Drawing Anatomy: The Limbs

Drawing the Limbs
The limbs have their own landmarks that we look for and use as tools to help us understand and describe an action. As in the torso, symmetry plays a key role and, of course, is defined by the central axis of the form. The most useful clarifying elements are the ends of the bones at the various joints. First, let us look at the elbow. The uniqueness of the elbow joint creates a very practical means of showing the direction of the form. The drawing of the elbow bleow shows you how this joint is formed.

Drawing Anatomy: Elbow
Drawing Anatomy: Elbow


The end of the ulna along with the epicondyle of the humerus create three clear points that you can use in your drawing. When the arm is straight, these points create a straight line. When you bend your arm, the tip of the ulna drops. This triangle then becomes the end of the cylinder of the forearm. The axis created by the line behind the condyles defines the orientation of the cylinder in space. Since the radius has the ability to twist independently of the ulna, the wrist is often best described as a squared shape due to the flatness of the radius on top. Again, this is an observation that becomes an excellent tool.

The shoulder is a little different in that we do not really see the humerus clearly. Here we must use the way in which the deltoid attaches in a semicircle to the scapula and clavicle. The acromion process at the end of the spine of the scapula becomes the point that we use in drawing the line across the shoulders. The line created by the spine of the scapula is also very useful as is the lower corner. Study the drawing of the shoulder below.

Drawing Anatomy: Shoulder
Drawing Anatomy: Shoulder

The knee is used very much in the same way as the elbow in that we concentrate primarily on the epicondyle of the femur and condyles of the tibia. It becomes quite useful to see this joint rather squarishly to help show the direction of the leg. The patella functions in much the same way as the end of the ulna does in the elbow,helping to give direction to the leg. Study the drawing of the knee below.

Drawing Anatomy: Knee
Drawing Anatomy: Knee

You will notice that in these illustrations I have included diagrams that show the flow of the lines created by the basic forms. These “rhythms” have a corresponding use to the basic structural landmarks in helping us see the total action more clearly. You should look at these landmarks as ways of helping you see what you’re looking at and not as rules. The point is to develop a strong systematic approach that frees you creatively.

By Glenn Vilppu

This lesson first appeared in Animation World Magazine June 01, 1999. This was taken from the seventh in a series of articles on drawing for animation. The lessons are based upon the Vilppu Drawing Manual and will in general follow the basic plan outlined in the manual. This is the same material that I base my seminars and lectures on at the American Animation Institute, UCLA, and my lectures at Disney, Warner Bros. and other major studios in the animation industry, both in the U.S. and their affiliates overseas. If you have not seen the previous lessons starting in the June 1998 issue of Animation World Magazine, it is recommended that you do. The lessons are progressive and expand on basic ideas. It is suggested that you start from the beginning for a better understanding of my approach.

Glenn Vilppu teaches life drawing at the American Animation Institute, the Masters program of the UCLA Animation Dept., Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Dreamworks and Rhythm & Hues Studios. Vilppu has also worked in the Animation industry for 18 years as a layout, storyboard and presentation artist, most of this time was spent working at Disney. His drawing manual and video tapes are being used worldwide as course materials for animation students. Glenn Vilppu has, in effect, either through teaching them directly or teaching their teachers, trained an entire generation of professional animators.



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