Classic Human Anatomy in Motion: The Artist's Guide to the Dynamics of Figure Drawing - Valerie L. Winslow

Classic Anatomy in Motion

by Valerie Winslow


The TL;DR version: I think this is a beautiful, fundamental, essential book for anyone interested in figure study. In fact, I’ll be buying a copy myself. (If you don’t know me, I don’t buy books. This will be the fifth book with a price over $3 that I’ve bought so far this year.)


Given that this is an instructional art book, it's probably important to include my background. While I’ve always been interested in drawing, I’m not an artist and have no formal art training. I recently took a class in gesture drawing (mostly 30s - 60s poses) and while it was a lot of fun, and my first time ever working with a live model, I was somewhat disappointed that absolutely no anatomy was taught. When I found this book on Netgalley, I had been desultorily going through Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators and Figure Drawing: Design and Invention.


In my opinion, Winslow's book makes a wonderful companion to these books, and provides essential information that is not covered in either. As one might expect, Force focuses almost entirely on how to bring drawings to life. Hampton's book covers similar material to Winslow's, but their approach is very different. Hampton starts with basic gesture drawing and slowly builds upon these fundamentals, indicating at each step how the forms can be simplified. Winslow's book is far more linear: she starts with all bones in the body, then moves to joints, then to muscles, then to soft tissue, then to a more generalized discussion of gesture, movement, rhythm, and sequence. For simple reading, Hampton's ordering is preferable, but as a reference book, Winslow's ordering makes it very easy to find everything. If you do pick up this book, I strongly suggest tackling Chapter 9 (Structures and Planes of the Figure) and Chapter 10 (Gesture and Action Drawing) before going back and starting at Chapter 1--it will give you a much better sense of how everything fits together.


Since I can't find any example pages on the publisher or seller sites, I'm adding two (low-def) screenshots so you can get a sense of the book structure:


While Hampton spends much more time showing how to simplify the figure, Winslow's descriptions of the appearance, function, and deformation of the anatomical forms are far superior. Within the text, she provides the anatomical names and the purpose that the form serves. She often gives additional interesting information that makes the section both more entertaining and more memorable; for example, she notes that the sternum was once referred to as the gladiolus because of its resemblance to the knife the gladiators carried. Since this description was accompanied by a picture of the sternum and a gladiolus side by side, I have no difficulties remembering what the bone looks like. Unlike Hampton, she provides tons of pictures showing the deformation of various muscles and bones in action, often with drawings of a human superimposed. The drawings that accompany the book are absolutely breathtaking and staggeringly useful. Everything within the text is illustrated, from simplified pictures of the different types of joints to the planes of the head to the facial expressions caused by the movement of different facial muscle groups.

Overall, not only is this a beautiful book, but it's the type of essential reference work that you'll want to consult again and again. I'm definitely planning on purchasing it myself.

~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Ten Speed Press, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!~~