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In this video, I will talk about how to learn anatomy by sketching. Here are some of my sketchbooks where I make anatomical drawings and scribble notes about proportions and construction of a human body, head and face.
Doing such exercises on a regular basis is a great way to learn anatomy for artists. You have to put on paper what you learn and, from time to time, redraw what you know to keep your knowledge fresh.
To inspire you and give a personal example, I will show you what kind of anatomical sketches I do. These sketchbooks were filled without intention to be shown, but because in our art courses I advise students to make anatomy sketches, this would be a good example to demonstrate what they can do. Here are some of my sketches and you can see that I really didn't care about their quality because they are disposable scribbles. I did these drawings to refresh my knowledge of anatomy, to practice fast sketching and to develop new lessons for fine artists on anatomy and constructive drawing.
Needless to say, that knowledge of anatomy is very important when it comes to drawing portraits and figures from life, memory and imagination. Skeletal and muscular anatomy is what shapes a human body. Without this knowledge, it is very challenging to make realistic portraits and figurative artworks. Together with the knowledge of constructive drawing and proportions, anatomy separates amateur artworks from great masterpieces. This is because professional artists draw what they know, beginners copy what they see. I will explain this statement in detail.
People do not see what they don't know. If you do not know where are the points of origin and insertion of main muscles are, you won't see those points on a human body because muscles are hidden beneath the skin. But without that knowledge, you won't be able to truthfully depict outlines and contours of a human figure. This is because such outlines are linking the origin and insertion points you have no knowledge of. The same with proportions. If you do not know multiple proportions of a human body, you would not know what to check in your drawing.
Here's a quick test. Can you name 20 main proportions of a human figure and 20 proportions of a head? If not, how would you see those proportions in life or use them when drawing from imagination? I hope you see my point as to why the knowledge of anatomy and constructive drawing is important. It will greatly help you in making figurative artworks more realistic.
The challenge with anatomy is that your knowledge will fade away with time. You need to come back and redraw the same bones and muscles to keep them in your memory. Fast sketching is the ideal way to do so.
There is no need to make those drawings beautiful. They have another purpose – to make a mental picture of a human body construction and anatomy. And this picture can only be shaped when you draw it again and again. That is why it is not about quality, but quantity. If you depict a human hand or a skull multiple times with the full understanding of its construction and proportions, next time you draw a portrait, you will use the knowledge of anatomy almost on autopilot. You will avoid many junior mistakes of misunderstanding joints, breaking bones and misplacing muscles in your figurative drawings. It is not critical to distort proportions in your small and fast sketches. However, to learn rules of proportions, you need to make better drawings on a bigger scale. The sketchbooks you saw are A5 size. The drawings I am showing you now are twice as big. They are done on A4 size sheets of paper. On this scale, it is easier to make more precise drawings. The purpose of these drawings is different. Now, it is about proportions, cross-points and alignments.
I hope this demonstration gave you an idea of how to make anatomical sketches and what to aim for.
To learn human anatomy in the fast and easy way, you can take the Anatomy Master Class.
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