One of the problems I had when I first began studying figure drawing was distinguishing between the different types of books on the subject.  I was limited to the books that were available at the local library, which had copies of George Bridgman’s Life Drawing, and Richer and Hale’s Artistic Anatomy.  Both books are considered classics but neither provided me with a clear understanding of how to study anatomy, gesture, and form as a cohesive whole.

Roberto Osti’s Basic Human Anatomy is one of the few books that I have found that bridges these concepts and presents the human figure in a logical progression from the most simple to the complex.

The book’s main strength is in the way it is organized.  Every time a new muscle or bone is introduced the simplified geometric version, and therefore more easily remembered version is given, followed by the more complex organic one.  This approach takes the otherwise overwhelming subject of anatomy and divides it into understandable parts that layer one over the other.

Figure Study by Luca Cambiaso.

The book starts with the chapter “The Stereometric Approach to Anatomy” which introduces a simplified construct of the human figure using geometric shapes.  Cubes, spheres, and cylinders are easy to measure and relate to one another, making it easy to establish correct proportions and conceptualize the figure in space.

The next two chapters focus on the skeleton, starting with a simplified version, and then describing each section in greater detail.  Next come the major muscles, the head and neck, and lastly the hands and feet.

Basic Human Anatomy deserves a spot on your shelf alongside the books of Paul Richer and Robert Hale, Eliot Goldfinger, Stephen Peck, Andrew Loomis, and George Bridgman.  Keep in mind that it is a book on basic human anatomy.  It will not supplant other books that delve into the subject matter more deeply.  It is an introduction and an overview rather than an encyclopedia.  I highly recommend it.

Craftsy offers Figure Anatomy for the Artist, which acts as a video companion to the text.  It usually costs around $20 and complements the book very well.

Andrew Covington
Andrew has been obsessed with drawing and painting for most of his life. In 2014 he created the Art School Database. You can view his portfolio