4. Practical Anatomy for life drawing



1. The branch of science concerned with the bodily structure of humans, animals, and other organisms, esp. as revealed by dissection.

2. The bodily structure of an organism.

You can think of your approach to anatomy in a similar way to the two dictionary definitions of the word ‘anatomy’ above and go either route. You could learn about the body’s structure ‘as revealed by dissection’ – various muscles layered over hundreds of bones – or you could just keep things simple and learn a highly simplified structure of the body and some practical tips about the body specifically for drawing. In this course we will take you through the latter.

When would you need a detailed knowledge of anatomy

You can see the skin of a person, but everything about the form and tone of that skin is dictated by the bones, muscles and flesh beneath. It can be really useful to understand that underlying structure. Indeed, many life drawing books and courses make you feel like you’ve started studying medicine rather than drawing.

For some people, this might be the style you like and an approach which you enjoy, and so of course it should be pursued.

This approach can also be very useful for more advanced artists looking to draw figures from their imagination. A good knowledge of anatomy will give you the building blocks to construct a very realistic human form without a reference, especially if you’re drawing someone muscular.

If you’re interested in such an in-depth knowledge, here’s some free resources that might help:

Artnatomia is a good tool for those looking to understand the anatomical structure of the face

Artnatomy is a good tool for those looking to understand the anatomical structure of the face


If you're interested in an in-depth, scientific knowledge of anatomy, this is a good website to try.

If you like anatomy, that’s great, but if not don’t worry! We aren’t here to illustrate a biology textbook, we’re making art. In fact, going too far down the road of anatomy, if that isn’t the method you enjoy, might make your drawings something much worse than ‘incorrect’ – they might become boring. And even worse than that, it could become boring doing them. Also, learning a standardised step by step process to drawing specifically the human body could undermine your ability to draw other things – which would be a great shame because that is one of the great advantages of life drawing.

A simplified structure of the body

An understanding of a very simplified version of the body’s structure will help you to make sense of what you are seeing and achieve the types of nuanced marks that will make your drawings natural. For this course, we are taking a practical approach – giving you a simple structure to the body that will help you apply what we learned about perspective in the previous section.

Rather than constructing a human on the page doing the same pose as the model using a standardised knowledge of the body’s structure, we suggest you try to draw the model using your eyes. Anatomical knowledge will help you see more clearly, rather than replacing what you are seeing. So this knowledge should be used in conjuction with the observational skills we learned in the measurement, alignment and negative space and tone sections.


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