Art Anatomy

Drawing the Masses First

One of the few dependable rules in art is that you should begin with the largest and most general shapes and end with the details. Thus once a framework is established, such as the skeletal armature described above, artists will draw the body as a series of large masses before going on to the details of the figure.

You could start with geometric masses, as in C├ęzanne's advice to treat nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone. With these forms and the block, one can create very satisfactory masses analagous to those on the figure. The many ways in which this can be done is beyond the scope of this book, but an excellent treatment of the topic is Constructive Anatomy by George Bridgman (see Bibliography). One serviciable idea is to use blocks for the head, ribcage, and pelvis, cylinders for the neck, waist, and limbs, and wedges for the hands and feet. When drawing, artists keep this notion (or one like it) in the background as they lay in the initial masses.

You would then develop the geometric masses into to the ten large masses that organize this book: the lower torso, the shoulder girdle, the hip and thigh, the lower leg, the foot, the upper arm, the forearm, the hand, the neck, and the head.

With these forms in place, you can divide them into the smaller anatomical masses: hip and thigh into flank mass, quadriceps mass, inner thigh mass, and hamstrings; upper arm into biceps mass and triceps, and so on.

From there you can go on to describe the individual muscles: biceps mass develops into distinct shapes for biceps, brachialis, and coracobrachialis, and so forth for the rest of the body.

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