Monday, February 23, 2009

Comparing the Animal Anatomy for Artists Books, part 1

This is going to be long, a little overwhelming, and picture-heavy, so I'll cover it in multiple posts. I have to start with a sort of disclaimer. I am reviewing these books based upon how well (or not) they fit my needs. Your mileage may vary. Maybe you like drawing horses, dogs, and humans.
It should also be stated right now, in case you do not have any anatomy for artists books and are reading this to learn more about them before you build a library: humans, horses, and dogs are basically the holy trinity of Animal Anatomy for Artists books. Each and every AA4A book will have detailed skeleton and muscle studies of each. Occasionally you'll find a book with a section on cats, but it's very rare for these books to deviate. And you can pretty much forget about any detailed information on non-domestic animals.
Most importantly, by no means should you use these books by themselves. You should indeed build an art reference library. No one book is going to contain all the information you need. For example, AA4A books are generally very concerned with the internal structure of humans, dogs, and horses -- but they rarely get into how the animals look when moving. (And this, by the way, has always struck me as strange. How many drawings and paintings of figures just standing around have you seen?) Some of them never even show what the animals look like while alive; you only get the internal anatomy!

For motion, I recommend these three books. Hogarth's Dynamic Anatomy is a must-have, as is a book of Muybridge's famous photographs (there are better ones available, but this Dover edition is fine as just a reference). The Preston Blair book seems like an odd choice, however it will give you a huge advantage as an artist to know the basic principals of animation. Best of all, Blair includes diagrams based upon the Muybridge photographs, and he explains in a very friendly fashion the principals of motion and physics behind them.
If you're reading this blog, then you've got access to the Internet, and thus you've got access to loads and loads of reference photographs of living things. Even so, you'll want your own emergency backup collection of references. Animal encyclopedias tend not to be as expensive as you'd expect; just pick your favorite. And get in the habit of scrapbooking photographs from magazines. If you know a kid (or you *were* a kid) with a subscription to Ranger Rick or World, save those back issues!
Next post, I'll share my thoughts on Goldfinger's doorstopper, Animal Anatomy For Artists: the Elements of Form.


This appeared at Cartoon Brew the other day, and since it fits a reoccurring theme I've had on the blog so far, I figured it was worth sharing for those who missed it:

It's an introduction to an Italian Disney special, and it appears to have been animated by Romano Scarpa, a Disney comic book artist. That explains some of the stranger characters. The Cartoon Brew comments help identify several of them. Personally, it always bugged me how some Disney birds are flight-capable and others arbitrarily aren't. Also, it amuses me to no end that they keep trying to make Donald into some kind of superhero.
(By the way, three weird Disney things so far and not a single weird Looney Tunes thing. This must be rectified...)

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