Composition | Perspective | Anatomy | Shadow & Light | Color | Style 


Basic Anatomy

“Venus with a Mirror”
Oil on canvas    1649-1651
Diego Velazquez

The Technique of Genius
by Jonathan Brown, Carmen Garrido
Catalogue Raisonne – 
Samtliche Gemalde
by Jose Lopez-Rey

Generally speaking in most cases, all mammal’s anatomy resembles that of a man in varied proportions. Therefore analysis and understanding of the human anatomy contributes to the insight and comparison to all other mammals respectfully. It is for this reason that attention to the human is emphasized on this page.

One of the most spectacular and what should be the most appreciated creations in our existence is the beauty and creation  of  the human  body itself. Nothing compares to the complexity in  mechanics and chemistry utilized to create this machine. As much as we have rigorously analyzed and researched our theories have still fallen short of  what actually caused our creation in the first place. It is this intriguing and instinctual curiosity that compels an Artist to continue attempting to record  in appreciation the vision of  the human form.

Discussing the human  figure we must acknowledge unanimously two of the most popular individual contributors to the study of anatomy.

  • Leonardo da Vinci’s contributions have far exceeded any commitment almost anyone  would consider. Not many  would envision themselves dissecting a friend after his death for the sake of science and art. However, no one will object in academic appraisal as to how much his work  has contributed to the advancement of mankind.

Leonardo on the Human Body
by Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Michelangelo had also excelled as an undisputed master at creating images of the human form in his paintings and sculpture. We are fortunate for his unique ability to combine his artistic talent with political posture providing the financial allocations and  programs for his projects.

Study of a Male Nude from the Back
Master of Europe.
1505    Pen and black chalk on paper

Athlete from The Creation
Master of Europe.
1505                      Fresco

 di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

The Life of Michel-Angelo  by Ascanio Condivi

Michelangelo – The Last Judgment : A Glorious Restoration
by Loren Partridge, Fabrizio Mancinelli (Contributor), Gianluigi Colalucci
Click here for more info

What sets these particular Artists apart from most is their intense analysis of the skeletal and muscular systems relating to movement and further, their attempt to document their findings in their art.  Today,  much of their analysis and documentation is still utilized as professional reference.

In order to create successful figure drawings you wouldn’t have to learn all the the parts of the body but,  you should consider researching anatomical references for the more complex areas of the body. Provided below are links to pages from  and  which show and identify all the bones and muscles of the body and face. By placing your cursor over the identifying marks the corresponding names will appear to name each particular part.

Some important tips

  • You don’t  need  to memorize the names of each bone. However, you should collect some photo or illustrated reference books continuing to observe the dimensions of bones and how they connect and work together. Depending on your field of study, this collection should include good anatomy, erotic and visual photo reference to assist you with your analysis of a particular pose that may otherwise cause you difficulty.

One practical facet in understanding the geometry of the body is by analysis of various views of the skeleton and the size of each bone in proportion to the rest  of the body. There’s some excellent clarification about this topic on Rebecca Alzofon’s figure drawing workshop website  Life Drawing  Gesture – The Foundation of Figurative Art.  Creating the frame work of the figure you are drawing, lightly sketch a rough outline accenting definitive areas of the skeleton avoiding detail and clothing which distorts the body’s natural contours. This is equally important even with clothed figures where the bones lend support to fabric.  Remind yourself  frequently when rendering your sketch that the body supports the clothing. By doing so, it will enable you to improve your visual understanding of how the clothing drapes or fits the subject. Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery by Burne Hogarth is good book that covers this topic well.

  • To create a uniform technique though out your painting, avoid applying any detail before rendering all your dimensions accurately. Focus on visualizing the completed picture, not just the details within it. Once  you have set a rough outline for the composition and scale of your piece continue to move around moderately adding specifics equality as you go.
  •  It is not one feature that visually  identifies an individual. It is the combination of them all.  Open your eyes and train yourself to spend more time observing  your subject than with the actual drawing.  Not unlike a portrait,  take notice of  identifying resemblance’s. Familiarize yourself with the  areas were the shape of the bone defines a visible impression on the appearance of the subject such as the acromion of the shoulder, clavicle or collar bone, ribs, the lliac crest above the hip, and the lower ball of the femur with the patella (knee cap), etc..
  • Pay attention to body geometry especially with the hands and feet even if you have to do preliminary  sketches repetitively until you get them right. A perfect example is with the bones which form the outline of the hands. You can easily destroy a realistic portrait master piece by failing to render  them accurately.

Examine these simple comparisons:

      1. The index and ring finger are near the same length.
      2. The length and width of the palm are both near equal to the length of the index or ring finger.
      3. Except for the width and number of joints, the length of the thumb is equal to the length of the little finger were it extends from the palm.
      4. Although some fingers possess the illusion of  being shorter or longer,  because they are fatter or leaner or  due to an unusual pose,  all hands regardless of  the subject should be drawn proportionality the same.
      5. With the hand laid flat, examine the locations of  the knuckles on the hand were they align  such as the last knuckle of the thumb and the palm knuckles. Also the tip of the thumb extends to the same point as the first knuckle of the little finger. Notice that these comparisons change slightly with each pose. However the dimensions of the hand will remain  the same
  • When applying detail to the contours of muscles,  remember that a muscle’s only two functions are to “contract” or  “relax”. A common example would be with the arm. When lifting your hand directly to shoulder height, the biceps contract (bulging) to lift your forearm. Once you have lowered your hand the triceps contract as the biceps relax. Your  rendering should reflect this observation even with the more subtle female anatomy.
  • Pay close attention to the light source when applying shadows and light that define the anatomic contours of your subject. Incorrect use of shadowing can distort overall dimensions.
  • Be certain to plan allowances for proper perspective .
      1. Where you may have multiple figures in a picture and one of them occupies the background the general scale would be reduced. However, make certain your proportions remain the same.
      2. Where the pose of a single subject demands you to disclose perspective, “foreshortening” alters  the principals of proportion  to capture anatomic perspective which, will enable you to exhibit a more realistic sense of depth to your painting.
      3. Use of color is also used to depict the overall impression of depth. By placing light or hot colors in the foreground and shadowing or use of cooler shades in the background you can  produce a receding effect.
An Atlas of Anatomy 
for Artists
by Fritz Schider
Dynamic Anatomy
by Burne Hogarth

Drawing and Painting
Hands & Feet

by Robert E. Fairley
Dynamic Hands
by Burne Hogarth

Links on Anatomy

“When I’ve painted a woman’s bottom so that I want to touch it, then the painting is finished.” …. Pierre Auguste Renoir

Art S. Buck Anatomical Models

These anatomically proportional one-sixth scale models have over 30 points of articulation allowing them to display virtually the full range of human movement. They are constructed of highly-durable plastic. A display stand is included. Choose from male or female models.  

 Buy Here

The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression
by Gary Faigin

Drawing the 
Female Nude
by Giovanni Civardi

The Big Book of
Drawing and Painting

the Figure  by
Muntsa Calbo Angrill

Drawing Human Anatomy
by Giovanni Civardi

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