One of the biggest things holding artists back from creating their best work is the things they believe. There are so many commonly held beliefs in art, and almost all of them exist in a binary world. They lead us to believe there’s a right way and a wrong way, a good way and a bad way. And they delude us into thinking that if we just follow these simple rules—if we draw things the right way—we too, can make good art.
But ya know what following the rules all the time in artmaking actually gets you? Generic, homogeneous, stiff art. Boring art.
One of the places this is most noticeable is human anatomy. It’s one of the most commonly talked about obstacles an artist encounters. Countless people have told me they “just can’t draw bodies”.But what they really mean, is they can’t do it they way they think they’re supposed to do it. They can’t do it the way they’ve come to believe is the “right” way to do it. And that “right” way is almost always to draw anatomically correct human bodies. To draw arms, legs, and heads, exactly as they exist in the real world. To draw realistic anatomy.
But you guys, that’s just one way to draw. There are so many other possibilities of what arms, legs, and heads can look like. Following those binary rules, believing that there’s only one right way, is holding you back and limiting your creativity.
So you know what you gotta do? Rebel! Throw out the rules! Draw however the heck you wanna draw!
Drawing more freely allows us to develop our own artistic style and have more fun drawing. And when we enjoy drawing, we’re more likely to keep drawing and that’s how we actually improve as artists. You don’t have to learn the rules or try. to draw like other people do. All you have to do is keep drawing and your art will continue to grow and grow.
Years ago, I shifted my mindset from trying to draw anatomy the “right” way to trying to draw anatomy my way. I stopped being frustrated and self-critical and started exploring my unique way of drawing people, which ultimately led to me develop my overall artistic style.
Your Permission to Rebel
But perhaps you’re new to this whole ditch the rules, rebel artist thing. Perhaps the thought of absolute freedom makes you anxious. I get it, rules can be comforting when we’re surrounding by uncertainty.
So, here ya go, by the power vested in my by the internet, I am officially giving you permission to to follow these Rebel Artist Rules instead:
- I don’t have to draw anatomy in a realistic style. I can draw abstract or cartoonish if I want to.
- I don’t have to draw the “ideal” proportions. I can exaggerate and abstract the body if I want to.
- I don’t have to study bone placement and muscle groups. I can spend my time actually drawing if I want to.
- I don’t have to draw every detail of the body. I can simplify if I want to.
- I don’t have to draw body parts with volume. I can draw flat if I want to.
- I don’t have to draw anatomically-correct body parts. I can draw people—instead of body parts—with all their glorious imperfections and personality.
Following these creativity-encouraging rules, instead of the classical creativity-killing rules, will allow you to remain open to the possibilities, which is how you’ll discover how to draw anatomy in your own artistic style.
I’ve included a very-official-and-totally-binding contract above that you can sign and put up on your wall or share with others to keep yourself accountable. And I’m almost done making a mini-class to dive deeper into this rebellious way of drawing people.
So c’mon, let’s ditch the rules and draw however the heck we want to! It’s fun to be bad. :)
Ready to rebel and ditch the rules?
This essay inspired my Skillshare class, Art School Boot Camp: Rebellious Anatomy! Join us and learn to draw bodies in your own way!