Animal Painting and Anatomy

Animal Painting and Anatomy

by W. Frank Calderon

Paperback(Revised ed.)

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Drawing is "the very essence of all pictorial art," and this book approaches the challenging art of animal painting from the point of view of accurate representation of animal subjects on canvas. Combining useful information on important anatomical features with direction on how to handle the subjects and how to express their forms and postures, the author has produced a complete, inexpensive, at-home course in animal painting and anatomy.
All aspects of animal drawing and painting are covered: drawing from life; anatomy in relation to drawing (not surgical anatomy, but a precise knowledge of the visible structure and movements of animals); characteristic movements of animals and suggestions on how to capture them in your picture; composition (design, restraint, rhythm, balance of light and shade, relative scale of animals and landscape, foregrounds); painting and color. 36 illustrations, mostly sketches by the author, depict horses, pigs, cows, dogs, and other animals in various life positions and movements.
A long, detailed discussion of the anatomy of animals completes the book. Here Mr. Calderon describes all the structures of animals that are of significance to the artist: the vertebral skeleton, the bones and muscles of the head, the muscles of the vertebral skeleton, the fore-limb and its muscles, the muscles attaching the shoulder blade to the trunk, and the bones and muscles of the hind limb. 208 drawings accompany these discussions and show you how anatomy is related to surface contours and techniques of shading.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486225234
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 12/08/2011
Series: Dover Anatomy for Artists Series
Edition description: Revised ed.
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt


By W. Frank Calderon

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14245-6



The Training of the Hand, the Eye & the Memory

WHAT is meant by drawing? So few people seem to understand what drawing is, or the important part it plays in every branch of art, that perhaps a few words to explain what it implies to artists in general may not be amiss.

Many people are under the impression that it only refers to the elementary part of an artist's education, and is exclusively concerned with pencil or chalk. They do not realize that it is the very essence of all pictorial art, and that without it painting would be meaningless.

Drawing simply means the delineation of form and has nothing to do with the materials employed. It embraces practically the whole of the painter's art, except in so far as it has nothing to do with abstract colour. The placing of every touch on the canvas is an act of drawing.

No matter what medium is employed, whether it be pen, pencil, pastel, or paint, whenever form of any kind is represented, drawing is the chief agent. Everything we see, everything we paint, has some shape, some boundary, some form; and it is the faculty of drawing alone that enables the artist to depict it.

Good draughtsmanship demands a sure eye, a steady hand, and a good visual memory.

The eye must be taught to see correctly and the memory to retain the image whilst the hand draws it. When this satisfactory condition is reached the student will be in a fair way to becoming an expert draughtsman, but in order to reach it he must be prepared to go through the mill as he would have to do in any other profession. He must learn his A.B.C., he must practise his pothooks and hangers, his straight lines and curves and all other exercises that may be needful to produce ocular and manual efficiency.

When he has reached the stage when he can copy at sight any simple object that is set before him as readily and as accurately as he would write a dictated sentence, he may be said to have completed the first part of his education.

The art student's course of study should be arranged progressively, and, at first, the training of the eye is the all-important thing, for until he can see correctly it is obvious he cannot draw correctly. More bad draughtsmanship results from neglected visual training than from any want of facility in handling the pencil.

Before beginning the actual drawing lessons, the master should ascertain that the student's horizontal and vertical vision is normal; that is to say, that he can tell when a line is exactly level and when another is perfectly upright. Correct observation in these respects is indispensable to accurate draughtsmanship.

The direction of every line in a picture, as well as the relative positions of everything it contains, depends upon it. The whole time an artist is at work he is comparing the different parts of his subject with one another and settles their exact relationship by means of imaginary horizontal and vertical lines. He finds one point is immediately over or under another, or a little to one side or the other of his imaginary perpendicular. Another point is on a level with something else, and so on, so that it will be seen that if his visual judgment of these directions is faulty, all his inferences will be wrong. A very good plan for teaching beginners to judge horizontals and perpendiculars is for the instructor to place a mark on the blackboard and for the student to try and put another one level with or perpendicular to it, and to test the results with a plumb line and spirit level.

If these exercises can be made competitive and treated rather as a game than a lesson, they will be found both instructive and entertaining. Quite an amusing way of training the eye — and incidentally one that enables the teacher to discover prevailing visual defects — is to have some clean white cards, uniform in size and shape, upon one of which he marks a spot at random, and after passing it round the class, asks each student to put a spot in the corresponding place on his own card.

The amount of error in each case may be ascertained by placing his own over each competitor's card and piercing the spot with a pin which will leave a punctured mark on the one below.

It will be found that some of the pupils habitually place their spots too high, others too low, or to a particular side — tendencies that in the early stages may be easily rectified, but which if allowed to pass unnoticed are difficult to correct later.

In the same way let them practise putting two or three spots in a horizontal or vertical line, or they might be given sloping lines to copy, in fact anything that is capable of proof by ocular demonstration.

By degrees, the exercises might be made more complex, and if the interval between the seeing and recording is gradually increased it becomes a very useful method of training the memory as well as the sight.

Endless variations might be invented for the simultaneous training of both faculties, and so long as the results can be proved and clearly demonstrated, they cannot fail to be beneficial, and the more entertaining this part of the education can be made the better.

The great Leonardo da Vinci himself, in one of his note-books, suggests that artists might well indulge in some such "profitable recreations and diversions" for the purpose of "training the eye to acquire accuracy of judgment," which, as he tells us, is "the primary essential of painting."

Another useful exercise is for the student to stand facing the centre of a doorway, and to practise bringing up a card at arm's length until the top and one side of the card coincide with the top and side of the frame of the door. If care is taken to make both edges fit at the same time, it not only teaches the student to judge horizontal and vertical lines but it compels him to hold the card vertically while doing so, a matter of vital importance whenever any tests are being made with it. When once the student has learned to hold his card upright he will find it a very useful implement, not only for estimating horizontals and perpendiculars, but also for judging curves and contours.

When actually at work, an artist generally finds it more convenient to use his pencil or brush for making rough measurements of his model. Whatever he uses, all his measurements must be made at the same distance from his eye.

This distance must never vary, and the pencil must never be tilted either towards or away from him.

Failure to realize these conditions is the reason why students so often get different results at different times, and why their measurements can seldom be depended upon.

To ensure good results, therefore, all measurements should be made with the arm outstretched to its full extent, and the pencil held as if its whole length rested against an upright sheet of glass interposed between him and his subject.

The length of the straightened arm does not vary, whereas, if bent, it is impossible to regulate the distance between hand and eye.

It should be the aim of every young animal painter eventually to do without measuring and to trust to his eye entirely. This, however, demands very severe training and years of practice, and in the meantime it is well he should know the proper way in which to verify his drawings.

Animals move about too much to permit of elaborate measurements and comparisons being made. Yet opportunities do occur of comparing proportions of which advantage should be taken; but not as a guide for what has yet to be done. It is a great mistake to mark out measurements beforehand as it hampers the drawing and prevents freedom of execution. Better a few slight errors and a confident flowing line, than absolute exactitude and a hesitating, timid one.

Having learned to some extent to judge the horizontal and perpendicular directions at sight, and having acquired some facility in using the card or brush in the way described, the student should now be taught to judge sloping lines.

In every drawing we make, it is of paramount importance to be able to hit off the exact directions of the principal lines, for if one of these is ever so little misjudged, the whole of the drawing may be affected.

If a few straight lines be drawn at different angles, and the student is asked to copy them, the results can be easily compared by drawing a true horizontal or perpendicular line and measuring the angles where the sloping lines meet them with a protractor, a carpenter's bevel, or even with an ordinary penknife, half open.

When the student can, with some degree of certainty, judge the length and direction of any straight line, and at the same time place it approximately where it should be on his paper, he has accomplished something of which to be proud.

The power of placing a simple line exactly where and how intended is then the first thing to accomplish, as it is practically the last, for it may be said to cover the whole art of drawing.

Let us take an example (Plate 2), giving the primary lines indicating a horse in profile. A — B is the first line drawn; if this slopes in the wrong direction the attitude is wrong; if it is made too long, the head will be too large; if too much to the left or right, too high or too low, it is wrongly placed on the paper, so it will be seen that the whole attitude and size of the horse, as well as its position on the canvas, is entirely dependent upon this initial line being correct.

The directions of other leading lines must be considered as carefully. The line A — C represents the top of the neck. If, in copying the angle B.A.C. we make it too obtuse, the neck becomes more horizontal and too wide at the collar place. To correct this we must raise the whole horse, bringing it higher up on the canvas; in addition, in order to preserve the proper length of the neck, we have to shift the body farther back (shaded portion). So it will be seen that, simply from misjudging the direction of the line A — C, the whole of the rest of the drawing must be reconsidered.

Similarly, if we make the angle too acute, the line A — C becomes more perpendicular, and gives the appearance of the head being more elevated, and the whole animal has then to be brought down and forward (dotted lines). So whatever we do incorrectly leads us into endless complications, and so it goes on throughout the whole drawing.

Carelessness in the early stages is inexcusable. Fundamental errors cannot be remedied afterwards. As soon as a mistake is discovered it should be corrected. One generally knows when a drawing begins to go wrong, and when the different parts won't fit, and the thing is to find out where the fault lies at once. Students are often inclined to think it does not very much matter. "What if my horse does come higher or lower than I intended? I can cut a bit off the top or bottom of my picture." This is all very well if we are only making a study and have plenty of canvas to spare all round. In the case, however, of a picture containing other animals and figures, which has all been previously considered and arranged, and which depends for its pattern on the exact placing of each feature, it would be fatal, as everything would have to be altered and the whole subject practically redesigned.




FOR general utility there is nothing better than charcoal as a medium for drawing. Charcoal is what every artist uses when first sketching in the general outline of his subject on his canvas. Many also use it in preference to pencil when beginning a water-colour drawing, as well as for the initial stages of chalk or even pencil work itself. Any medium may be used over it, and from the fact that it can so easily be dusted off, it is more expeditious to handle than anything else.

By itself, it may be used as a black and white medium, and finished work, rich in tone and of exquisite quality may be done with it, as well as line drawings of a charmingly sensitive character. In fact, in skilled hands it has practically no limitations and may be used for almost any kind of drawing.

Many people, both students and masters, are inclined to fight shy of it because they say it is so messy and that it so constantly breaks. This undoubtedly is the case in inexperienced hands, but as these disadvantages have to be overcome sooner or later, the sooner the student is taught how to handle it the better.

A light hand is as essential to the artist as it is to the horseman, and dirty, heavy drawing generally results from having bad hands. The reason that charcoal breaks so frequently is that the student puts too much weight upon it. The very first thing he has to learn is to draw without using his hand to support him. The arm should be so trained as to sustain the whole weight of the hand, so that the latter is absolutely free to move and direct the pencil whithersoever the eye intends it to go, and not an ounce of dead weight should be allowed to interfere with the free action of the pencil in the delicate work it has to perform.

The aim of most art students is presumably to learn to paint or design on a reasonable scale, and not to confine themselves exclusively to trivial work of note-paper size, and if this be so, no time should be lost in teaching them the proper method.

For the very reason that charcoal is so brittle, it is one of the best means of training the hand, and might well be employed even for that purpose alone.

When drawing with a pencil on a small scale, one naturally rests the hand on the paper, as in writing; the arm is flexed, and having nothing to support, does not tire. There is, however, no freedom of movement; the sphere of action is very limited and it is a practical impossibility to draw a sure line exceeding a few inches in length without rubbing the hand on the paper. For larger work, or as a preparation for using the brush, this method is obviously unsuitable, and some other should be employed.

Students should, from the first, practise drawing at an easel, with their paper upright before them; they should sit or stand (the latter for preference) well away from their work, so that they can see the whole of it without moving. With the head erect and arm outstretched they should work on as large a scale as possible, always bearing in mind that at first their drawing should be no larger than the eye can conveniently encompass at arm's length.

In this attitude, holding the pencil as if using it to point out something, with thumb on top, arm and wrist extended, the whole directing movement should be done from the shoulder joint. This method, as will be readily seen, allows of complete freedom of movement over the whole surface of the drawing; the length of stroke being no longer regulated by the movement of the finger and thumb, but only limited by the length of the arm pivoting from the shoulder.

When drawing in this way the beginner naturally finds that the arm, being unused to it, and unsupported, quickly tires. But practice soon cures this, and as the muscles become inured to the work it becomes the most natural and the easiest way of all, as it is the most serviceable.

By adopting this method, the student acquires a free style of drawing from the beginning, and it is the one that he must always employ when doing work on any considerable scale. It is better to stand than to sit because it encourages the student to step back and review his work from time to time, whereas, if comfortably seated, he might be reluctant to do so. A moderately high stool, on which he can work, half seated, half standing, is permissible and affords a certain amount of support, but on the whole, if he is young, it is better for him to depend on the strength of his own hind legs.

The great thing is to avoid sitting in a cramped, stooping attitude, which is bad in every way — bad for the back and eyes, as well as for the drawing. If seated, the student should still have his paper almost upright and work at arm's length, the only exceptions being when he is drawing on a small scale or in his sketch book, and even then he should always keep his head well away from his work.

The use of the mahl stick should never be permitted under any circumstances, as it defeats the main object in view, which is to make the hand independent of support of any kind. The use of the mahl stick encourages the cramped attitude with its limited field of action. The student is again adopting the writing method, which he should endeavour to get away from.


Excerpted from ANIMAL PAINTING & ANATOMY by W. Frank Calderon. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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