Studio Mysteries

August 31, 2009

Mapping The Land Of Golf Balls

Filed under: 2D Anatomy Course, Anatomy — Tags: , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 5:49 am

It’s all very well to learn about bones and muscles from anatomy books, where everybody stands like a soldier at attention and conveniently has no skin. That is the first step in learning artistic anatomy – memorizing what’s where.

The second step is no less challenging, perhaps even more so. The second step involves looking at an actual human body, or even a representation of it in figurative art, and identifying what it is that you are looking at. To me, it feels like reciting the Bible backwards in a foreign language while doing a handstand. Just when you thought you got a handle on it, somebody takes it upon themselves to bend a limb and rotate it as if to mock every diagram ever drawn and labelled, and you have to discover America all over again while the native people point and laugh.

It’s week 8 of the 2D Anatomy course, and we are doing exercises that at first seemed competely impossible: taking a master drawing or sculpture, tracing its outline and drawing the muscles and bones within it. The first few assignments, I would look at a figure, and it would be covered with a myriad of completely random bumps, as if the model was wearing a pelt of golf balls. “Who are you, Random Bump # 317? I demand a valid identification!” I would shout, and the golf balls would dance and undulate as if to mock the very concept of sobriety.

Now it’s a bit better. I can look at the work of even the most beef-happy artist, like Michelangelo or Rodin, and identify at least a couple of bumps. And once you get a handle on a couple of bumps, you can get them to snitch on their neighbours! If bump X is an elbow, there are only so many possibilities as to what bumps Y and Z can possibly be. I correctly triangulated a scapula off a muscle the other day, and it was almost as much fun as ice-cream.

This is Rodin’s Thinker. His forearm is basically a sea creature family reunion, but hah! Science named them all. Score one for Team Darwin.



  1. This is such a clever and interesting way to teach anatomy and your drawing looks impressively text-book.

    Understanding the skeleton muscle structure, knowing how they work together etc., will obviously result in more believable art work – but it must be SO difficult to remember it all. I suppose being passionate about your subject fixes that…and having to pay for the lessons yourself would concentrate the mind.

    Comment by InkSplodge! — September 1, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

  2. P.S. I’ll bet you can do a headstand and recite the Bible backwards in foreign tongues – you crazy Russian/Canadian/Californian person.

    Comment by InkSplodge! — September 1, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

  3. Splodge, the thing that is hard is that human bodies are so individual and so constantly in motion – it’s not so hard to work out what’s where in a muscle diagram, but every model has a unique amount of fat and muscle interacting, and nobody stands like the anatomy book reference dude! That’s the hard part, knitting together the anatomical theory with the specific angle, pose and model you are looking at.

    The exercise in this example really helps with that. The course I will be taking in the fall also focuses on learning to recognize anatomical information on a living model, and I’m really excited about that one.

    And thank you for your confidence in my bible-linguistic acrobatics abilities 😀

    Comment by Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries — September 4, 2009 @ 5:34 am

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