“Marshall stimulated and inspired me more than anybody I've ever learned from.”
Justin Sweet

Human Anatomy Reviews

Artistic anatomy is a tough discipline. It can't be learned in a day. It took me several years and many books. You can learn anatomy from books, but buy wisely. Even if you can afford to buy books indiscriminately, you'll still have to trudge through them (like I did) only to find that some aren't worth the time. This is my list of favorites with comments.

Note: Some of these books may also be listed under other seminar resource reviews.


The Human Figure

Inexpensive, complete and comprehensible. One criticism: cadaverous. Even the fleshed figures look shrink-wrapped. But it shows all the bones and muscles with clear, detailed illustrations. I learned anatomy primarily from this book. It has the advantage that it is printed on cheap paper that takes colored pencils so you can go through it and “color code” all the muscles. By the time you've gone through the whole book and colored all the deltoids red and the biceps yellow, you get familiar with their names, the fact that they exist, and where they are on the body. —mv

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Human Anatomy for Artists

An exhaustive artistic anatomy book. He uses all technical terms which makes it impossible for the beginner to understand. I got through it after having taught anatomy a dozen times, and it was slow going, so don't start here. It is the most complete (and expensive) of all the “pure anatomy” textbooks for artists. It does not teach you how to draw, so it is as applicable to sculptors as it is to draftspersons, but very valuable to all as reference. —mv

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Atlas of Human Anatomy for Artists

This is unlike Rubins or Goldfinger's book in that it is not “pure anatomy” it teaches draftsmanship of the figure as well. If you had to get one book that covers it all, this is a good choice because of it’s breadth — it includes dissection plates with detailed renderings, charts, readable text, and scores of “helpful hints” pages that are excellent for simplifying drawing problems. Not as expressive as Bridgman, but not as quirky either. In fact, Peck makes Bridgman's books comprehensible. —mv

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The Figure

Reed has very unrefined anatomy, but his approach is so sound and his teaching so unpretentious that I recommend it. It is similar to Peck's book, but easier to understand, and with less emphasis on anatomy, more on general figure drawing. This was a part of the old "Famous Artists School" mail order series that offered excellent training for beginners. —mv

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Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters

Not really an anatomy book, though it has one chapter devoted to anatomy, and it's the best drawing book I know. A solid “ten.” 100 master drawings analyzed simply, clearly and with deep insight from a man who understood anatomical figure drawing as thoroughly as anyone in the 20th century, and who taught it as well as anyone in any century. Unfortunately, the sequel called Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters doesn't compare — it has great pictures but the text is lifeless reportage — Hale didn't write it even though they used his name. —mv

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Master Class in Figure Drawing

This book is a “ten” with flaws. It was taken from Hale's lectures at the Art Students League and has at least a dozen errors in it because the transcriber didn't understand the material. But it's still a great book a treasure of knowledge and wisdom from the best anatomy teacher of the past hundred years. The writing is entertaining and enlightening. More than worthwhile. —mv

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book book

Constructive Anatomy

The Human Machine

The Complete Guide to Drawing from Life

Bridgman was Robert Beverly Hale's teacher and also Norman Rockwell's! His drawings are sometimes inconsistent, often sloppy and difficult for beginners to decipher, but in spite of such flaws you can learn a lot about how the forms of the figure “fit together.” Plus, they are beautifully expressive drawings. Constructive Anatomy and The Human Machine are good to start with because they are fairly clear. The Complete Guide to Drawing from Life is a compilation that gives you the best of the smaller books. I've learned as much about how to draw the structure of the head from Bridgman as I have from any other source. —mv

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Dynamic Figure Drawing

Don't try to read it — you'll just get frustrated. Look at the pictures and you'll learn how to use form in drawing the figure. The anatomy is stylized to the point of looking artificial — more like plastic action figures than real humans — but it is strong on showing how classic draftsmanship can be creatively applied to the human body. —mv

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Special Learning Aids

anatomyanatomyanatomyAnatomical Resin Figures

Unless Body Worlds moves into your neighborhood as a permanent exhibit, you won't get access to more detailed flayed figures than Andrew Cawrse's sculptures. The medical versions are expensive, but artists don't need them (I have one because I'm a teacher and want to feel important). Version 1, the General Use Student Model, dispenses with the color distinctions and gives you an as-close-to-real miniature human body as you can buy. In fact, these are fascinating sculpted collectibles even if you aren't studying anatomy. But if you are, you'll have the muscles in front of you, three-dimensional and accurate.

The torso sets and male & female miniature skulls are so useful that I intend to teach a course on them — but for now, Andrew is doing that. These tools are a serious investment, but worth it if you are a serious artist. —mv

SPECIAL OFFER: For a limited time, my students can get 10% off all products in the anatomytools.com store by entering my teacher code: maratc10 in the coupon code box during the website checkout.


Human Anatomy Seminar

After over 900 hours of teaching artistic anatomy in college courses, I retired and boiled it all down to a concentrated summer course. I use over a thousand slides to show you every significant bone, muscle and form of the figure, and we take time to “draw notes” from the slides.

Please see my info pages for details on all my seminars, check my schedule for all upcoming offerings, join my announcement list for the latest updates, or contact me if you have specific questions.

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