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Mastering Anatomy

Even though my preferred style is cartoonish in nature and most of my character's anatomy is warped to begin with, knowing the human structure is still important to help ground your characters with a sound sense of reality where your message is easily conveyed.

Within my current hiatus, I have chosen to focus on mastering anatomy since this has always been a sore spot for me as a complete self-taught artist.

Currently, I am reading on George Bridgman 's Complete Guide to Drawing From Life. The book is free and downloadable. Bridgman is comprehensive in covering the key points of anatomy that matter to an artist, rather than presenting you with a full-on medical documentation.

However, be warned that the author uses a rather narrative approach in his explanation and if you are not a wordsmith (like me), you would have to take the time and effort to painstakingly google each word you do not know as you read through. The important thing is to be able to visualize clearly what Bridgman is trying to explain constantly. Therefore, it will also help if you can reference other anatomy tutorials which has condensed the information to a more digestible portion (Search on Pinterest or some other platforms). I found myself constantly reading and re-reading the same paragraph just to solidify my understanding of his rather extensive use of vocabularies.

Despite the pain, it is rewarding to learn anatomy-specific vocabularies since it does contribute a heightened sense of professionalism.

The author also provides analogical diagrams on how to better visualize each joint or muscle groups, likening them to pulley systems, fulcrums and wheels with spokes.

In one week, I was able to go through in detail (on top of my other commitments) the basic principles of human body motion, the muscle structures of the head, eye, nose, mouth, ear and neck.

Trying to put them into practice, I have come up with the image above. Even for such a primitive portrait, it involves quite a handful of muscles that to help bring the subject to a more humanistic proportion. The following lists down the various muscles involved:

1. Cranium

2. Corrugators of the eyebrows

3. Obicularis Oculi

4. Upper lateral & Lower lateral of the nose

5. Septum and wing of nose.

6. Malar

7. Zygomatic Arch

8. Helix & Anti-Helix of the ears

9. Tragus & Anti-Tragus of the ears

10. Obicularis Oris

11. Superior maxillary

12. Inferior maxillary

13. Temporal

14. Adam's Apple (Voice Box & Thyroid Glands)

15. Sterno-Cleido Mastoid

16. Levator Scapulae

17. Trapezius

18. Clavicle

19. Sternum

20. Biceps

21. Hand (Haven't gone through in detail the muscles of the hands.)

And I am sure I left out a lot of muscles still.

With so many muscles to remember for anatomy, it does beg the question:

Do I Need to Remember All Of Them?


Nope. Absolutely not. The key idea in learning all these muscles is to give a logical reason for the way you draw a certain subject.

For example, you may be trying to show how fit your character is and the best way to do this is to provide the necessary visual cues to your viewers by drawing muscles. When people see muscles, it screams "fit" in their mind. The same message is lost when you draw a chubby looking subject instead.

Ultimately, I feel that as long as your design convey the intented message clearly with proper visual cues, it is still a good design.


I will be moving on to painting realistically in the next week, learning about color harmony and the proper use of palettes.

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