Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Lure of Anatomy.

Leonardo Da Vinci. A skull sectioned, 1489.


Leonardo Da Vinci. Anatomy of the shoulder and neck.


Leonardo Da Vinci. Muscles of the shoulder.


Leonardo Da Vinci. Anatomy of the shoulder and neck.


Raphael. Study for Adam. Black chalk, 1509.


Michael Whynot. Study of Arm and Shoulder, 2012.


Michael Whynot. Study of Legs, 2012.


Human anatomy is seductive for the draftsman. Its study seems to hold the promise of superior drawing ability, much as a Michelangelo, Raphael, or Da Vinci possessed. But this is a path upon which the draftsman can swiftly become disoriented and lost amid the bones, muscles and tendons. He can spend years learning the latin nomenclature, origins and insertions of muscles; all the while, their drawing abilities languish.

So, can the draftsman improve their drawing ability with the study of anatomy? Yes, I believe they can. If it is studied properly and at the appropriate time.

The study of anatomy will not teach the draftsman how to draw. Otherwise all doctors, nurses and physio therapists would be master draftsmen, which is not the case. You must know how to draw first. You must be able to describe form and bring line to life on a two dimensional surface.

What the study of anatomy will teach you is to understand that which you are seeing. The amount of information available when observing the human form is immense and overwhelming; much more than the draftsman can or should use. The study of anatomy teaches you to understand which information is important, allowing you to simplify and clarify your drawings so that they don't become overworked and lifeless. Good draftsmanship is a matter of seeing and selecting those elements which advance the drawing of which you have conceived.

Notice the wonderful attention to detail and the intricate line-work that Da Vinci rendered in his studies of anatomy which elevated those drawings to true works of art. And see how Raphael has obviously studied anatomy but used it selectively with his beautiful, lively line in the Study for Adam.

I've also included two of my own figure studies done in red chalk.

Learn anatomy with care, but learn to see with abandon, and your line may, one day, transcend simple knowledge to achieve a life of its own. At the end of the day, anatomy is nothing more than five pounds of dust without the grace of the human soul. Endeavour to draw that which gives anatomy meaning: learn to draw the human soul.