Back and what I’ve learned while away: Anatomy

I’ve decided to begin updating this blog again. My original goal here was to prove an idea of mine, that if you do something often enough you will become good at that thing. When Natural Talent throws down against Repetition and Dedication, Repetition and Dedication kicks Natural Talent’s butt. Looking back at my drawing when I began and where I’m at now, I’m even more a believer in this idea. I’m not great but I’m better than I was in March of 2010. And I’ve made faster improvements than I ever have before.

Here’s the first thing I’ve learned through the ODAD process:

Anatomy is essential

I love drawing people. They are by far the most interesting things to look at; I emotionally connect with a picture when it contains a person. (I think this is why I’ve never been a fan of landscape painting or still life. Bor-ing.) But just like you can’t build a house without understanding things like rafters, trusses, and foundations, you can’t begin to draw a person without understanding things like muscles, proportion, bones, motion.

We humans have amazing brains. We innately recognize when something doesn’t match reality. So when a figure is incorrectly proportioned or the anatomy is wrong, something in our brain says “nope” and we disconnect from the drawing. We may not be able to put our finger on it; we probably won’t be able to articulate what’s wrong but we won’t like the drawing. From the start a drawing has to be referencing real human anatomy and proportions.

Cartoons count too

But what if you only want to draw cartoony, fantastic stuff (like me)? Maybe anatomy is key if you want to do fine art but do you really need it for low art? Well, here’s where it gets interesting. In music you have groups of “correct” notes that fit within a certain key. If you want to be technically “on-key” you need to only play those certain notes. However, if you want to play blues you need to take those “on-key” notes and bend them until they go just out of key. That’s where the blues (and many other excellent sounds) comes from. You start with the technically “correct” and make it just a little wrong. You can’t be all wrong–if you are it will sound horrible and offensive–but just a pinch of wrongness brings spice to music.

It’s the same thing with drawing. You start with the correct anatomy and find where you want to tweak and exaggerate. If you do it too much the results are grotesque but just a little tweaking gives us wonderfully appealing characters like superheros, disney characters, and more. As I began to study anatomy I realized that my favorite “cartoon” artists were excellent because they started with a foundation of real anatomy and tweaked from there. Characters from Belle, Tintin, to Batman were all created from real human figures.

So just because you don’t want to paint with oils, doesn’t mean that you get to skip anatomy. Unless you’re Andy Warhol.

Below is some anatomy sketches that I’ve done over the past months:

Posted in Art

3 thoughts on “Back and what I’ve learned while away: Anatomy

  1. The modern Disney characters are way more “tweaked” than the early ones. Think of Belle in comparison to Snow White. The former is almost a carictature–not really human looking. Sort of how a Barbie would look really weird if we saw her in person. I prefer the more real-looking faces from that era. They don’t seem to rely on lines as much to define them, either, but light and shadow.

  2. And I’m glad you’re drawing again. That little wife of your’s knew you needed that table. Man, does she spoil you.

  3. Actually I think old Disney characters were just as cartoonish but they were tweaked in different ways. It seems like the newer animators bring a lot more structure and detail to their characters while the old animators left a lot of detail out. Take a look at these two pictures:


    Snow white is much softer and more indistinct than Arial.

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