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Anatomy for Artists: The Complete Guide to Drawing the Human Body

Anatomy for Artists: The Complete Guide to Drawing the Human Body PDF

Author: Barrington Barber

Publisher: Arcturus


Publish Date: November 30, 2015


Pages: 133

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

Anatomy books are essential for figure artists, but many are published for medical purposes and tend to give too much information. For example, the inner organs of the body are interesting to know about, but not relevant for drawing. What is important for the artist or art student to learn is the structure of the human form, based on the skeleton and the musculature. There have been a number of good and useful books on this subject. Some are a little out of date, not so much in the information they give, but in the way it is presented. Other well-produced contemporary books are mainly photographic.

My task here has been to produce a comprehensive anatomy book which has all the information necessary for an artist, using drawings and diagrams presented in an easy-to-follow format; and I also wanted to put into it everything I have found useful in my own drawing practices.

Firstly in this book I deal with the full figure, followed by chapters on the anatomy of the major parts of the body. Each section shows the skeleton from different viewpoints, then the muscles on top of the bone structure, and finally the surface form of the human body.

Of course, not all human bodies are perfectly formed and proportions differ from person to person. Throughout the book I have used well-proportioned, fairly athletic figures. This means that you will become acquainted with the shapes of the muscles at their best, although you will probably draw many people who do not have such well-toned bodies as these.

Throughout the book I examine each part of the body in detail, concentrating in particular on musculature and how the body moves. Each area of detailed analysis may sometimes repeat what has been shown in previous chapters: this is necessary because some muscles overlie others and this, to a certain extent, changes their shape on the surface. So don’t be surprised to see the same names cropping up from time to time, and it does make them easier to remember.

In the technical introduction at the start of the book you will find an explanation of descriptive terms used in medical circles, followed by a detailed list of Latin terminology. This is worth reading, because understanding anatomical terms will help you follow the annotations in the book. It may take a little time to remember all the names you need, but after regular use of these terms you will usually remember enough to describe what you are looking at.

I have omitted any description of the brain, heart, lungs and other viscera because these items are housed within the cranium, the ribcage and the pelvis, and it is the bony parts of the body which dictate the surface shape for figure-drawing purposes. I have also left out details of the male genitalia, because the differences in size and shape are too variable.

Throughout history, artists have looked at our bodies and shown their beauty, force and distortions. I have used the best possible references to draw these pictures, including my own life studies, but have not drawn from dissected corpses as Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci did. Artists have contributed a lot to the study of anatomy, both for artistic and medical purposes. In drawing, the practising artist wants to capture the form of this complex bodily machinery, but before doing so he or she needs to know how it works.

Technical Introduction

This section is intended to give you some initial detail about the human anatomy before starting to draw. I have described the properties of bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, skin, fat and joints, and shown diagrams of the different types of joints and muscles. There is also an introduction to anatomical terminology: you will find this useful as certain terms are used throughout the book.


The skeleton is the solid framework of the body, partly supporting and partly protective. The shape of the skeleton can vary widely. It affects the build of a person and determines whether they have masses of muscle and fat or not.

Bones are living tissue supplied by blood and nerves. They can become weaker and thinner with malnutrition and lack of use or heavier and stronger when having to support more weight. They are soft and pliable in the embryo, and only become what we would consider hard and bone-like by the twenty-fifth year of life.

Humans have 206 bones, but it is possible to be born with some bones missing or even extra ones, and a few bones fuse together with age. We each have a skull, ribcage, pelvis and vertebral column, as well as arm, hand, leg and foot bones. Most bones are symmetrical. The bones of the limbs are cylindrical, thickening towards the ends. The projecting part of a bone is referred to as a process or an eminence.

Highly mobile areas of the body, such as the wrists, consist of numerous small bones. Other bones, like the scapula (shoulder blade) can move in all directions, controlled by the muscles around them.

The bones of the cranium (skull) differ from all others. They grow from separate plates into one fused vault to house the brain. The mandible (jawbone) is the only movable bone in the head.

The long bones of the arms and legs act like levers, while the flat bones of the skull, the cage-like bones of the ribs and the basin shape of the pelvis protect the more vulnerable organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, liver and the abdominal viscera.

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