The Purpose of Sculpting Anatomy


  • Sculpting Tips: The Video Demonstrats this week's tip on sculpting. Scroll to the bottom for the video

This week's blog post is about...

  • The purpose of sculpting anatomy

  • Shaping and forming these structures out of clay

  • The two processes of learning anatomy at S.E.A. 

  • Drawing will help the new learner 

  • Learning the language of anatomy



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~ The purpose of sculpting anatomy is to help our minds grasp the parts of the animal we can not see. ~


The purpose of sculpting anatomy is to help our minds grasp the parts of the animal we can not see. So we sculpt it from the inside out using clay and learn about the functions that are vital for life as we form these fascinating structures with our hands. Imagine if I were to go into a detailed description of the horse’s spinal cord and how it is structured in order to allow movement of the head, neck, or back. I may go into detail about how the spinal cord enters the skull through a hole called the foramen magnum and describe the shape of the opening and how this foramen magnum is situated at the base of the skull in the occipital bone. From there it would be important to talk about how the spinal cord runs through the cervical vertebrae of the neck. To get a good understanding of neck movement I would have to begin by describing the shapes that make up the cervical vertebrae so it is clear how the spinal cord runs through these bones and allows them to move. From there we would need to explore connective tissues as well because this is what holds the bone in place and allows articulation of the joints and since each vertebra in the spinal column is a joint filled with synovial fluid, a description of these joints would also be necessary. I think you get my point... 


Simply describing these structures and leaving it up to your imagination to construct an accurately formed and anatomically correct creature may be difficult. Next, you may want to apply your knowledge of anatomy to some life experience maybe with a horse of yours. Now you have an abstract picture in your mind that something like a cord runs through the spine. GREAT! But what does that cord effect? what does it do? And how is it attached? Well, I could give you some pictures to answer these questions that may shed a little more light on the formation of the spine and functions of the spinal cord. But pictures leave things out… you can’t see what’s on the other side AND you can’t pick it up to experience it. How about an app that gives you a 3D experience of anatomy. That’s great! I love apps and some of them are really awesome as long as you get a medical-grade one. There's lots to learn there and it’s a lot of fun to interact with something that can move on a screen. But you still aren’t experiencing a 3D object in life. What about bones or dissections. It doesn’t get more real than dissecting something... But you are still working from the outside in. Layers of skin and muscle are removed to see the structures on the inside. Maybe the animal is on a table or supported by a support system to help access the area being worked on. This is a great way to learn anatomy however sculpting still offers a unique experience of literally building the anatomical structure from the inside out. No more imagining the rest of the cut-up specimen that exposes the layers of tissue. Sculpting brings it all together under your own fingertips.  


So let’s take the idea of the spinal cord and consider sculpting it with YOUR hands and some clay. Now you have the chance to shape it. This means grasping the inner and outer structures of that spinal cord and forming that tubular shape out of clay. The spinal cord inserts into the skull at the foramen magnum... in the skull... but what’s inside the skull and where does the spinal cord go? You would shape the brain and how that spinal cord would insert into the base of the brain now you can begin to see how the spine connects the whole horse from the brain to the tail and into the feet. From here you would shape the skull around the brain then work your way down the neck sculpting the vertebrae. We would work together like this until you've formed the entire horse out of clay. 


~ By shaping and forming these structures out of clay you are bringing your knowledge of anatomy down into your fingertips. ~


By shaping and forming these structures out of clay you are bringing your knowledge of anatomy down into your fingertips. This trickles through your body. In order to sculpt anatomy you will learn what touch to use with your fingers, the pressure to use with the palm of your hand, in some cases your shoulder and how you sit. The biomechanics of your body and the energy you bring to your sculpting changes your result and how well the information is retained.  


~ Sculpting anatomy utilizes two processes of learning that are important for long term retention and connecting shapes and structures with the living creature. ~


Sculpting anatomy utilizes two processes of learning that are important for long term retention and connecting shapes and structures with the living creature. One is the use of drawing. This is a two-dimensional form of study that science has used for centuries up until the modern age of computers. It was used to document and catalog specimens. These may have been medical specimens, archaeological findings, botanic cataloging, or bird watching. Sculptor and scientist Leonardo Da Vinci filled notebooks of drawings as he studied and learned. Before a project is carried out, it is first thought through on paper to help consider structural load and tensile strength, composition, and the method of which the artist will sequentially build the parts to arrive at an agreeable end. 


~ Drawing will help the new learner understand the sequence in which shapes and shadows make up a figure. ~


Drawing will help the new learner understand the sequence in which shapes and shadows make up a figure. This helps simplify the subject into a single view and a single pose. By drawing the figure from multiple views, the learner prepares for a more challenging exercise of putting these shapes and views into a 3-dimensional object in clay. For the beginner even tracing a drawing can help identify lines and shapes as long as the tracing is followed up with freehand drawing. This can help recognize how lines come together to form shapes and contours. 


The second method is obvious and that is building anatomy in the clay form. This allows the learner to fully experience the subject from the inside out and give meaning to anatomical terms and jargon. 


~ Learning the language of anatomy ~


Learning the language of anatomy in the tangible clay form and familiarizing yourself with the terms used in the study of these structures helps with the retention of the information and helps grasp the important connection between the inner workings of anatomy and the living creature. This is especially important for those working in or wanting to become therapists, veterinarians, osteopaths, or caretakers. 


Anatomy Art



This Week's Sculpting Tip



Video Transcript...

Okay, so a very helpful exercise that you can do to help improve your sculpting is just to take a sketch and preferably one from one of our great masters. This is one of Da Vinci's drawings. And do is we can study it in many different ways. And today, what I'm going to do is just share with you a very simple exercise when you're starting to just kind of study something like this. Lots of lots of different ways of doing this. But… for sculpture,


I like to kind of do this sometimes. So as you can do, you just take some tracing paper, and what we're doing is we're not focusing on the contour lines, which are these outside lines, right? That's what contour means. It means that edges that we see, so we're definitely not going to go around and draw those lines to start. What we want to focus on. The lines that make up that contour. So I want to take a look at what's on the inside. And you can hold your pencil however you want to what's on the inside of these contour lines, that creates those shapes on the outside that that then that forms the shape of the face. So, for instance, I'm going to start from the inside I'm going to start just by marking. Okay, well the eyes here, the cheek is right in here. This is the the mandible come up. So over here we have the ear and I'm going to put on the inside of the ear not the outside and then...the temporal area, right which comes into the hairline.


The forehead which comes down into the nose. We have The nostril of the nose, and then we can come and meet these contour lines. And so what we want to do is we take the focus off of drawing hard lines, you know, because the the tendency is just to see the outside right these these outside lines and then to kind of really focus and, and draw really hard lines around what we're looking at, which then really makes a big issue for us because we… we get really tight by doing that. So we want to do is look at… 


...the shapes that make up those outer lines. Right so that this chin is kind of curved and has this curved line. Now we're not going for any kind of mastery here. I just what I want you to know do is just pull your attention away from the outside hard edges and kind of, you know, get an idea of what makes those edges… come together what forms them.


So, then you can do this, do this over and over again, you know with different drawings. And then once you've done this, then I would step away from the tracing paper. And then do the same, same thing, but only looking at the drawing. So but this is one great step for, you know, just kind of getting a feel for the lines and the, you know, the techniques in the direction of those lines and how all these shapes come together to form the beautiful contour that we see in this drawing. By doing this, stepping away from Your sculpture and studying the two dimensional form you're really going to be able to form these ideas stronger in your mind and and through your hand because just by using the pencil and having to think okay, well how do I shape and form that on the paper, you're going to be able to transfer that and it to the clay and what it does is it really prepares your mind for sculpting. So I like to start with some kind of drawing exercise very simple, you know, just a few minutes before get jumping right into the clay. So, I hope that is helpful to you and I hope that you will enjoy sketching some of the Masters you know, just print out what you might have what you might find online, just trace it, get a book or reference book or what have you, but I encourage you to you know, have fun with drawing.


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