A few months ago, I was digging through all my anatomy textbooks for a 3/4 view of the skeleton. I had been feverishly practice memory studies of front, side and back view skeletons, but the 3/4 was missing. What to do?
I realized that I needed to come up with a drawing myself if I wanted to tackle this viewpoint in my quest to internalize the structure of the human skeleton. I also found my textbooks lacking in regards to female skeletons so I decided to draw one of those, killing two birds with one stone. It took awhile, but at the end I had an accurate anatomy drawing to reference just like my textbooks.
A key resource in this drawing was a medical website, human.biodigital.com , which was where I referenced a 3D model for my drawing. Couldn’t have done this without it!
Alright, so now that I had my lovely reference drawing, it was time to see how well I could internalize the structure. The idea of these studies is that I’m attempting to draw the skeleton from memory. I allow myself to look at other views, like front, back and side, but I want to see if I can remember how to draw it in 3/4. After my attempt is finished, I analyze the drawing and make corrections in red.
One of the first things that immediately occurred to me is how much more important perspective is when drawing in 3/4. The left side of the figure is receding and all the bones are turning in space, creating a much more difficult spatial challenge. I found that drawing basic guidelines over the figure with arrows helped me to understand the receding edge of each form. Another discovery that I made was that female rib cages and sternums have a distinctly different shape from the male version. Drawing this study over and over made it clear to me as I first drew the rib cage from my existing knowledge (male knowledge) and it was plainly wrong!
You can see by my notes that I get exasperated by certain recurring issues. A constant pain point is the pelvis and its orientation and placement. Gah, why is the pelvis so difficult for me? It turns out that the complicated form of the pelvis, which is shaped like a curved propeller and a butterfly wing (at the same time), is part of what makes it so difficult to spatially imagine. It curves forward and it also twists. Imagine the DNA helix and you have a rough idea of what’s going on there.
Finally near the end here you can see that I’m getting a better hang of that dang pelvis. I drew small studies of what was happening and the way the curve articulates. And finally, it started looking more correct!
Other problems are starting to get more resolved as well and a certain point I am just finding this less challenging. Which means it’s time to move on up to a new view! I have found that it’s less important to be worried about the small details and more concerned about the way the skeleton is built structurally. That’s one reason I call this practice “internalization” and not “memorization.” I could do this for much longer – memorizing the exact number of ribs, for example – but that kind of detail is actually not that useful. If I can understand the forms and the way they turn in space, that means I’ve met my goal and the moment this starts feeling easier I know it’s time to step up the difficulty.