reference is what can turn a "good enough" picture into a much better picture. Good enough is okay, and might be all you can do on a tight deadline, but much better is better if you can wrangle it.

    Even when I'm drawing cartoony things that I could knock out with my eyes closed, I like to double-check anything I'm uncertain of. For instance, I may need to draw a PC, and I think I know what a PC looks like, and I sketch up my generic idea of a computer, and it looks okay. But then just to be sure, I look at current models on PC Connection, and bam! I get better and more up-to-date ideas for what the computer should look like, change my sketch accordingly, and it looks way more convincing and contemporary than whatever I started with. And I find that the same goes for pretty much everything... Every time I add a bit of research and reference to the mix, the results are better than what I did straight from my head.

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    Quote Originally Posted by unicornachos View Post
    * * *

    I definitely want to reach a point where I can draw a pose from any angle any way I want, without having to use any kind of reference. . .
    Lurking the CA WIP section, I see many people who think they already can do this, or are desperately trying to do so. The results show that it's not workin'. But, still, the work often has a sort of naive vitality that you can't help admiring from time to time. . .

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    It's not impossible there are artists that are very good from imagination and can do some things with perspective straight from their head that blows my mind. Subscribed to Kim Jung Gi on facebook after someone made a thread about him on here and his stuff blows my mind. I don't know how much he references either since I've seen some exhibitions where he just draws some crazy shit from his head.

    http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html

    He does a ton of life drawing though. He's constantly posting doodles and work he does when he's just out and about. A lot of his doodles though have warped interesting perspective though so you know he didn't ref those at the very least, or at least not much. It's something you may gain a better grasp of obviously from doing an ass ton of work and sketches not an everyday occurrence.


    (Though I know the feeling I enjoy comics when I first started dicking around with attempting pages ages ago I remember having the same goal, but then there's a huge difference between ref'd quality and non)

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    I tought of Kim Jung too, but I dont think he can be a reference... He does something that I never saw any other artist do and I don't think you can do what he can with just everyday training. I have never seen any experienced artist do a complex composition, with lots of mechanical stuff and crazy perspective without even a rough sketch before... Kim Jung do it directly from head, he said it a lot of times, he never use reference and I think he uses very little guide lines when painting... His brain just works different, Idk... He is insane.

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    if you've drawn from life ..the anatomy follows.. drawing from life you can see the pull of surface of the skin.the creases in the body in detail
    and the subtle movement of the muscles...it gives you better perspective on the human body than an anatomy book..

    At art college in the 1970s Anatomy was a technical subject..taught almost the same as medical students the books were very formal ..in fact i have a Human physiology
    book which i purchased at great expense which i still use for medical illustration..

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    To the OP, start a sketchbook now and get to it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by unicornachos View Post
    I definitely want to reach a point where I can draw a pose from any angle any way I want, without having to use any kind of reference.
    Why? What purpose does that serve?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    Why? What purpose does that serve?
    It would allow for more creative freedom, being able to draw a certain angle quickly without having to dig for reference would be a great thing. Particularly if you are into comics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fireblade View Post
    It would allow for more creative freedom, being able to draw a certain angle quickly without having to dig for reference would be a great thing. Particularly if you are into comics.
    Reference isn't something to 'free' yourself from. It's a tool to help you work more efficiently and accurately. No amount of reference in the world is going to help you if you can't draw, or don't understand composition, and a variety of other things that go into image making.

    That being said, learning construction is going to be very important so you can create poses from your 'imagination.' However, you will sacrifice realism. (Since comics tend to be pretty stylized/simplified anyway, that may not be an issue for you.) You'll never get away from reference completely; maybe you need to do a specific kung-fu move, or to try and mimic a popular actor. (whatever.) That's not a bad thing, either.

    If you're going to do comics, I'd still recommend checking out the drawn to life books by Walt Stanchfield - which talks about posing for storytelling, clarity, and a bunch of other stuff that'll be useful.

    EDIT: I say 'imagination' because that's a bit misleading; it's less making up something from nothing, and more about trying to build the specific pose needed for a storytelling moment based on experience, understanding of the character (and how they feel), and tons of observational drawings studying how people stand, relax, sit, move, and just generally act.

    Last edited by Alice Herring; October 12th, 2012 at 01:50 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    Why? What purpose does that serve?
    Perhaps they know that once you can do that you can draw from life better than anyone who can't. This is pretty much the standard aim of life drawing tuition that draws on the Bridgman/Hale/Reilly/Vilppu et al tradition. I'm surprised how many people seem to see it as unusual.

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    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    Perhaps they know that once you can do that you can draw from life better than anyone who can't. This is pretty much the standard aim of life drawing tuition that draws on the Bridgman/Hale/Reilly/Vilppu et al tradition. I'm surprised how many people seem to see it as unusual.
    Briggsy! I just wanted to know why the OP thought learning to draw from imagination was important.

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    Quote Originally Posted by unicornachos View Post
    What I want to know is whether it would be more useful for me to study anatomy in detail first and then move onto life drawing so I have a better understanding of the things I'm drawing from life, or if I should start life drawing straight out all of the time in a sketch book whenever I'm out and practice basics, and then move onto more detailed anatomy studies of bones and muscle structure?
    I'd say neither: instead of studying anatomy in detaill first, study the main masses - head, rib cage and pelvis masses and their landmarks - and then get lots of practice seeing these masses in the model and using them to nail the action (all of the authors I mentioned help with this in different ways). Then repeat this cycle with progressively more detailed anatomy.

    Sorry if I misinterpreted you Alice!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JFierce View Post
    It's not impossible there are artists that are very good from imagination and can do some things with perspective straight from their head that blows my mind. Subscribed to Kim Jung Gi on facebook after someone made a thread about him on here and his stuff blows my mind. I don't know how much he references either since I've seen some exhibitions where he just draws some crazy shit from his head.

    http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html

    He does a ton of life drawing though. He's constantly posting doodles and work he does when he's just out and about. A lot of his doodles though have warped interesting perspective though so you know he didn't ref those at the very least, or at least not much. It's something you may gain a better grasp of obviously from doing an ass ton of work and sketches not an everyday occurrence.
    Kim Jung Gi belongs to the same case as Marko Djudjevic, only that the former is the souped-up hyper version of the latter.
    People like these are borned with the ability to simply just look at life and be able to reproduce it photographically on paper (especially in Kim's case). Like that guy who look at some new york city (?) aerial photograph and then re-produce it exactly on paper like a photo printer.

    The rest of us are artists, not photo printers, so let's not even try.

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    Actually, stuff like Kim Jung Gi and Marko's - while admittedly mind-blowing - is still stylized and generalized to some extent... It's just that they have an insanely huge and detailed mental library to pull from, so their range of generalized data is way bigger than most of us can ever hope to have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    Kim Jung Gi belongs to the same case as Marko Djudjevic, only that the former is the souped-up hyper version of the latter.
    People like these are borned with the ability to simply just look at life and be able to reproduce it photographically on paper (especially in Kim's case). Like that guy who look at some new york city (?) aerial photograph and then re-produce it exactly on paper like a photo printer.

    The rest of us are artists, not photo printers, so let's not even try.
    dude, he works from life every single day by the looks of it, eventually your mind will commit to the detail etc of all these different structures whether human animal or vehicle etc and then be able to simply "knock them out" mentally, i dont think its doing anyone any favours saying hes got a magical photographic memory "so lets not even try" bear in mind the guy is i think about 40 yrs old, drawing all the time from life...its going to help significantly when it comes to "photographically reproducing" the things he draws....

    seriously, try actually observing something you draw from life and you will take in its vital characteristics mentally in time

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    Quote Originally Posted by fireblade View Post
    It would allow for more creative freedom, being able to draw a certain angle quickly without having to dig for reference would be a great thing. Particularly if you are into comics.
    It makes drawing things faster, yes, but it also makes you a lot more likely to reuse that angle. And if you have any stylistic quirks *cough* Rob Liefeld *cough* you are likely to repeat them forever rather than fixing them. So I, at least, have found that it's neither particularly freeing nor particularly creative.

    Last edited by vineris; October 16th, 2012 at 02:02 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    I makes drawing things faster, yes, but it also makes you a lot more likely to reuse that angle. And if you have any stylistic quirks *cough* Rob Liefeld *cough* you are likely to repeat them forever rather than fixing them. So I, at least, have found that it's neither particularly freeing nor particularly creative.
    That's why if you're in a position where you have to continually draw with limited reference (storyboarding) it's always good to keep people watching, gesture drawing, etc, to put good stuff in your head to use later. I'd never get any work done if I had to use a lot of reference on a day to day basis. (Granted, I AM dealing with simplified forms, so that helps too.) There are many people that do this without being Rob Liefeld.

    Last edited by Alice Herring; October 15th, 2012 at 11:02 PM. Reason: bah. grammar.
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