Understanding is key to confident drawing.
You can try to fake it, but you’ll know if you are.
There are no real short cuts to actually feeling confident. Secure in your own knowledge having actually done the work. So detailed studies of the human body are key to being able to draw it well, at speed, with confidence. Both life studies, and anatomical.
This is a study of my own. While I can do a simple skeletons from memory now, it had been about 30 years since I last did a complete front and back rendering with labels. I took an advanced anatomy class to brush up and this was my first study. I did this using some of the pages out of Albinus’ Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani, which you’ll find in the galleries below. And the free Essential Skeleton 3 app! The latter was very useful with the details and being able to move it around and really see the dimensionality of things.
While it’s not central to Dynamic Drawing’s curriculum, my students often only have one or two anatomy classes under their belt, and would still benefit from further study. Certainly after 25+ years, I still do! And of course it’s things like this, that I try to teach them they have to make a point of fitting into a formal, regular study regime.
When I first started learning formally how to draw [mid 1980s at Wexford CI.], Mr Tavares had us copy anatomical drawings, starting with the skeleton. Then on to the larger musculature, and encouraging us to continue this on our own, on out ot the hands and feet and all the rest.
The first text I recall using to do this shortly after had been a gift, ‘How to draw the human figure’ by Louis Gordon. A gorgeously illustrated text I learned a lot from studying the illustrations and copying choice details that were befuddling me in my life studies.
Taking an anatomy class once alone isn’t enough to learn all of this, you have to revisit with considered and deliberate study many times to master it.
Using the digital pose generator on posemaniacs is a pretty good way to get some of it down, though not perfectly realistic or very detailed, it’s quite close and offers some variants in body type. There are more tools like it posted here.
Update: Just found this great post on more or less the same topic as my own notes on deliberate practice but simplified as applied to life study, with lovely refrence art illustrating it! Go read SirWendigo’s ‘HOW TO IMPROVE FASTER IN 6 STEPS!’
In my class I’ve created a handout that has images of musculature and bones printed on them on the left, and space next to them to first trace over, and then freehand copy each one. I think that simple process makes learning anatomy fast and fairly pleasant.
To further encourage this practice beyond those in the handout, I encourage the class to get books like Louis Gordon‘s. But I’m posting here a big pile of old public domain anatomy text drawings, old medical images and artists diagrams Including many by Bernhard Siegfried Albinus, the very artist whose work I believe I copied in my first classes! Samples of comparative anatomy from Michael Hampton comparative anatomy tutorials. And several examples of the excellent work of Gottfried Bammes. There’s a lot of other stuff, if I got the copyright of any of them wrong please let me know and I’ll remove it.
I’ve included animal bones as well at the end of the set, which of course is a great way build on your anatomical studies. You don’t always have to, but it will help to first make a point of doing skeletal and musculature sketch studies of any animal you anticipate wanting to draw well.
Even if you plan to go cartoony, an understanding of how the real animal’s body works, will be invaluable in your efforts to create an expressive symbolic version of it. What we talk about when we say a drawing looks informed.
To this end for animals you want to master, I recommend looking them up on youtube to see how they move as well! Draw those using the speed control tools.
Once you’ve done a basic sketch of the bones of something, you’ll have much better ideas about how to simplify the construction of the forms as you do with analytical drawing, and the video [or live if you can!] gesture studies will help you capture body language and living rhythms. It can actually be a lot of fun, I look forward to it when jobs make me have to learn to draw an animal I never have before.
Only one way through that like Uncle Milton says, just to do the work!
Another approach to anatomy studies to do comparative drawings, taking special note to find the parallel structures and differences in our sexes anatomy and in other animals bones, musculature, and forms. Here’s some examples of this kind of study format.