What are some effective methods to practice drawing anatomy, preferably in 15-30 minute time increments? Looking for ways to structure a session of practice effectively.


The reason drawing the human form is such a challenge is how our brains work, we have a symbolic representation of what humans "look like" in our minds but that is not how bodies actually look in real life. So the struggle in life drawing is to draw as the eye sees the form, not as the mind records it. Understanding human anatomy and lots of practice (which includes lots of failure in the process) is the key.

  • Get a good book on anatomy and drawing technique. We used "Drawing the Human Form" by William A. Berry at my college. There are others. These will show you the relationship between the structures of the body and the forms they create. The skeleton, the musculature over it, and the skin that wraps it, they define the form a body takes. How these forms react to light, where highlights and shadows fall, that is what you want to put in your drawings. Studying these books will help you understand that connection.

  • Attend life drawing sessions. Nothing beats drawing a live human being for what you are after and few things are more challenging. Often there will be a teacher or other artists guiding these sessions that can work with you to correct your technique. Try to be loose, use soft drawing media like charcoal on cheap paper, don't be fussy. Also pay attention to where the light is coming from in relationship to the body and use that to model the form. You could try getting friends and family to pose for you, but that can increase the challenge as it becomes more personal.

  • If you can, take a course on drawing the human form at a local school or artists collective.

  • This is all great advice. The question was about methods to practice in 15-30 minute increments. Any thoughts on ideas to expand the answer to better address that aspect?
    – fixer1234
    Oct 22 '19 at 20:58
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    Well that is not much time if you are serious about drawing, you have to be able to really get into it and 15 minutes is not enough... but it makes no difference as to the above. Just do lots of 15-30 minute sessions I guess. There are no short cuts to learning a skill like life drawing.
    – rebusB
    Oct 22 '19 at 21:03
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    ... in fact, in life drawing sessions, 15 minutes would be considered a short pose. There is a benefit in doing short poses though in that it tends to push the artist away from trying to be too perfect. Usually we would do a few 3 minute poses, then a couple of 15 minute poses, then longer ones, an hour or more, with breaks every 30 minutes.
    – rebusB
    Oct 22 '19 at 21:05

Being effective at drawing anatomy, is practicing often.
Maybe start with one body part at a time. You'll find body parts that you find more enjoyable. Understanding skeletal/muscle structures of the human body would be a huge bonus. Wikipedia would definitely have information about human anatomy.

For quick sketches/drawings of anatomy I use: unsplash.com or pixabay.com

Unsplash has freely usable images, with a lot of human subjects, full body subjects.

  • Thanks! What would you say in terms of actual practicing processes and drawing sessions? E.g. Pick a part to draw and draw from a reference at two different angles, and then do a third angle without reference
    – NeonKraken
    Oct 14 '19 at 16:34
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    Starting out would be focusing more on what your eyes see, practicing with your hand and eye coordination, to draw what your eyes are observing. A lot of beginners, draw what they think their brain should fill in, when the individual needs to be looking with their eyes, and observing what is in front of them, and not 'filling in the blank' of what they think should be there. Guess the whole point of drawing, is to find what you really enjoy to draw. Drawing from different angles would be a wonderful start.
    – Lyssagal
    Oct 16 '19 at 0:14
  • Are you drawing from life or from illustrations/photos?
    – user8502
    Oct 17 '19 at 13:21

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