The need for knowledge of structural basics
Is there any real need for us to spend time learning about structural basics of anatomy? What is the point of cluttering our brains with information and rules about bone and muscle structures of the human body? In Chapter 20 (link below), I give my answer to this question. This can be compared with what I have to say about the rules for drawing objects from observation, which are presented in BOOK 1, chapter 11. These are designed to help analysis of a life class model by alerting attention to examples of the following features of appearance (examples indicated by arrows):
- How the parts fit together (blue arrows)
- In front/behind relations (white arrows)
- Subtle changes of direction along the length of any selected section of contour (green arrows)
- Comparisons between near symmetries, such as between the shape of the two shoulders or between the two eyes.
Notice that all the same rules were applied to the analysis of the tree trunk featured in the drawing lesson in Chapter 10, or, indeed, could be applied to any other subject matter, as long as they have in front/behind relations and/or junctions between parts and/or contours containing curves (whether simple or complex). In Chapter 10, much use is made of the surroundings of the tree. In other words, the context provided by the the mown grass, the esplanade wall and the roof, gutter and windows of the house beyond it. There is a fundamental difference between these and the rules of human anatomy. Whereas my list of rules can be applied to any object-type, from any viewpoint and in any context, the rules of human anatomy relate to common features of specific object-types, seen in a limited number of poses, from limited number viewpoints.
How then could knowledge of anatomy improve your drawing of the model in Figure 1, or any other human model? As indicated above, the purpose of Chapter 20 of my book “Drawing with knowledge” (see link below) is to find answers to this question.
One of the answers is made clear by asking another question. Would knowledge of anatomy make any difference to the way you would depict the subtlety of curvatures along the length of any selected section of contour or make clear how parts fit together in your drawing? When I founded the Painting School of Montmiral over thirty years ago, my answer might well have been a guarded “no“. Today it is a guarded “yes“. I now realise how an awareness of which muscles are intertwining with which other muscles gives an added focus to our analysis of complex curvatures. I am also convinced that a better understanding of underlying structure can beneficially influence our search for visible signs of how parts fit together.
Nor is it only when drawing the human figure that knowledge of underlying structure can sharpen analysis when drawing from observation. It also helps when depicting the trunks and branches and leaves of trees. Indeed, it can make significant improvements in the depiction of all objects whose contours are made up of complex curves or characteristic ways of fitting together. What has slightly surprised me is the positive difference it makes to the quality of the drawings that result.
In the chapter you will find :
- Simple diagrams that direct attention to basic “structural features”
- Suggestions as to how to avoid common errors due to not making use of the context provided by other features
- Reminders as
- to how the “constancies of visual perception” can get in the way of the best of intentions.
After the link, I have included images of drawings made by four of the most innovative and adventurous artists among the Early Modernist Painters. It would seem that the deep knowledge of anatomy, so clearly evidenced in them, did no harm at all to their expressive energy. The poster by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec that precedes them and the images by Rodin, Degas and Matisse in the Post for Chapter 18 provide evidence for this.
Drawings by artists who started by learning about structural basics
*The red arrow in Figure 1 signifies a need for more than one arrow type.
Earlier chapters on the uses and abuses of knowledge:
BOOK 2 : “DRAWING WITH KNOWLEDGE”
The chapters so far loaded:
- Chapter 13 : Introduction to “Drawing with Knowledge”
- Chapter 14 : Linear Perspective
- Chapter 15 : Some core ideas
- Chapter 16 : Eye-line problems
- Chapter 17 : Head movement opportunities
- Chapter 18 : Anatomy reviewed
- Chapter 19 : Anatomy, a historical context
- Chapter 20 : structural features
- Chapter 21 : Deformations-muscles, fat, clothes
OTHER POSTS ON DRAWING:
- An inspirational 19th century teacher and his widespread influence on Modernism in drawing and painting
- The surprising eye