In this video / article, we review 5 anatomy books and also discuss how we use anatomy books for figure drawing.
Below is a summary of the 5 reviews and our discussion on using anatomy books. The video shows more of the books and us drawing from them.
Anatomy for the Artist by Jeno Barcsay
This book has useful drawings and diagrams, and can be found fairly cheaply online secondhand. It doesn’t have the clearest or most user friendly diagrams of the five books reviewed here though, so it’s a good one to go for if you are on a budget.
Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet
This is a beautiful book with great photos, complete with nice transparent overlays you can place over some of the photos to see the anatomy within. The photos are such that you can draw from them when you’re at home and don’t want to stare at a computer screen for a reference.
The author’s own drawings are really interesting and use anatomical knowledge in a non-academic, creative way. However, the diagrams are not as useful for learning to draw as Valerie Winslow’s book or the Bammes book discussed below.
An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists by Fritz Schider
This is quite an old book, and can also be found cheaply secondhand online. The diagrams are decent and provide you with the essential information you need, so again this is a good one for those on a budget.
Classic Human Anatomy: the Artist’s Guide for Form, Function and Movement by Valerie Winslow
This is the best all rounder, and if you just want to learn about anatomy for drawing without any frills, get this book. The diagrams are designed to be as straightforward and useful as possible, and the text is not pretentious. We love this book.
The Complete Guide to Anatomy for Artists & Illustrators by Gottfried Bammes
We reviewed this book in full here. The short version is that the diagrams are fantastic and really useful, and show that Bammes really knew how to teach anatomy for artists. We love to study them. It’s quite expensive though, and it’s massive. A lot of it is filled with text that is hard to read and makes anatomy study feel quite inaccessible. So get it for the pages with the wonderful diagrams.
How we use Anatomy Books
For drawing lifelike figures from imagination, a strong knowledge of anatomy will help a lot. If drawing from a live model or a reference photo though, far less anatomy knowledge is needed. In fact, sometimes concerning yourself too much with anatomy knowledge can stifle your drawing when you have a model.
Having said that, even if you draw from a reference, anatomy knowledge can be useful to help you observe and understand. You can see the shapes more clearly since you understand the structures beneath them. So, if you find you are struggling with a particular body part, it’s useful to go to your anatomy book and study the diagrams of that area. You can copy the diagrams, as we did in this video, to help gain an intuitive sense of that part of the body.
I hope you enjoyed our book review, it’s a little different to what we normally do so let us know what you think, and also tell us about books you own. Don’t forget to sign up for our Life Drawing Success guide below. Thanks for reading!