Sunday, February 23, 2014

Know the Skeleton

Edward Poynter (1836-1919) of the Royal Academy
If you study the skeleton well enough to draw it from any angle, it will give your figure drawing much more authority. The study by Poynter shows him locating the two bony landmarks of the elbow visible here: the lateral epicondyle of the humerus (the bump on the left) and the olecranon process of the ulna (the elbow bump facing us).

In this Russian figure drawing book, the anatomy is well understood from the inside out. It looks dynamic because the artist has enough of a knowledge to simplify to essentials.

I hasten to add that my own knowledge of the skeleton is pretty basic compared to some of my colleagues who have really made a study of it.

When I need answers, here are some of the places I turn:
Books: Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist
Figure Drawing for All It's Worth
Model Skeletons:
33" high model skeleton
I use a Revell plastic model that's only a foot tall, which dangles from my studio wall. A model skeleton should be rigged so that you can hold it in any pose to echo what the model is doing. Every art school should have a model skeleton in the figure drawing room.

Thanks, Rob Nonstop


jeff jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vox said...

Hi James, can you elaborate on the Russian book you posted the page from?

António Araújo said...

Ditto on that Russian book :)

Vladimir Venkov said...

Vox :

It is in Russian but the name roughly is "Foundation of the academic drawing"

James Gurney said...

Antonio and Vox, A friend sent me the PDF, and the title seems to be: Основы учебного академического рисунка - Н.Ли, and as Vlad says, apparently that translates as Fundamentals of the Educational Academic Drawing, and it seems to be downloadable here,

Thanks, Jeff, I've added the other link.

António Araújo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
António Araújo said...

Thank you so much, James! :)

If I may recommend a book on the same theme, try (if you haven't already) Gottfried Bammes' "Der Nackte Mensch". I can't read the German text, but the amazing illustrations are an education all on their own.

I have no idea if it is in copyright, but there are pdfs of the thing around the web. I think there exists no translation to this day.

Stephen Southerland said...

I am reminded of when I read about N.C. Wyeth's training of his son Andrew. He had him draw the skeleton from all angles until he could reproduce it from memory, even showing it walking. This is a good reminder for me to study the bones more closely. Thanks for the post.

Charles Valsechi said...

Can't seem to download the files. Would anyone be willing to email them?

Vladimir Venkov said...

Charles - PDF ready:

Unknown said...

This russian book was pretty bashed by some russians who have degree in art. It's just another book on anatomy from many other books of this kind. I would recommend these tools for learning anatomy:

Book of Gottfried Bammes "Der Nackte Mensch"

Acland's DVD Atlas of Human Anatomy (

3D Human Anatomy (

Buying Human Skeleton Model

Tekenles voor game art, animatie en illustratie said...

Hi James,

At my artscool "De tekenacademie" in the Netherlands (Near Amsterdam) I recommend your book to my students. What a magnificent blog you have! Thanks. May I use the heatmap of the disosaur from the book Imanginative Realism for my blog? I will name you and your book very clearly beside the picture.


James Gurney said...

Thanks for asking, Ariane,
Yes, please feel free to use the heatmap on your blog with the credits you describe.