Studio Mysteries

September 13, 2009

Studio Mysteries Answers Questions

Filed under: 3D Anatomy Course, Anatomy, Ecorche — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 1:48 pm

The purpose of this blog is in large part educational. Therefore, it cheers my little blogger heart to no end when I look at what search terms people used to get here, and see that some of them are in the form of a question. Here are some answers:

Q. “Is pubic bone below ilium?”

A. Yes. The ilium is the topmost bone in the pelvis. If you put your hands on your waist and move them down until they run into the pelvis, what you will touch is the ilium. Although it’s important to note that in anatomy, terms such as “above” and “below” are relative. The human body is capable of a great range of movement and often positions itself ass over teakettle. This means the artist has to analyze the relationships between major anatomical landmarks for every pose.

Q. “How to draw boobs”

A. How indeed. I suggest, “with lots of enthusiasm” and “by observing how they conform to the underlying form of the rib cage”. Breasts are glands protected by fatty tissue, resting on top of the pectoralis muscles in a bubble of skin. Female breasts have weight and drape over whatever they lie on top of. Kirk Shinmoto has a hilarious, though also crude and slightly awful analogy: think of balloons filled with water and nailed to a barrel.

Conversely, don’t draw breasts as though they are billiard balls. Even artificially augmented breasts are filled with material that is pliable, not rock solid. And solidity is what makes artificially augmented breasts look fake and weird. Breasts are soft. They are meant to be treated – and drawn – with care.

Q. “how rey’s anatomy do skeleton?”

A. In the 3D Anatomy/Ecorche class, we started with constructing a wire armature that would support the weight of the clay and keep the ecorche upright. We sculpted the skeleton on top of that. Because half of the ecorche would be eventually covered with muscle, we made the skeleton on the exposed half very detailed, and on the muscle half, rougher and more general.

Rey stresses that studying the skeleton is the most important part of artistic anatomy. There are a couple of reasons for that.

First, muscles and fatty tissue are very changeable. They look different in every pose, and vary a lot from individual to individual. The skeleton is immutable and though individual variations exist, they are much more subtle.

Secondly, similarly to breasts, muscle and fat tissue drapes. In a way, it has no form of its own, like a dress that assumes its final form only when the wearer puts it on. If you understand the skeleton, you understand how the underlying bones give form to what you see on the surface.

Thirdly, muscles attach to bones. If you figure out where the bones are and what they are doing, all you have to do is connect the origin and insertion points with a tear-drop shape and presto – you have the muscles. (Every muscle has origin and insertion points – think of it as a bridge from point A to point B. When you study muscles, you have to study what points of the skeleton they connect).

May 24, 2009

Norbert Grew Some

Filed under: 3D Anatomy Course, Anatomy, Ecorche, Rey Bustos — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 5:32 pm

The 3D Anatomy/Ecorche course with Rey Bustos is more than half-way through, and we are finishing up the skeleton. Rey spends a lot more time on the bones than on the muscles. It makes sense because if you get the skeleton right, getting stuff to drape over it correctly is a breeze. But if the underlying structure is wrong, then the muscles hang off it wrongly too.

This course has been one of the most challenging classes I have ever taken, because it’s two steep learning curves for the price of one (unless you are a sculptor who is used to small-scale work). I have sweated many, many hours not only wrapping my head around complex anatomical information, but on top of that, trying to create a 3D version of my class notes in a material I have never worked with before.

I’d be lying if I said this project wasn’t overwhelming and frustrating at times – many times – but as I persisted and kept sweating through it, it has gotten easier and more rewarding. The human skeleton looks more and more beautiful to me. It is also becoming known, charted, even well-loved territory, whereas before, it was an alien and incomprehensible terrain.

As we go through the course, I realize how much we are just scratching the surface of what there is to know. I read somewhere that in gaining any new skill, you go through four stages:
1. Unconscious ignorance – when you don’t know just how much you don’t know.
2. Conscious ignorance – when you are crushed by the realization of how much you don’t know.
3. Conscious knowledge – when you begin to acquire mastery over the subject, and are tickled pink about it.
4. Unconscious (internalized) knowledge – when your knowledge informs what you do without you having to stop and think about it.

On a clear day, I can see Stage 3 from where I am. Far away, though.

Ecorche Norbert Is Getting Bigger and Stronger.

Ecorche Norbert Is Getting Bigger and Stronger.

April 29, 2009

3D Anatomy With Rey Bustos: Ecorche, Wireframe Stage

Filed under: 3D Anatomy Course, Anatomy, Ecorche, LAAFA, Rey Bustos — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 3:37 pm

One of the reasons I came to California and to LAAFA is the chance to study with Rey Bustos, a legendary anatomist and as I am discovering, an equally legendary and brilliant teacher. One of his teaching inventions is having the students construct their own sculptural ecorch̩ (skinless human form). The sheer effectiveness of this as a teaching tool is incredible Рyou learn through all your senses, not just the ones involved in listening, reading and taking notes. You also learn to think in space and 3-dimensionally, which is crucial for people who work in 2D as well.

One of my favourite Rey sayings so far is that when you look at powerful figurative artworks, you believe that there is a back to the front. That’s what makes them so effective – they are about the entirety of the form, whether parts of it are visible or not. They are driven by internalized knowledge of that form, so that the artist is free to add or edit, and is not a slave to what’s lit up vs. obscured, for example.

The ecorche-buiding process is great in that it dictates an inside-to-outside learning sequence: first we learn about a structure and then cement the learned material by making that structure.

This is the first stage, in which we build a wire support:


Different thickness of wire is used for different parts of the support. We built the rib cage with individual wire ribs, after learning a bit about the rib cage. Here are some rib cage facts:

  • Humans come equipped with a default installation of 24 ribs, 12 on each side.
  • Ribs 1-7 are attached to the vertebral column in the back, and to the sternum in the front.
  • Ribs 8-10 are hangers on: the sternum runs out of room for attachments at Rib 7, so Ribs 8-10 have to form a daisy chain. Rib 8 attaches to Rib 7, Rib 9 attaches to Rib 8 and so on.
  • Rib 8 is the widest point of the rib cage. The ribs that follow begin to decrease in size.
  • Rib 10 is the last fully attached rib. It is also a major anatomical landmark that is visible on non-plus-size models. One of the things you need to do when constructing a drawing of a human figure is to look at the position of the 10th ribs, the tilt of the imaginary line connecting both of them, and how that tilt relates to the tilt of the shoulders and the pelvis.
  • Ribs 11 and 12 are much shorter and do not attach at the front. Their main function is to protect the kidneys, and I personally find them a little creepy.
  • The fully attached ribs, 1-10, have bone-to-bone joints at the back, but at the front, they are attached with cartilage. This cartilage expands and contracts as we breathe. How nifty is that?

Note that we are only constructing the wire support for the ribs on one side. That’s because this side will have exposed bone at the end. The other side will be built out of muscle, and the ribs will be covered anyway. Luckily, it’s not a big deal because human beings are conventiently symmetrical and if you understand half the rib cage, you are beginning to understand the whole.

Incidentally, my ecorché is named Norbert. Eventually, Norbert will look like this other dude in the background:


Naming the ecorche is a popular student sport. My classmate Amanda named hers Sven, and let me tell you: Sven works out.

Create a free website or blog at