Fifteen plus years later and these are the same books I refer to today!
Today I'm going to share some scans from my favorite reference books and point you towards some great resources online as well.
Anatomy for the Artist: A Very Brief History
One of the earliest works of art we humans created were images of ourselves and the animals around us. So-called Venus figures pop up all over Europe and depict a robust, motherly figure. Ancient civilizations around the globe represented the human figure as well. Greek sculpture became a model of ideal anatomy around the world, from Europe to India (by way of Alexander). I highly recommend going to your nearest museum and looking at ancient sculpture, preferably with a sketch book in tow.
By the time of the Renaissance, the human form was back in vogue and anatomy as we know it was beginning to develop. As artists, we owe a particular debt to Leonardo and Michelangelo. I have a copy of Leonardo's anatomical studies and it's fascinating, but not really practical for the purposes of creating paper dolls.
On the other hand, one of my favorite references is George Bridgeman's Complete Guide to Drawing from Life. It's the first anatomy book I ever bought, when I was all of 15 years old! It's served me well since....
Reference Images and Book Recommendations
As a general rule, the human body is measure using the head as a unit. Different artists prefer different proportions. Michelangelo used an 8 heads tall figure for an adult figure. George Bridgeman suggests 7 and 1/2 heads. Fashion illustrators use 9 heads as a standard. The general rule of thumb seems to be 7 and 1/2 heads. That's what I typically use. I want to focus on female anatomy simply because I tend to draw female paper dolls. Male anatomy maintains approximately the same proportions.
(Warning: illustrated nudity below, just so everyone knows!)
Another wonderful image I found was at the Atelier de Poupee, a site devoted to ball jointed doll construction.
I've said this before, but I think deviantArt is a great resource for all things artistic! Having said that, you have to know how to weed out the quality work from the lesser work. It's important for all artists of all levels to have a forum, and deviantArt provides that. For learning purposes, though, here's what I recommend.
Line-art and Character Sheets
The image above is one that I found while browsing this category. The artist, Kate Fox, has a number of lovely line-art reference sheets. I recommend checking these out as well.
Anatomy Isn't Everything
One of the greatest influences on my art is my high school art teacher. She would frequently tell me that you can't break the rules if you don't know the rules. I want to share the rules of drawing a human figure -- feel free to break them! I know I do! If you look at my paper dolls, some of them are 7 1/2 heads tall, some are 5, some are 9, etc. Work in a style that YOU like. But learn the rules first.
And take a figure drawing class. It's a lot of fun and will teach you things you never knew that you never knew :)
Here are just a couple of images from a figure study class I took in college. (Again, illustrated nudity!!)
Nude Study in Pencil, 2003
Nude Study in Charcoal, 2004
Don't judge my figure studies too harshly! I did these a long time ago :)
So I hope my overview of human anatomy was helpful. These are the resources I use and I hope you will, too. Look for a new doll on Friday!