Bodies Come Crashing to the Ground

Drawing human anatomy can be an adventure if you take it to the limits. Artist and draftsman Leah Yerpe certainly does. Her large- and small-scale drawings feature figures freefalling, tumbling, and twisting as they swoop across the page.

Pleiades by Leah Yerpe, 72 x 107, charcoal drawing, 2011.
Pleiades by Leah Yerpe, 72 x 107, charcoal drawing, 2011.

Though Yerpe's works are much evolved from the anatomy drawing lessons a beginning artist might encounter, they most likely started there with some type of anatomy sketches. Without a sure knowledge of how to draw a human body, the artist wouldn't have been able to render her figure drawings so convincingly in such a variety of extreme poses.

For instance, in the body drawing Pleiades, the artist shows a commanding understanding of the diverse movements of the body's core. The barrel of the torso is shown as it folds over itself; it expands through the rib cage when the figure arches her back; and her hips tilt to follow the backward movement of the legs.

Yerpe also has an anatomical sensitivity when rendering what I like to think of as the exclamation points of the body–the hands and feet. These may not be the first thing you pay attention to when viewing her drawings, but they are the culmination of all the bodily tension and power she is showing. If an arm is bent and cocked back, chances are the hand is drawn in accord with the movement–fingers clenched into a fist and the tendons in the wrist slightly bulge.

Cornix by Leah Yerpe, 60 x 113, charcoal drawing, 2011.
Cornix by Leah Yerpe,
60 x 113, charcoal drawing,

Her drawings of the foot are done in much the same way. If the leg seems to be relaxed, the foot is in a neutral position with toes slightly pointed. If the leg is bent or seems to be mid-motion, the toes are drawn up toward the ankle and the foot itself is arched. In any given situation, the hands and feet give us more visual information about the physical action of the bodies being depicted.

Human anatomy for artists can be a gateway for incredibly dynamic and unprecedented figural works, allowing you to explore the body's full range of motion. For drawing anatomy, seek anatomy drawing guides that will allow you to see the action of the body in real time and explore how to artistically express all the movement and power inherent in our bodies. Enjoy!

Related Posts:


Artist Daily Blog
Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

6 thoughts on “Bodies Come Crashing to the Ground

  1. These figures are so beautifully rendered, individually they are very strong. As a group/composition I don’t think it’s as strong. The multiple light sources and suspended state is visually a little confusing. are they floating or falling? Are they holding on to each other or groping? This might be nitpicking (I can’t render like this), but with more planning these might be stunning. Maybe there’s something I’m missing…..

  2. I look at these drawings and almost gasp at the intensity. It looks like free-falling. It can be confusing is you try to decipher each body, but I don’t think that is what Yerpe is trying to achieve. Grouping the subjects is a master at work.

    It makes me feel the wind, tension, sore muscles, and relief of stiff or sore muscles.
    Her skill at showing cause and reaction in muscle movement is magnificent.

    I am going to research her work on google to enjoy more.

  3. This drawing is breathtaking! The technical skill is so apparent and far beyond where most people’s skills are. The composition adds to the surrisitcal mood created by the bodies’ interactions with each other. I too will be researching her on the web.

  4. I once knew someone who created this type of art. He got some schoolmates to lie down on a white floor sheet with an overhead camera after which he traced the film, drew and the shaded with an amazing degree of accuracy.
    How would anyone else be able to do this without models and where would you draw the line?

  5. I’m sure that you didn’t mean any offence, but I feel that the posting of this image is a little insensitive in the wake of the recent shooting down of flight MH17 and the subsequent bodies falling from the sky.