Anatomy for artists


Anatomy is rarely taught to art students these days, although it used to be an essential part of the artist’s training. Egon Schiele and Rodin clearly had anatomical knowledge that shines through in their work. It seems logical to me that if I have some understanding of the underlying structures of the body, I will be better able to draw it. In theory!


Alan McGowan taught the course with rigorous attention to detail; he developed life size diagrams of the human figure on the studio wall as we moved through the anatomy, showing us first on the skeleton, then on the life model – who luckily had amazing muscle definition. We also watched some videos of dissected human bodies, which were hard to watch but really put all the learning into practice.


Most of my drawings during the course took the form of diagrams.

The eye naturally finds landmarks such as the supra sternal notch (the hollow at the base of the neck between the clavicles or collar bones), or the sacral triangle (the dimples at the base of the spine). Instead of a stick man, it can be helpful to map out the shape of the ribcage and hips, with directional lines to indicate the angle of the shoulders and the hips. The aim is always to draw the form of the figure and not just the outline.  

I began using a dip pen for the first time, which can be an unforgiving medium when trying to shade forms, although does make gorgeous marks. Charcoal reduction is a more sculptural and forgiving technique.  

I need to do some further diagrams of my own (from books) to really consolidate all the knowledge, and then the task will be to allow it to sink to an unconscious level, so I’m not forever drawing diagram-like figures with all the muscles highlighted! Hoping to visit the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons soon to draw their collection of skeletons.