Ryan Briggs

Character Design:
When drawing a character, you need some fundamental skills to achieve your goal. Having even a basic understanding of the human form will help even the simplest of characters. To start, pick up an anatomy textbook from a used bookstore, or find reference on the web. Become familiar with the skeletal system, paying close attention to the skull. The muscle groupings are important. They help indicate the body’s plains and silhouette. Draw and re draw the images from the text. Use your own body as reference to help translate what you see on the pages into your sketches.
The Skull:
The skull is awesome. It is very important to understand its dimensions as the face is often where we start our character sketches. The jaw, as well as around the nose and eyes, have moving parts that change the facial plain. Eyes balls sit in cavities, and cartilage fills in the shape of our nose. We have ears, and hair and skin resting on top of this curvy surface. Every feature can be tweaked as long as the basic structure is in tact. The knowledge and practice of drawing the skull will favor you when creating sketches from your imagination
Skeletal System:
To create a believable human, the structure of the body is very important. As with the skull, draw from the source material, as well as using your body to locate landmarks (areas where the skeleton is visible under the skin. The hip, wrist, and neck are good examples.) We have over two-hundred bones in our body. The key areas to focus your training on are: Feet, legs, torso, arms, hands, and the connection between the spine and the skull. The feet and hands are complex. You can study the texts as much as possible, but observational drawings will really help to understand their complexity. The legs and arms are similar to each other. They are comprised of two bones, a complicated joint, and a single bone. In both cases, the two bones connect to the hands or feet. The single bones attach to the torso. The joint on the arm (elbow) is really interesting and deserves close attention. Turning your forearm causes the bones to cross each other. The knee has a floating bone (knee cap) and is held in place by cartilage. Both basically bend like hinges. The torso is what everything you are drawing connects with. The ribs seem meticulous, but they can be simplified, just be sure to make a note of how many there are, and that some are floating. You also have the sternum and shoulder blades, as well as the collar bones. The weight of the figure comes from this area, including the shoulders and hips, and most importantly, the spine. The angles from these areas determine a person’s movement. From these major areas, you can create a simple under drawing to work from when building up a character.
As important as the previous details are, they are just a means to an end. You could be the one who draws skeletons and skull n’ cross bones, and be really good at it, but most people will want to take it to the next level. A strong drawing should have an interesting silhouette. The form of this would be based fundamentally on the skeletal structure; however, visually we see the muscles. Men and women can be built from the same stick figure, but the difference becomes much more visible with the addition of muscle groupings. Men are bulkier and women tend to be smaller framed. Areas like the neck, arms, chest and legs are usually exaggerated in men. Definition is important in distinguishing between the two. Drawing women can be more difficult and take a better knowledge of the muscles to achieve a more sensitive image. Knowing where muscles meet and over lap, as well as bulge and dimple allow you to pick and choose where you put your lines. When drawing men, it is more acceptable to exaggerate and define as to make it look more masculine. Simply put, if you want a female character to appear more feminine, use less definition of the muscles. Once again, the text reference is helpful to determine where muscles are in relation to each other. If you cannot use your own body as reference for this exercise, you need to go to the gym… Or search the web again for body builders. Here you will see muscles exaggerated to the max.

So you now have some basic anatomy drawing skills. Congratulations! You are not done yet.

Life drawing is an essential part of drawing the figure. As much as you learn from a book with pictures, you need to observe the body in its three dimensional form. A certain amount of looseness is required to successfully convey the complexities of all the parts working together. Going into a life drawing scenario with prior knowledge of the form in front of you is very beneficial. You do not need to spend much time on the under-drawing at this point. Make some quick decisions on the forms position (angle of the shoulders, hips, and spine, direction of the head/face, etc.) Just ghostly map out the form and use what is in your head to fill in the blanks. Basically, you want as little of the under drawing to show through so your final detailed image is clean and clear.