How to Learn Anatomy!
The important Skill of Anatomy and how young artists can Learn It
-by Grace Gardner-
Ah, human anatomy, the artist’s great friend and often foe. Almost every aspiring artist knows the frustration of drawing a hand and making it look right. We often find a way around it with a glove-like shape or just a simple circle and it passes, or so we think. So ‘why’, you might ask, should I have to learn how to draw a realistic hand, or realistic human in general, when the cartoons that I’ve already been drawing work well enough?
The answer is quite simple. Understanding human anatomy offers an artist the fundamental building blocks for correctly drawing other people. Otherwise one could wonder why anyone would start to learn how to draw humans, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal, if we weren’t surrounded by them. But really, if your plan is to pursue a creative career, you’ll need to have a diverse skill set and knowledge of proper human anatomy as it is expected by default and is a bit of a hard skill to fake.
Given that anatomy is essential for understanding how to build proper humanoids, it is a skill you should be learning pretty early on. But there are people who either don’t bother to learn anatomy at all or have difficulty fully grasping it the first time someone tries to teach them. For these reasons students commonly give up learning this skill before they begin.
Yet understanding human anatomy and how to use it properly is a very important skill to have. Anatomy gives students a 100% chance of improving their ability to draw a human form. In Anatomy courses, like the ones offered at Max the Mutt College through our diploma programs, you’ll learn the human body’s bone structure, then how muscles connect to those bones, how those muscles work for movement, act and react. Understanding those concepts help students to improve how their characters move and will assist in creating a less awkward looking form. Anatomy also helps a student understand how to give a human form weight and knowing this helps to make even a 2D person seem more alive.
Taking workshops that focus on figurative drawing like those of our Portfolio Development programs will give you more insight into how to draw a human form.
As a wise artist said: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” – Pablo Picasso
You’re probably wondering why in the world it is so hard to draw humans considering not only are we human ourselves but we are constantly surrounded by them. Well it may be surprising to know that the reason IS exactly that, we are constantly surrounded by humans making them very hard to draw.
You see, our brain has made short cuts for us to make processing the world around us easier and an often used social shortcut is to break down and then interpret the details that make up the people around us. Our brains aren’t fully recognizing the exact shapes and contours of our hands or how many wrinkles a person has on their face. The brain sees this information and changes it into generalized ideas of a person, like when you say someone has ‘soft features’ or they ‘looked old’.
Our brains do this for better social communication and is the reason we can see strange looking comic humans as humans. It takes the features we unconsciously process and exaggerates them to give us an impression of what that person is like.
This is why understanding and putting proper anatomy into practice is so hard. You have to un-train the brain of your old social shortcuts in order to really see what humans are made up of for the first time.
Where do you even learn anatomy nowadays?
Well many people now try to learn it casually online by picking up techniques and instructions on how to draw humans here and there through other artist anatomy tips. This will give you an idea on how the body could be drawn in the artist’s style but it lacks that teachable understanding of how the bones and muscles interact to make a human form pose or move.
The best way to fully understand the fundamentals of anatomy is to take a hands on course like ones offered at Max the Mutt. For example, workshop courses like Single Session Life Drawing or any of our Portfolio Development programs which give students the tools to help understand the concepts as well as assist to build their portfolio. Those looking for a more independent approach can follow the teachings of our Constructive Figure Drawing instructor, Dave Ross through his book, Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators, which provides a thorough approach to practicing figure drawing. Or for the student choosing to enroll in a creative diploma, like any of Max the Mutt College’s diploma programs in Animation, Concept Art or Illustration, they would definitely be taught anatomy and other important basic building blocks in order to improve their skills.
Whichever path you choose, we know that mastering anatomy from the inside out will give a boost to any artist looking to make any characters or creature designs.