Anatomy for the Artist

It was such fun to give critiques this past weekend at the Portrait Society of America Convention and get to see what different artists are pursuing; their styles, their ideas for series, their successes and their struggles. A recurring topic of discussion addressed anatomy issues. It is a portrait convention and getting a good likeness of your client is key. Here is a list of some of the books on my shelves that have helped me in my quest for accurate representation of my subjects:

  • If you want to get teaching directly from a master anatomy teacher who taught at the Art Students League of New York
    • Master Class in Figure Drawing by Robert Beverly Hale… this book does have very tiny print, just so you know
  • A terrific little book to do copy drawings from
    • The Human Figure by John H. Vanderpoel… the text in this book takes some focus to follow along, and the drawings are small but very beautiful and very instructive all by themselves.
  • Of course, the anatomy textbook for artists (if you want to feel like you’re in a college classroom on the subject) is
    • Human Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger… the text is very, very scientific, but I think the best part of the book is the glossary in the back that shows various ways to describe the planes of the full figure, head and hands (wire frame, planar, and real people with flesh on) 
  • A beautiful book with live models photographed in various poses and velum overlays on several images that show the placement of the bone structure is
    • Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet… I’ve referenced this book when I was trying to finish my one and only full figure sculpture of a belly dancer. It was very helpful.
  • And finally the Bridgman books. He draws in curves which I think can make correcting a drawing problematic. I would suggest sticking with linear construction, but his books are accurate. Try this one for starters
    • Constructive Anatomy by George B. Bridgman
  • For a DVD that actually discusses how to divide the face to achieve correct proportions, Daniel Greene still wins on this topic. 
    • Portrait Drawing by Daniel E. Greene

I’ve pulled together reference information for my portrait classes from so many different resources, I’m not sure where I got what anymore. The acid test I use for trusting the information I read is my own observation. So don’t take any of these books as bibles on the subject. Your best source of information is your own two eyes. Be an ardent observer of the world around you.

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