One of the most common things that I end up talking to people about is anatomy. Just about every portfolio I’ve ever looked through, or every friend who’s asked me how to get better gets almost the same talk that boils down to, “You need to learn human anatomy.”
Drawing from life, of course, is the best way to do this, but without an understand of WHY that muscle bulges like that, or why the bones seem to bend about there, you’re left with only a partial understand and it will be glaringly obvious once you start drawing outside of what you can find reference for.
An understanding of how the muscles work and the tendons stretch will be what allows your drawings of the human form to blossom. The question then because: “Where do I start to learn from?” I know of three men that are generally the topics of conversation when anatomy is mentioned: George Bridgman, Andrew Loomis, and Burne Hogarth. Which one is the best is generally highly debated, but I’ve looked over them all at least partially so I can give you a run down of how they teach. I won’t make a recommendation here, as that is something that you’ll have to make for yourself based on what speaks to you. I can tell you, Burne Hogarth is my hero
Loomis is old school. His books are largely no longer in print, but you can still find them reasonably around Amazon. The key anatomy book that he put out is “Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth” and he focuses on simplified build ups, talking more about building blocks and refining than delving into the muscles, ligaments, and bones beneath the skin. This is highly effective, and he does a wonderful job of conveying the human form. A lot of people still find a good deal of understanding in Loomis.
An excerpt from “Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth” demonstrating his building block approach.
George Bridgman is the next big one. He’s been recommended by industry greats like Jim Lee, so you know he’s got some clout. Bridgman’s cornerstone anatomy book was “Constructive Anatomy”. Like Loomis, Bridgman focuses on building forms to create bodies, but he does tend to give more focus and attention to the underlying musculature than Loomis did. He does a great job of illustrating how to build a body from the ground up, and gives a good passing understanding of the muscles and tendons involved in movement.
An excerpt from “Constructive Anatomy” demonstrating Bridgman’s form based process.
Burne Hogarth is the godfather of modern anatomy. Just about any artist you ask – especially in the comics book arena – has at least heard of the man I’d wager. He’s been the inspiration behind folks like Joe Kubert, so he’s definitely got clout as well. I’m willing to bet that you’ve probably seen some of his extreme poses and high detail musculature he’s so well known for. He focuses on forms and planes of the surface, but also delves much deeper into the musculature and ligaments than the other two, which has worked well for me with my “how does it work” attitude.
One of the more down to earth poses from “Dynamic Anatomy” illustrating Hogarth’s emphasis of muscle structure.
I hope that this has been enlightening for you, and helpful. All three of the books I’ve mentioned here are linked below on Amazon. Definitely worth a read! If you’ve still got questions, post them in the comments! Later guys!