Thursday, 3 April 2014

Problems of drawing muscle mass

      A big problem many artists have with drawing muscles is the correct mass to character ratio. I used to see these problems as a kid reading comic books. One in particular was of an old meek and feeble genius who was ripped off by his partner, so he became a super villain to get revenge. Somehow he developed these crazy muscles as soon as he donned his costume. It didn't ruin the story but it did ruin the believability and took me out of the story. Albeit briefly, it's not what we want to have happen in any media of storytelling.
    So it's not just a student or amateur's problem, many professionals run into it as well. Which I think made me determined to be able to draw different musculatures.
    One thing many artists fail to do is reference. They and myself included have all been guilty of being lazy and making do or hoping for the best. Not sure if it's a feeling of guilt as if we're cheating if we use reference or not but it isn't. As long as we're not taking it directly line for line, image for image.
     The biggest problem isn't always the drawing of the muscle it's the massing of it. In other words drawing them too big. Every day people, children and the elderly having muscles like Superman somewhat takes the believability out of it as you can imagine.
     The main reason for this I find is that many of us learn from comic books as well as muscle mags since the models in them are shirtless and was well physiques so we pick up on bulging rounded muscles.. But how many mags show shirtless elderly people and if there were who would want to buy them except artists?
       My friend and mentor Werner Zimmermann always teaches his students to look at the muscles as cables. I've found this to be the best approach and have drawn up some illustrations to hopefully show how it works.

      Above left is a sketch of the skeletal leg front and profile views. To its right muscles drawn as cables which is more accurate to the real thing as most of our curves come from fat and flesh over the muscles.
 Why this works for skinny forms is obvious but overlooked, skinny forms do not have much muscle or fat, there few curves.
     To the left is a drawing with muscles of an average athletic person, again even though they don't appear large there will be fat and flesh covering them which will add to the size and give more curves.
 Below is heavily muscled which has curves we're used to seeing in muscle mags and superhero comics. One thing to note is the bodybuilders you see in the mags are generally working their way to competition so their body fat is low which let's us see the separation of the muscles more clearly.

The above sketches side by side.
  I have included here some sketches I did to show various skinny legs.
 A couple of goblin legs next to a more athletic leg (foots a little large now that I look at it, another reason to never wait til the last minute to do your work, a fresh eye always reveals mistakes like this)
 Thin legs. Unfortunately they look like mine.(not really, mine are bowlegged  and hairier)
If possible one of the best artists to reference for these statures is Heinrich Kley. You'll learn an incredible amount from studying his anatomy, movement, acting and line work. 

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