Anatomy, Perspective and Composition For the Artist by Stan Smith

Anatomy, Perspective and Composition For the Artist brings back into the print a very useful and thorough book originally published in 1989.


This is a comprehensive manual on the subjects with many illustrations and examples to really set the important points home. As a photographer and artist, I found extremely useful information in each of the three sections despite having studied in my disciplines for years. And although there are many books on each subject individually, I found especially the last two chapters on Perspective and Composition very useful. Though only 118 or so pages, it feels like 300 from the amount of information contained within.

For each of the three sections, the author uses illustrations, classic painting, and photographs of still lives or anatomy models to educate the artist.

Anatomy takes a large chunk of the book. From breakdowns of every bone and muscle, at times I thought I was reading a medical text book. But that knowledge is very important for understanding how to draw/paint a human correctly. Studies from Michaelangelo, Rembrandt and more provided great examples of how the how the body works and should look. There is a lot of text describing the various sections of the body in detail and then 30 or so pages of illustrations of a human body in various positions. Special sections are dedicated to the face and how to depict emotions – from bags under the eyes when smiling to the tense musculature of anger.

the section on perspective, while not as exhaustively detailed, is very technically explained. This book is definitely NOT for the dilettante since accurate scientific terms are used throughout.  This was probably the hardest section but also one of the hardest artistic techniques to really master as well. Be prepared to draw a vanishing point, horizon line, ground line, picture plane, central visual ray and station point to really understand perspective. As with anatomy, many examples are given, from stairs to houses.  The examples in this section look like something out of a hard calculus course.

Finally, composition.  Although you would suspect composition to be an artistic endeavor, the book does a great job of showing how different compositions greatly change the mood, motion, and subject of an image.  The author takes a table top still life and will photograph or illustrate it from many angles to show how light and comp make such a huge difference – often between boring and dynamic. As with the previous chapters, history of composition in art, classic masterpieces examined, and then many photographs and illustrations really do a thorough and comprehensive job of explaining the importance of a good composition.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is extremely comprehensive and very, very useful. When you are serious about your art, this is a great reference to show you how to make the most of your illustrations, paintings, or even photography.  And without dumbing it down to a common denominator as so many books do these days.  yes, it is dry but it is also incredibly thorough.

Reviewed from an ARC.

This entry was posted in ARC, Book Reviews, non fiction, Photography. Bookmark the permalink.

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