Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Anatomy for artists

Skull Study I
Graphite 8 x 10 Canson sketch pad
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I was a little taken aback recently by hearing a person who was drawing a figure say that they didn't know where the ribs were on the body. This was echoed by another couple of people around the room and I was inwardly gasping in amazement. I guess I figure that everyone who sets out to draw the human form in whatever format, from full figure to portrait, knows at least some basic anatomy. I guess I was wrong.

Anatomy was absorbed by me early on in my art life through studying the figure, attending life classes and having bone structure and muscle explained to me in sculpture classes. Then I got into anatomy in full detail when I trained as a chartered herbalist. For the best part of a year, I studied and memorized parts of the human body, how they performed, how they broke down. Muscles, bones and organs became a way of life in a depth I never would have imagined and I found it fascinating. Yeah, I was the geek who fell asleep with the heavy copy of Gray's Anatomy (no, not the television series) on my nose. Now Gray's Anatomy is also available online, even though I have to say that I prefer a real book in my hands, especially one so full of detail and description.

So to hear people who were drawing the figure say they weren't at least vaguely familiar with what I would call school grade anatomy was surprising to me. This put me on a quest to remedy that, at least for my drawing class participants. I want to find a skeleton or at the very least, a skull for them to draw. There are lots of images and I have anatomy books full of bones, but its not the same as the real thing. But its not as easy or as economical as you would imagine to come up with some bones on this island or even in Canada for that matter.

I've browsed all over the place and found a few suppliers where prices range from the thousands for real human skulls or skeletons, down to very reasonable prices for realistic looking copies, suitable for educational use. Just finding the right price and one who will ship to Canada on my terms is the challenge.

So if anyone has a skeleton in their closet, and want to find a home for it, let me know. It will be put to good artistic use.

Meanwhile, there are a number of artist anatomy sites online that are great for reference material and learning resources.

Fine Art SK
Frank Frazetta
The Anatomy Lesson
The Anatomists
Basic Anatomy for the Artist

Anatomy for Artists: The Human Form Revealed: The Shoulder


Paulette said...

Cool video.
I'm afraid I don't know anything about the body, other than what I have observed. I find myself measuring things, on myself. I'll also see a shadow on my husband and will check to see why it is there. Course he figures it's all good:)

vivien said...

great post!!!

and some really good links which will come in very useful in my teaching - thanks :>)

Laurel Neustadter said...

Beautiful skull. You have done a great job at rendering form. Thanks for the links -- I need to learn more about anatomy.

Jeanette said...

Paulette, if you know the underlying structure, it makes figuring out proportion so much easier in figures.

Thanks Vivien. Yes, I'll be making good use of those links in my teaching too.

Thank you Laura. I do love drawing bones, they're so fascinating. Anatomy is quite interesting when you get into it. It takes away the 'icky' factor and makes the human body something to be amazed at.

S.G. Chipman said...

One of the assignments given to my figure drawing class during my junior year of college was for each student to illustrate their own anatomy book. It was, of course, a semester long project, and at the time was the bane of most of my classmate's existence since it was something we had to do on top of everything else in the class - but I certainly learned human anatomy.

I recommend it as an exercise for anyone interested in the human form. I still reference my book on occasion. :)

Jeanette said...

What an interesting idea Steve. And a great way to make students study anatomy.