Thursday, September 08, 2011

Why You, Yes YOU! Should Understand Anatomy

So you've got a pretty stylized, cartoony way of drawing. It's pretty slick and fairly simple, and you can do it in your sleep. Who cares if elbows don't bend that way (hey, its DYNAMIC) or necks don't rotate 360 degrees. What does it matter if you have no idea how joints work or how bones turn in their sockets. What do you care, you're not into that fine art racket, you're a COMIC ARTIST, and learning anatomy will slow you down.

So, so SO bad.  Sausage limbs, anyone?

Look at me trying to cheat anatomy by simplifying the way I drew even further.  Nothing can hide the stank of bad anatomy.
Slightly better understanding of the basic human body.  You'd think I'd at least know how girls are made, considering I am one.
The previous string o sketches was done in October.  These were done in December.  Already you can see a major difference.  Or maybe I just flatter myself.

Yeah, you know, I was just like you for a really long time. A really, really, embarassingly long time. I didn't think I needed to learn anatomy. And so, though I'd been drawing for years, I never really improved. I stayed in my safe little box drawing horribly and wondering why nobody saw me for the special little awesome snowflake that I was.

Maybe you aren't just like me. Maybe you're smarter.

Knowing how the human body works might slow you down in the beginning, as you try to reconcile your style with what your brain knows to be true. But with plenty of figure drawing practice, you'll actually be working faster and smarter than you worked before, and your pages will be much more believable. When you DO decide to break the human body for stylistic purposes, the impact will be much greater. The more you work and study, the better you will draw.

Consider it an investment in your craft. You don't have to spend every day drawing detailed nudes with enough nuances to shock your mother. You just need to understand how the human body is put together, how bone meets socket, how joints hinge. I won't even pretend that I have a good understanding, but I have a working understanding, and I'm always taking steps to improve my understanding.

You don't need to take a class to start. All you need is a good book. I strongly recommend Glen Villpu's Drawing Manual. That's where I got my feet wet. He breaks the human body down into simple shapes, and works subtractively from there. He doesnt go into anatomical detail, there's no real explaination of muscle masses, but his book is a great place to start. If you're looking to understand proportions, I recommend Andrew Loomis's Figure Drawing for All It's Worth. My anatomical thought process is a combination of Loomis and Villpu. Once you understand how the body is put together, you've freed yourself to draw a variety of poses in a variety of shots at a faster rate. The better you understand anatomy, the faster you can draw, and the less you rely on reference.

I've gotten a couple requests for posts on anatomy, which I plan on sharing soon. I have a small handout I did for a highschool class I volunteered for that never quite made it to the class (sorry kids!), and I'm going to build out from there. It's a little dated, stylewise (I've improved a lot since then) but a lot of the basics are the same, and if I were to redo it, I would just be repeating myself with prettier graphics. Where I need to make amendments, I will do so.

I like to flatter myself into thinking there's vast improvement, but lets face it, if I stare at it too long, I can't tell any difference.  Maybe it's time for me to go to bed.