The best art reference books for drawing the human figure

The Books I Picked & Why

Figure Drawing: For All It's Worth

By Andrew Loomis

Figure Drawing: For All It's Worth

Why this book?

This figure drawing guide is a classic, and for good reason. Artist Andrew Loomis wrote this book for those who have graduated from the fundamentals of drawing and are ready to embark on their artistic careers. The focus is on aesthetic as well as practical, and leans toward a more commercial approach rather than fine art, but will be helpful to both disciplines. Loomis includes chapters on anatomy, planes and lighting, drawing from living models, the figure in action, and costume, among others. He discusses idealization and other tricks of the trade to help the reader produce superior work. Explanatory sketches and examples of some of his own best sketches appear on almost every page. Originally published in 1943 this book continues as a solid reference for artists struggling to perfect their own skills.


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Anatomy for Artists: A Visual Guide to the Human Form

By 3dtotal Publishing

Anatomy for Artists: A Visual Guide to the Human Form

Why this book?

I’ve always felt that a foundational knowledge of human anatomy is an absolute necessity for anyone serious about becoming a figurative artist. It’s like learning how to dribble if you want to play for the NBA. Although I used a different anatomy book growing up, An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists by Fritz Schider, I feel that Anatomy for Artists is a more solid choice for today’s up-and-comers. It’s an extensive compendium of high quality, detailed photography, and drawings, showing the human figure in a variety of shapes, sizes, and poses. It consists of stunning photography and comprehensive drawings showing the muscular structure of figures of varying body types. These male and female references will act as an invaluable starting point for artists trying to create art based on the human form.


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Constructive Anatomy

By George B. Bridgman

Constructive Anatomy

Why this book?

I would call Bridgman’s approach to the figure, contour simplified. Countless artists and students since the 1920s have used this and other books by Bridgman, who taught for nearly 50 years at the Art Students League in New York, for a solid foundation and understanding of human anatomy. I think his unique way of discovering the vitalizing forces in the human form and realizing them in drawing carries the student pleasantly over one of art's most severe hurdles. Bridgman's superb anatomical sketches, of which there are nearly 500 in the book, also bring clearly to fruition his lucid theories of how to draw the human body in its structure and its complex movements. And he simplifies them in a helpful way.


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An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists

By Fritz Schider

An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists

Why this book?

This is the artist's anatomy book I grew up studying throughout high school and college, and it goes deep into the structural and anatomical anatomy of the body. It gives good illustrative examples of the skeletal and muscular systems as well as providing a few photographic references for both male and female anatomy. It is a pretty old volume, having been originally published in 1957, but the principles remain the same and it holds up pretty well. For anyone serious about learning to not only draw or paint from life, but also the imagination, I highly recommend this foundational and educational reference guide.


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