Drawing Basics: Anatomy Drawing Like No Other

Artists have been drawing anatomy of humans inside and out since at least Leonardo's time, but it took an unusual polymerization technique to create a scenario in which artists could go beyond figure drawing and draw the interior of human bodies positioned in action poses. "Bodies … The Exhibition" is a museum show featuring actual human bodies that have been preserved by replacing the water in the specimens with a clear polymer. One version of the exhibit has been housed in a building at New York City's South Street Seaport for several years, and the management has always allowed artists to draw the bodies. But a few years ago, they expanded this outreach to artists with Sketch Nights, which allow people using dry media to set up easels after hours and draw and sketch from the 19 full bodies and 250 organs and partial body specimens on view.

Artists working from dissected bodies may have a different, marvelous chance to learn about human anatomy, but this exhibition offers a much simpler way. You don't have to be enrolled in a class or have special permission, and the queasy factor is largely curtailed because the specimens seem more like highly realistic statues than dead bodies. They are actual bodies, however, and the ability to draw them close-up without the perpetual crowds present during business hours makes this opportunity a smart choice for artists in the New York City area.

Hosting artists walk around and comment on each attendees' body drawing. The exhibition's standard entry is charged for the first Sketch Night one attends, and it is half price for all subsequent Sketch Nights. Artists must arrive at or before 7 p.m. to participate. "Bodies … The Exhibition" is planning additional Sketch Nights in the fall.

For more information, visit the Bodies website.

Back View by Kurt Long, 2008, colored pencil drawing

Back View

by Kurt Long, 2008, colored pencil drawing, 14 x 11. Collection the artist.

Long won the Drawing BODIES competition in 2008, in which artists drew from the specimens at "Bodies … The Exhibition" and entered a contest to win a master class with a New York City anatomy artist.


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Bob Bahr

About Bob Bahr

Hi. I'm the managing editor of American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing, and Workshop magazines. Drawing magazine is primarily my responsibility so I spend a lot of time looking at drawings, talking with draftsmen, and drawing ... but I love to paint, too.

7 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: Anatomy Drawing Like No Other

  1. I was standing next to Long when he accepted his prize at the award ceremony last year, and overheard him thanking Ken Talberth, the manager of operations at BODIES, then immediately asking, “When is the next Sketch Night?”

  2. That is indeed a beautiful drawing! Thanks for posting it. When the exhibit was in Houston at the Natural Science Museum, I paid to get in – hoping to get to draw. I asked about drawing (since they have a super strict policy about no photography, etc.) and I was promptly ushered to a side counter where I had to fill out and sign an agreement that I would not show, exhibit, sell or display any drawings I did while there. The bodies are considered “works of art” and any drawings made by an artist after those “originals” would be in violation of “the artist’s copyright” if shown or sold… that’s their official position and policy.

    I finally found a corner behind one display (the baseball batter) and did a back study there in the dark with people squeezing between me and the glass case. It was quite difficult under those circumstances but I toughed it out and had a fair drawing in spite of the conditions. I would have loved to have the opportunity to draw without the crowds and only other artists around!! I hope artists in that area take advantage of that opportunity… it gives you a whole new respect for the marvel our Creator made in the human body!