Through Concentrated Breath

making images from memory

Hogarth’s Dynamic Anatomy

28 December 2015 by Rey Armenteros

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As an art instructor, I need to be aware of the various art books on the market. Though I have known about Hogarth’s line of books since my days in college, I never felt the need to ever pick them up, and my reasons always settled on the fact that the instruction we readers were getting was not how to draw, but how to draw like Burne Hogarth. Throughout his line of “Dynamic” books, he usually uses his drawings for examples, and his strong style dripped off these books, undermining any attempt at a universal approach to drawing.

However, I finally bought two books a couple of years ago, and it was for the strangest reasons anyone could have. It was during a Gil Kane kick that I had, and the more I looked at Kane’s work, the more I realized that his structured anatomy had parallels in the Burne Hogarth school of approach. So, I wanted to also look into Hogarth, and instead of buying his more popular comic strip work on Tarzan, I decided to buy his how-to books solely for the reason of admiring the stylization of his work.

In one more twist to this story, I ended up using his book, Dynamic Anatomy, as a means to study structure and found that all of my early assumptions about the book were true but were also not true. It is not an ideal anatomy book, and what may push a contemporary audience further back is his stilted prose. (Burne Hogarth, for those that don’t know, was one of the co-founders of School of Visual Arts, and this striving to carry an “educated” tone is overdone here.)

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I don’t know what decisive verdict I could give this book. It has good and bad points that seem to work off each other. Overall, it’s good if you seek to draw in this manner and to follow this very particular structure, but it’s bad for almost anything else, even if ultimately I did have some use for it.

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