Sunday, October 30, 2011

Anatomy of the Arm

Anatomy of the Arm

Studying anatomy can be daunting – there is a lot to learn. It helps to group anatomical information into easily understood ideas that students can use to help see the big picture.

Anatomy is like a puzzle, once you place all the pieces you can see the big picture. Most everyone who attacks a jigsaw puzzle starts by sorting the pieces out. The straight edged pieces (the border) are usually sorted first then large color separations are made, the sky is separated from architecture and landscape… These segregations make it easier and faster to successfully place the puzzle pieces.

One way we break anatomy down at the Academy of Realist Art, Boston is to learn muscle actions. This makes sense of where muscles are located on the bones and helps the artist to understand how to better describe a model’s gesture.

The image here shows one of the ways students learn the insertions and origins of muscles. A series of magnetic/rubber band muscle straps are placed on a skeletal model from their origin to their insertion.  Doing this exercise illustrates quickly how muscles can take on multiple roles or actions depending on where they attach to bones, how they cross the joints and what other muscles are at play.  For example; the biceps muscles can act to flex the elbow, flex the shoulder or supinate the forearm.

Anatomy classes are taught in small groups on Wednesdays 9:30 – 12:30 and 1:30 – 4:30.  A new series of anatomy classes begins January 9th

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beginning Perspective - Parallel Projection

The Perspective class at the Academy of Realist Art, Boston begins with understanding and learning to use parallel projection. 

Using the foundations of architectural drafting; floor plans, elevation views and cross sections, students create 3-D representations of both objects and environments. 

Our first exercise is boxing in irregular objects and cutting out separate planes. The first image here shows the elevation plan of 3 letters of the alphabet.  Each of these letters is then placed in a cube turned to different angles, 30°/30°, 30°/60°, 45°/45°.  Image 2 shows each 3-D letter of the alphabet appearing to be turned at different angles to the viewer.

Understanding and learning to draw things in parallel projection helps students to think of form in 3 dimension and prepares them to create imaginative drawings of an environment using perspective.  These studies also help students when drawing observationally by illustrating concepts like the effective use of varied line weights.

A new class in perspective begins January 9th. We offer 2 classes; Mondays 9:30 - 12:30 and 1:30 - 4:30. For more information send an email to

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Plan your Paintings

I can’t remember where I read this quote or who said it but it goes something like this; “a painting worth making is a painting worth planning”.

When we are walking through museums in awe of the beautiful old master paintings that we see we tend to forget the amount of preparation and planning that was done in order to make them.  Preparatory drawings from the figure and landscape, compositional sketches and small oil sketches are all part of this process. Unfortunately old master preparatory studies are all too often squirreled away out of sight in museum storage. 

While travelling in Germany this year I got the chance to see a bunch of preparatory oil sketches by Rubens. Seeing them reinforces my conviction that much of a painting’s strength comes from it abstract elements: a strong composition and an interesting light effect.