Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Anatomy 101

4/23/12, graphite, Graphitint colored pencil, Strathmore Grayscale
I’ve heard that college art students are required to take human anatomy courses to help them understand all that stuff under the skin that isn’t visible but that affects how bodies appear, and therefore affects how we see and render those bodies.

If I were a college art student, I would probably be complaining about that requirement, because it sounds like too much work. (“I’m not going to be a doctor; why do I have to take this class?”) It could also be deadly boring, depending on the instructor or textbook.

But since I’m not a college art student, I actually have quite a bit of self-motivation (certainly more now than I ever did in college), so I gave myself the assignment of studying human anatomy. I’ve been shopping in my public library for a good book, and I think I found one worth owning: Classic Human Anatomy: The Artist’s Guide to Form, Function, and Movement, by Valerie L. Winslow. Given my recent interest in drawing hands, I “test drove” the book with that chapter. It provides a thorough description and explanation of how the bones, muscles and other non-visible parts of the hand affect how the visible parts need to be rendered to appear realistic. The author uses scientific terminology without sounding like a pre-med textbook. An artist of the human figure for more than 30 years and an anatomy instructor, she clearly focuses on the interests of artists who want to learn how to draw people accurately.

The book fascinates me, which is surprising; I imagined it to be “hard work.” In addition to the well-written text, the book is illuminated by more than 800 illustrations done by the author herself. Most look like they were drawn with Conte crayons or pastels on toned paper. In general, I’m not a huge fan of illustrations of muscle tissue connected to tendons. But these beautiful drawings alone are enough to make me want to buy the book. In fact, I was inspired to try a few hand drawings on toned paper (using colored pencils and graphite instead of Conte).

(My review of this book appears on Amazon.com.)

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