Practical Figure Drawing Books

Portrait artist and illustrator George Thompson shares a list of his favorite anatomy reference books.

If you draw the figure by observation alone, chances are you’ll be missing a lot. The human body can appear to be a bundle of lumps and bumps that seem disjointed. By studying artistic anatomy, you’ll see the influence of the underlying skeleton and muscle groups that hold the figure together. This understanding is the foundation of life drawing. There are many books on practical figure drawing that give insight on general proportions, planes of the body, measurement and valuable information on mastering the figure.

Some of the following may be out of print or hard to find, but they’re worth the search:

1. The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed. Paperback, 296 pages, $12.95, Dover Publications, 1972, www.doverpublications.com

2. The Natural Way To Draw by Kimon Nicolaides. Paperback, 240 pages, $16, Mariner Books, 1990, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/mariner

3. Figure Drawing by Richard G. Hatton. Paperback, 365 pages, $9.95, Dover Publications, 1965, www.doverpublications.com

4. Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters by Robert Beverly Hale. Hardcover, 272 pages, $22.95, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1964, www.randomhouse.com/crown/watsonguptill

5. Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. Paperback, 128 pages, $11.95, Perigee Books, 1982, http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/publishers/adult/perigee.html

6. Keys To Drawing by Bert Dodson. Paperback, 224 pages, $22.99, North Light Books, 1990, www.northlightshop.com

7. Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life by George B. Bridgman, Paperback, 352 pages, $17.95, Sterling, 2001, www.sterlingpub.com

8. Dynamic Anatomy: Revised and Expanded Edition by Burne Hogarth. Paperback, 256 pages, $24.95, Watson-Guptill Publications, 2003, www.randomhouse.com/crown/watsonguptill

9. Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth by Andrew Loomis. Paperback, 204 pages, $75, Viking Press; reissue of 1943 edition in 1971, http://us.penguingroup.com

10. Human Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger. Hardcover, 368 pages, $65, Oxford University Press, USA, illustrated edition edition (November 7, 1991), www.oup.com/us

11. Artistic Anatomy by Dr. Paul Richer. WPaperback, 256 pages, $24.95, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1986, www.randomhouse.com/crown/watsonguptill

12. Perspective Drawing by Joseph D’Amelio. Paperback, 96 pages, $8.95, Dover Publications, 2004, www.doverpublications.com


George Thompson is a fine artist and illustrator living in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He began attending life drawing sessions at the Brooklyn Museum at the age of 17. He was chairman of drawing at the Society of Illustrators in New York City and has run life drawing sessions for the past 25 years. He continues to run weekly sessions in Bucks County. To learn more about Thompson, visit www.georgethompsongallery.com.

Download a free interview with Thompson from the 2007 November issue of The Artist’s Magazine here.

Get a free download of “Human Figure Drawing” by Sadie J. Valeri!


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