I’ve recently returned from a fun couple of days running an Essential Anatomy masterclass for the talented artists at SUPERCELL in beautiful Helsinki, Finland. Readers might know SUPERCELL as the genius developers behind hit mobile games Clash of the Clans, Boom Beach, Clash Royale, and Brawl Stars. They have a reputation for expressive, cartoony character designs, so why the big interest in anatomy? Well, every figurative artists, even cartoonists, needs to drill down into the fundamentals of anatomy in order to build a foundation solid enough that they can stylise and abstract the human figure in a compelling, ‘believable’ way.
I’ve just finished an intensive, one-day Essential Anatomy session with the talented artists from Framestore, London. Sixty artists and I convened in the Somerset House screening room for a day covering critical lessons from both human and comparative anatomy. I don’t often run anatomy courses this short (most are a minimum of two days), so it was a challenge to distill the essential lessons from many years of teaching anatomy into a format the could deliver the maximum amount of useful information in a single day course.
Homo naledi reconstruction, v2
A producer friend recently asked if I had time to put together a quick sculpt for a pitch he was giving to a potential client. The request was for a concept of what the extinct homonid species Homo naledi would have looked like in life. I happened to have a relatively free day and was excited to do some digital sculpting so I said I would give it a try.
First, who or what were Homo naledi? It turn out they are fairly recent relatives of modern humans (ca. 250,000 year ago) – discovered in 2013, to great acclaim, by a pair of cavers fumbling around in a South African cave system. The species appears to be a interesting mix of human and primate characteristics – hands and feet very near our own but with shoulders and pelvises closer to our primate ancestors. We know they were short of stature, possibly standing barely five feet tall, and had small skulls exhibiting primitive features including reduced cranial capacity (half of a modern human), robust orbital tori, reduced/absent chin, but with small teeth and gentle canines.
Taking these few data points and a handful of images of the incomplete skulls of homo Naledi, I put together a couple versions. The first, below, pushes the facial characteristics more towards primate, but with the spark of intelligence one would expect of the genus Homo. The second, and my preferred version (above), leans toward a more human interpretation of facial characteristics. It includes a quick torso study for context and posture, as well as what I imagine to be a mass of matted, dirty hair. A timelapse of the sculpting process coming soon.
Homo Naledi portrait study, v1
I’ve recently returned to London after a busy couple weeks on the West Coast – this trip taking me back to Blizzard Entertainment and Pixar for anatomy talks and workshops. I’ve been to both studios a number of times in recent years, but this visit was for something new – the inaugural sessions of my Comparative Anatomy for Artists course.
What is comparative anatomy? Simply, it is the study of animal anatomy. More accurately though, it is the study of the relationships between the homologous anatomical structures of different animal species. For example, how a horse’s humerus (upper arm bone) differs from a human’s, and how that differs from a mole rat’s, or elephant’s, or dolphin’s in structure, function, and appearance (unbelievably yes, a dolphin has a humerus, as well as forearm, hand, and finger bones, all hidden in its front flipper!). There is a treasure trove of fascinating and bewildering adaptations that have taken place in the natural world to fit the general “animal vertebrate body plan” to many different environments and ecosystems. This course explores these amazing adaptations and how we apply this knowledge artistically to create, imagine, sculpt, draw, and animate better animals and creatures.
My Comparative Anatomy for Artist course will be running in London in the Spring of 2018, dates to be announced (sign up to the mailing list for news). If you are a games/visual effects/animation studio interested in an onsite workshop, please get in touch.
The Eaton-Houdon Ecorche is a contemporary anatomy figure based on the classic L’Écorché, the 18th century anatomy study by French neoclassical sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The original écorché figure was used for centuries in art academies and ateliers around the world to teach students anatomy and cast drawing.
This version, produced in collaboration with Michael Defeo, corrects a handful of lingering anatomical mistakes while retaining the gesture, pose, and naturalism that made the original a favorite of mine and of other artists through the centuries. Here it is produced at eighteen inches, an ideal size for desktop reference and study. Each figure is hand cast in museum-quality resin with removable magnetic arms.
Available at: EATON.london
Been very busy recently getting Bodies in Motion > Scans ready to launch. I am personally cleaning up ALL the scans to preserve the form and anatomy. Also lighting and rendering them to make beautiful, informative drawing/sculpting/anatomy reference for all of you. Compositing today. Sharing this screenshot so you know I haven’t been idle the last couple months.
Scans will be coming very soon to www.BodiesinMotion.photo (weeks!). Launch date will be announced next week.
Anatomy study from Bodies in Motion.
The Summer session of my Anatomy for Artists online course is coming up on June 23rd. In this course I cover ALL the anatomy that goes into making an ecorche drawing like the one above. In fact, ecorche drawings are the primary exercises for the eight week course and by the end you will almost certainly have levelled-up enough to create a detailed ecorche study like this one. If you have an interest in improving as a figurative artist, join me for an intense but fun 8 weeks of sutdy this summer!
I’m recently back to London after a long trip to the West Coast (LA, San Francisco). The first stop was Blizzard Entertainment for a four-day facial anatomy workshop. For the uninitiated Blizzard is the juggernaut game developer behind the hit franchises World of Warcraft (WoW), Overwatch, and Starcraft. From their fortress-like campus 100 miles south of LA in Irvine, CA, they run a digital empire built on monsters, magic, and well… fun.
My job was to level up the artists’ facial anatomy and portrait sculpting skills. The workshop broke down into two days of facial anatomy lecture and two days of portrait sculpting in ZBrush. The content will sound familiar to anyone who actually reads the posts on this website (and doesn’t just looking at the pictures, like most), because I ran a similar workshop for Ubisoft very recently. In fact, you’ll recognize one of the heads rendered above. I added a second head (my Blizzard demo sculpt) to the menagerie this time.
Even though we were studying facial anatomy the artists also got a chance to draw and study from the Bodies in Motion site. We drew from quite a few Motions, less for full-body poses but more for examples of skull structure and head/neck articulation and anatomy in dynamic poses. There were some great drawings from the room full of talented artists.
I am recently back from a week-long workshop at Ubisoft’s Quebec studio focused on portraiture and facial anatomy. The week broke down into three days of facial anatomy lecture for twenty of their artists (animators, riggers, concept artist, character artists) and then finished with an intensive two-day portrait sculpting session in ZBrush with just the character artists.
Anatomy study from Bodies in Motion. There are a few interesting things going on here:
I recently finished a series of three facial anatomy workshops for the artists at Creative Assembly, the award winning, Sega-owned studio responsible for the long-running Total War franchise as well as titles like Alien Isolation and Halo Wars 2. Like most artists designing characters for games and visual effects the bar for creating realistic faces is exceptionally high and a functional understanding of the construction of the face is very important to achieving believably with the form and motion of the face. The goal of the workshops was to help the Creative Assembly artists develop a fluency with the anatomical forms and structures of the face so that they can work more quickly, accurately, and creatively, while avoiding the common mistakes many artists make in their portraiture.