From the beginning of modern medicine, anatomy has existed primarily within the realm of medical education. Yet there’s something fascinating happening right now. Artists are breaking anatomy out of the confines of the medical world and are thrusting it into the public space.
But before I get into the details of anatomy, it’s important to understand how art influenced anatomy in the past. Now, anatomy by its nature is a visual science and the first anatomists to understand this lived during the Renaissance. They relied on artists to help advertise their discoveries to their peers in public. And this drive was not only to teach but also to entertain which resulted in some of the strangest anatomical illustrations.
Anatomy is caught in the struggle between science, art, and culture that lasted for over 500 years. Artists rendered dissected cadavers to understand their anatomy and painted them on their canvas. The introduction of color brought a whole new depth and clarity to anatomy that made it stunning.
The greatest contribution in anatomy from the past was of the artist Leonardo Da Vinci.
He was a universal genius. In the early 16th century, he drew the different stages in human development. His anatomical sketches were not only outstanding works of art but for the first time, they provided an accurate insight into the nature of man. He was the first person who gave the proper guidelines for drawing a human body.
How to draw a proportional human figure
And in this blog post, I will be telling you about drawing a human body while maintaining the rules of human anatomy. Now when I say constructing, I essentially mean building it from the scratch and in this case bone.
So, when you are going to draw a human figure, you’ll not be starting off with the details. You will be building the details bit by bit. The start will be from the skeleton (not a literal skeleton). Here, I mean skeleton breakdown or construction lines. The reason we use construction lines in a drawing because if you start drawing with details then your drawing can very quickly get out of proportion as we haven’t established how things are going to look in a simple form.
Therefore the first step would be to create the geometry of the skeleton in a simpler form as possible. A generic proportion to use for human anatomy is seven and a half heads in height and three heads in width.
- For the head part, I break it up into two parts. We have the cranium, which is just a circle and the second part is the jaw (the lower part). I’ve added two lines in the head part, a vertical and a horizontal. The vertical line will be indicating the direction that the head is facing and the horizontal line indicates the eye level.
- Moving on to the next part, it is the rib cage. As you can see, I’ve started off with an oval shape and I added a convex shape in the lower part of the oval to just show the shape. Few indication lines for the direction and angle of the rib cage.
- Next part is the pelvis. And here, I just went with another oval with two direction lines.
These three areas, the head, torso and the pelvis have the largest group of mass in the human skeleton and therefore large in area. Working from there, I build the construction skeleton with few different shapes. So, I tend to add circles for the shoulders because in the end there will be quite a large amount of mass there.
- I also worked with circles for where the hips start and turn into legs.
For the middle of the torso, I usually go with a line but some artists also go with another circle in the middle. But everybody has different kind of preferences. Everyone has a different method of going about the construction line. There is no right or wrong way. It is the means to an end and you just want to use a reliable method for your medium as possible.
- I then go for a line in the neck where the spine goes and then start adding lines for the limbs. For the elbow joint I make little circles and from there I let the arms out.
- From the pelvis, I bring down the lines and made it up to the little joint in the knees and lastly, the lines down to where the legs end up going.
And that is my human skeleton. Even though it might look quite simple but from here we essentially add chunks and work with the shape to build the silhouette. So, bit by bit we are able to see our final result emerge.
- And in the next process, roughly block out where the muscles group will go. You don’t need to add the details yet.
So, as you can see up to this point we’ve drawn a rough sketch of a human figure starting off with only a few construction lines.
In my next blog post, I will go into more details about drawing a human form into different perspectives or foreshortening in art.