Antisocial: Part III (Anatomy for Artists)

the last installment of my 'antisocial' series! i've blogged about this class before. and i'd really REALLY like you to visit Laura's post about it...she summed it up really well. i'm giving the extended version, i guess. :)

i just remember coming out of class every single day with new appreciation and fascination of the human body. and of art, but more of the human body. here is one example of those days. as you can tell, i was pretty excited.

okay. being months later, i'm going to try to explain how amazing and inspiring this class was, but i'm sure it won't have the same feeling that it would have if i would have blogged then. i apologize. i mourn for the knowledge that has seeped through my mind like sand out of a cupped hand...but i want to try to gain it back.

a couple of things::
anatomy for artists (VAILL 252) was taught by niki covington, a young teacher who had just returned from the Florence Academy of Art (as in, Italy!). he was classically trained, and thus taught us in the same method. and 'method' it was: everything was very methodical, drawing-wise.

lectures:: each day, we'd come to the 3-hour class (8-11am) and for the first two hours or so, he'd lecture on anatomy. then we'd draw the model for the remaining time. to start with, we bought books by Paul Richer (the ultimate genius of anatomy) and Eliot Goldfinger (who copied off of Richer...like the rest of us, but his book was more helpful to figure out how muscles/bones relate together) -- which i highly suggest for anyone interested in drawing anatomy. niki would show examples from the great artists. during lecture, he'd use slides projected from his computer and we got bajillions of awesome handouts (from Italy...i feel really lucky to have them). we took tedious and meticulous notes as much as possible (i even attended the night section of the class...just so i could reinforce what i'd learned). later, during muscle reviews, he'd project the skeleton on the board and draw the muscles on top of it, or have us come draw the muscles. he'd use the muscle statue in the room, the models, and joe (our trusty, but very old skeleton) to teach us about specifics (sometimes, he'd use all three).

this is how niki taught us (not the only way to draw, but this is how we did it in this class):
-pencil sharpened with a razor to a very tiny sharp point
-make sure your easel is upright, and stand so th
at half of it blocks your body so the other half of your body is where you can see the model
-stand an arms length away from the easel (where your palm can touch your paper)
-take away any distractions (even move the p
aper to the edge of the easel so there's no line between the paper and the model)
-if you wear a hat with a rim, it helps because it takes away the light that comes from above which detracts from seeing the figure totally accurately
-sight size: where you draw the model exactly how big you see him/her. can directly translate proportions and measurements
-good way to start: draw constraints first: a top and bottom mark in which your figure will be placed. find the middle line, then the angles. find the pit of the neck. then block it out.
-make sure you can always see the entire figure, and st
and back to always make sure everything relates to itself
-triangulate-- take one point (landmark on body) and measure it with at least 2 more points to ensure accuracy
-simplify. anatomy isn't everything. just because you know tons about the body doesn't mean you should use all that information in your drawings. the best drawings are designed well and have strong and confident shapes.
-"appreciate this curve and how it dips down into that depression....appreciate how there is a subtle transition between the bone and the muscle...appreciate the curve against that straight there..." niki said 'appreciate' a lot :)
-"yeah. yeah. for sure." anyone who's actually taken the class can just picture niki saying that and chuckle. he said it daily. we loved it.
-SQUINT; LOOK AT THE WHOLE!!!! (niki pounded this into us; he'd always always say it! if there was ever too long a period that went by with too much silence, you could hear scott or someone mumble it from across the room :D)


we started with bones. we learned about a new set of bones each day. we'd come to class having drawn the specific bone or bone set 3 times, labeling everything, and after the lecture our homework would be the same bone(s) 2 more times now that we knew more about it, plus 3 of the next lecture's bone(s).

(if you look closely, you can see some that say "drawing 1" vs "drawing 2" signifying before and after the lecture)

our teacher would then correct anything that was wrong by laying tracing paper over the top of our drawings and correct them individually and write comments. which i thought was awesome.

then we put all the bones together. the skeleton.

5-eyed squares::
we learned how to draw the skeleton from memory by learning about the 5-eyed squares. did you know the width of your face is five of your eyes wide? well, so is the height from the top of the head to nose, nose to top of sternum, top of sternum to bottom of sternum, bottom of sternum to end of rib cage.......do you see where this is going? AND everything (except for the arms) fits nicely between two 5-eyed squares next to each other.

so. freaking. awesome.

after lecture each day, we'd be given a handout of a photograph of a model. we'd take tracing paper and put it over the photograph, drawing the bones where they should be. then, we'd put tracing paper on top of that and draw where the muscles would be, in proper relation to the bones, including where they originate and insert. these were called ecorce drawings. we'd only put down the muscles we'd talked about thus far (we knew the bones by then) so it built over time. we also had to draw the "deep" muscles, then erase those to draw the "superficial" muscles on top that cover them, so we could understand the form better. the more muscles we learned, the more complex the photographs (and our drawings) got. note that we couldn't just put generic bones and muscles; we had to draw exactly where they'd be on that individual (we are not all the same!). which made it a hecka lot harder.
(we started with heads)

(then upper body and lower body. for some reason, i didn't include my lower body ones so i'll get some up soon. check back. i censored some for anyone who might be offended, and i won't show any picture without the drawings on top of it. however, the real things are really awesome, so you are welcome to come over and see them!)

this was probably my favorite position we had to draw (and the most difficult). i re-did part of it to get a better score, and a better understanding.

for the pseudo-final exam, we had a t-shirt contest. we made our teacher enter as well, and the majority voted for his, so we all got shirts with his design on them. which i was perfectly fine with :)

here's the one i submitted, front and back:

final exam::

then. for our real final exam, here were the stipulations, as dictated on a contract we signed:

1) draw the entire skeleton: front, side, and back
2) draw all the muscles on top of the skeleton drawings (on tracing paper)
3) label every bone and muscle
4) all of this must be done in one sitting (as in, sit down, draw, you're done when you stop)
5) though it is a take-home final, all of this must be done from MEMORY with NO NOTES.

well. in all my experience being an artist of any sort, i believe this was the most strenuous and concentrated work i've ever completed.

i started studying hardcore -- 7:30 pm
i felt adequately ready, thus beginning to actually draw -- 12:06 am
i had the entire skeleton drawn -- 3:00 am
i finished the first set of muscles -- 4am
second set of muscles -- 4:35 am (the side view is fastest)
completely done with my anatomy for artists exam -- 5:30 am

i was a sleepy little puppy after that. but do you know what? i have never felt so blessed or accomplished. that night was one of discovery for me. it was a near impossible task, to take all of the knowledge i'd gained in one semester to spit it out in one night.

but i did it.

here it is.

(this is all we were given:)

(below are the bones on tracing paper on top of the squares page)

(this is the muscles on top of the bones on tracing paper)

how i survived::
i'm not generally one to toot my own horn, for lack of better term, but i was so proud of this final exam. i could never think that i did it alone. my teacher was awesome and helpful; so were my classmates and books. but that night, as i sat solitary at my kitchen table for 10 tedious hours, i knew that my Heavenly Father was up with me. he blessed my mind to recall all i'd worked so hard and studied for. he blessed my body so that i could stay alert and focus. he blessed my hands and eyes to connect with my knowledge.

i'd prayed beforehand when i started to get one of my infamous headaches that i would make it through the final free of pain. all was well. as soon as 5:30 hit, i got super sleepy and started to sense an ache in my head. atypical of my usual response, i grinned from ear to ear. no headache during the final. no sleepiness. that's all i wanted, and i got it. this was one of my favorite things i took from the class.

another thing i learned from the class was how sacred and special and utterly amazing the body truly is. each day, as we learned about the body, i realized how much of a divine design it truly is. there is no way we could have just 'happened to be'...the body is way too complex for that. as we learned about bones, we'd have to label tiny little ridges or indents. i'd first thought it was ridiculous and insignificant, but as we learned about the muscles, we realized that big muscles would attach to those tiny little marks. each part of the body is crucial to itself to function properly. i am now reminded of the scripture in 1 Cor 12:12-27 where it relates the church to a body. it really is so critical that we all help each other and learn together, being so unified. as laura puts it, "We're China-doll fragile"...yet we can accomplish so much (my brother competed in an IronMan triathalon a few years back...that opened my mind to a lot of possibilities).

anyway. i think it's kind of funny when people say 'art major' with tongue in cheek, rolling their eyes. i think it's funny when they think it means all we do is draw pretty pictures out of our heads all the time. i'd love to see them take this class. :]

*all images copyright kristin gulledge, 2008


AudyCamp said...

ok i have to say most of that was way over my head!! I really admire all of my artistic family members and am a teency bit jealous that I got NO art talent whatsoever! Sounds like a fun class. :)

Alie said...

Wow, Kristin! AMAZING post and beautiful artwork. I do admire your drawings.

Laura said...

Ooh! I was quoted too!
I think you just gave me warm-fuzzies.
How appropriate. :)

I agree! Those science and business majors have it EASY. :P
I like your censored drawings too. Not because they're censored, just because you deemed that a necessary precaution. That never would have crossed my mind.

You're awesome. I'll miss your blog! Keep on keeping on.

Zachary said...

That. Was. AMAZING!!! That was such a fascinating post, even though I had heard you talk about it before. I am in awe of your ability to learn all of that and master it in a short few months. You have a brilliant mind. WOW! It really made me think a lot more about how incredible our bodies are. Seeing all of the individual parts that are labeled there, with each one serving a specific function and purpose just blows my mind. Also, artists like you are amazing. There is so much that goes into your works that the viewer could never appreciate. You rock.

All About Austins said...


Kevin G said...

What Kevin WROTE: Humph... you blue-sky dreaming art majors. All you do all day is keep you head in the clouds.

What Kevin THOUGHT: Wow! Kristin, I'm so jealous that you've excelled past the other Gulledge artists. I sometimes wish I could go back and get the outstanding training you are receiving. Thanks for not burying your talent... like me.

K said...

Did you actually mean "tedious" notes? Or did you mean meticulous notes? Just wondering.

It was a lovely article, and I'm going to copy it to Chazi because she'll love it. She probably should take that class - seems like you'd be pretty set up for med studies now - or forensic anthropology.

It's very interesting to me how in "schooling" the tendency is to divide things up into groups - this is science, this is history, this is art, this is social science, as though these things live in single boxes, never touching. Discrete. And interesting concept that, but I do not think it is often actually seen in the functional universe.

It's only a small step from that compartmentalization to the rejection of other races, or other philosophies - the isolation of one perfect "truth" that somehow abides without any shades or elements that belong to anything else. Stupid. Boring. Sad.

What a deal you learned in that class, little girl. And how wonderful that you gave us the pleasure of your own drawings and words.

--jeff * said...

i've had friends and roommates and sisters take anatomy classes at byu, but you're the first one to make me want to learn it! (granted, drawing it makes it cooler)

i'd seen glimpses and pieces from your class, but it was very impressive to see the whole experience, to be taken through what you learned, narrated by your enthusiasm.

in short: so. stinkin'. jealous.

way to be the ploxiest.

niki said...

You are wonderful. Your post of enlightening. You were one of my best students and I have no doubt you will use your creativity in a way that will make someone up there very happy. Your diligence in learning something so complex and ability to perceive the spiritual in a class which was about the physical makes me very proud. I see that you were not only paying attention to what was said by the teacher, but to what the 'other' voice was saying.

God bless,