Still alive. The anatomy class has had many delays and is still running… probably 2 more weeks to go. I’ve been doing extra work on the side. Right now I’m planning to finish up the class, do another long-pose figure drawing while I continue to review on my own, and cap off this period of anatomy study with an ecorché class in March, a week-long intensive of building a 1/3 scale muscled figure up from armature wire, building the skeleton and muscles, which I hope will be the sledgehammer that finally drives it all home.
I remember when I started drawing again, 6 or 7 years ago, and I found myself copying an ear, and had that little feeling that I was going to have to learn, intimately, all of the little ins and outs and details of the figure if I really wanted to master drawing (and painting) people. That was a feeling of dread. Anatomy is really hard work, and very hard to push through sometimes when the will just leaves you. I do tend to find that once I force myself into it, it gathers some momentum of its own, but it’s trying to shine a light into a vast dark space in my head, and a lot of it is just plain brutal. Not fun at all.
For me, though, I can’t fake this stuff. I have to do it, really learn it. And just like I’ve experienced in other fields of study, where you get into a grind just working and working and feeling like you’re making no progress, it does have some surprises where you suddenly see or understand something you didn’t before, like it just hit you from nowhere, but of course it’s the slow accretion of your labor in ways you weren’t aware of. Studying the forearm muscles, which have always especially daunted me, I went back to cross-check some earlier references I had studied from, and began to find mistakes. Loomis, the god of figure drawing, really botched up the flexors and extensors in Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, one of the illustrators’ bibles (and deservedly so). They’re there, but in the wrong place. And the Famous Artist Course from the 50s, another excellent source of teaching, omits the brachialis muscle entirely. It shows the bicep attached along the shaft of the humerus, which is just flat-out wrong. The bicep doesn’t touch the humerus at all except right at the top, where the tendons join; the brachialis sits beneath it and THAT is the muscle that attaches to the humerus, and actually does most of the work. It does have a visible shape and can be seen underneath the bicep. Anyway… realizing that I’m starting to see stuff like that means that at least a portion of this is starting to sink in now. A couple of months more of study and practice, and I’m hoping the figures will start to look better.
So this will end up being about a five-month period where anatomy was my chief area of study. I’ve barely touched a paintbrush since last fall. That makes me anxious. But this anatomy thing has to get conquered once and for all here. You can spend a lifetime just studying anatomy, and of course there’s no end to it, but I’m looking for my basic fluency. That should be within reach. Two more months of hard work, ending in sculpture, and I’m confident that I’ll be in a much better place.