Interesting BooksMarch 2007
A friend of mine borrowed me the digital sculpting DVD by Zack Petroc. I was hooked by the way Mr. Petroc uses only a few simple tools in Zbrush to create a wonderful human figure. I was amazed how he was able to bring his knowledge into the modeling process. It was much more than just pressing buttons and knowing every corner of the software. He used the computer really only as a tool. And then I asked myself what I need, to do the same? A software application like ZBrush or Mudbox works a little bit like photoshop (if you do digital painting) or a normal piece of paper. You have a toolset and a blank canvas to work on and the rest comes out of your mind. I thought if I want to create decent results, I have to start somewhere else and not necessarily in front of a computer. In the DVD Zack Petroc talked a lot about anatomy and how shapes relate to each other. So I went to the local university library and searched for a beginner’s anatomy book and found "Anatomy for the Artist" by Sarah Simblet. After reading the book I felt quite comfortable in that subject and I want to learn more. So I spoke with a friend of mine who is studying medical science. He recommended me some books they are reading in the first semester. I bought "Bewegungsapparat" by Werner Platzer (I’m sure it’s available in English, too). His literary work is brilliant and gives you a compact overview about the human body. I love to memorize the names of muscles and bones; the more the better. In addition to that book I searched one, that was more art orientated. I found one written by Gottfied Bammes. As far as I know it’s only available in German. He describes the anatomical subjects with regard to form, but still uses medical terms. So it’s helpful to know at least the most important names in Latin to understand what he’s talking about. Because there is so much content in books like these and almost everything is important, I constantly made nodes and did sketches. By the way of example you will find some of these in this post. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it helped me a lot and I always use them when I’m at a loss. George Bridgman’s Book "Compete Guide to Drawing from Life" is a classic when it comes down to illustrate the basic shapes of the human body. His drawings speak more than a thousand words. And finally I found Robert Beverly Hale’s book "Anatomy Lessons from the great Masters" very useful. He shows up how the best of the best where aware of the human form and its variations. Of course there are many other good books available. This was just a selection of a few that I find quite valuable. You could read them ten times and I’m sure you will still find something new.
It happened more than once that I didn’t understand how things work. In these situations it was helpful to draw it on paper, even you have no idea which way is up. It gets easier when you are able to reduce the part you struggle with in basic forms. A head becomes a cylinder, the thorax a simple box. This concept works not only on large masses but also on small one and much more complicated, such as the hand, the knee or the pelvis. If you don’t understand it right away, then draw it over and over again. Sketch it from different perspectives and in different sizes. I remember searching a digital skeleton model to check connections between bones. There are many websites online where you can find 3d models and interactive “anatomy – games” to check your knowledge.
On way to memorize and more important recognize muscles, bones and ligaments on the human figure is to paint over photos. If you do so, don’t use any pictures from fashion magazines because the people are reworked in photoshop. Use Google or flick.com instead. Go and visit http://www.theartofanatomy.com. You will find there some amazing explanations how the human face is build and how the face feature plays together. (Sadly it was pretty quit there in the last months)
It’s also very helpful to analyze anatomy drawings created by the great masters. I think about Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dürer or Raphael for example. They did a lot of this studies and it’s great to see how they handled such a complex topic and made unbelievable “body-positions” possible.
You shouldn’t forget that you’re human, too! That happens way to often when you sit too long in front of your computer. Everything you can find in anatomy books is a part of your one body. (At least the most parts) Muscles maybe aren’t trained like the ones in Michelangelo’s studies but nevertheless they are there.