Learning Anatomy as Part of Art

Visual artists like sculptors and painters oftentimes have intuitive knowledge about human anatomy. It’s something that is not verbally expressed or might be difficult to explain in ordinary terms.

If you are an artist, anatomy might be just something that you do or something that you’ve learned from your struggle. You might intuitively have ideas how to accurately pose a figure even without referring to a model.

You might easily sculpt or paint a human figure from memory but the details might sometimes look disproportionate or even abstract. Even if you are already a successful artist, you can still learn a lot from the more scientific approach of studying anatomy.

Creating a generic human form is relatively easy but it becomes complex as you fill in the details like the muscle attachments and proportions of the limbs. Knowing the right muscle tension and bending of joints is also very important if you want to sculpt an anatomically correct statue with the right posture.

Knowing a generic human figure is one thing but if you want to have a lifelike sculpture similar to the statues created by Michelangelo, you’ll need to know about the relative sizes, shapes, positions and attachments of the muscles, tendons and bones.

Whatever modeling tool you use, whether it is clay or you are using ZBrush, knowing anatomy is very important in the process. If you want to go to the next level of details, you have to dive into those individual muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones.

You need to know how those individual anatomical features work together when moving or when the body is at a certain posture. You need to know how the muscles and skin stretch and compress.

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You’ll learn about the rib cage. You can learn about proportion. You can learn about muscle attachments and the different bones. What is consistently difficult, however, is taking the more simplistic knowledge and chewing through the anatomy.

For example, it’s tricky to separate the shoulder girdle from the ribcage. There are instances wherein you’ll need to separately work on the various parts of your sculpture. There is always the risk of not getting the right proportion and relationships of the various parts.

It’s not enough that you know the names of the muscles like the deltoid, pectoralis major, latisdimus dorsi, sartorious, and rectus femoris. It’s also equally important to know the relationships of these various anatomical features to each other and to the bones. It’s also important to know how they may change in shape or length if moved to certain positions.

The main point here is that artistic anatomy should closely resemble real anatomy if you are sculpting life-like human figures. It’s essential that you learn not only the basics or through intuitive process but also the actual thing.

Art and the science of anatomy are inseparable in many instances. You cannot be a good artist without knowing about these things.