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Review of George Bridgman, The Human Machine: The anatomical structure and mechanism of the human body

Why This Book, George Bridgman's The Human Machine, Is Important

"Machine": hard, brittle, metallic; man-made; "human": soft, malleable, twisting, organic.

Why juxtapose the two to teach figure drawing?

To solve this problem: as art and drawing students, we know we need to learn anatomy.

But it's one thing to know the names of the bones and muscles and more or less where they can be spotted on the surface. It's an entirely different thing to know how they mesh and appear in their principal ranges of motion.

Getting the body parts to work together is what makes a drawing convincing, cohesive, and life-like. Andrew Loomis called this the "design" in the body.

Bridgman provides copious illustrations of bones, then bone overlaid with muscle, for various sections of the body. Not so unusual.

What is unique is that the illustrations are then shown with a mechanism superimposed -- for example, pulleys and crankshafts.

This approach is very effective for transforming rote knowledge of anatomy into convincing form.

What to Expect

There are plenty of hints to help you check your drawings, such as proportions of the fingers, what to use as a landmark on the hips, differences in the inner and outer contour of the calves.

Several quick tips aside, the book demands time and study. This is not a "knee bone's connected to the thighbone" or "the eyes go in the middle of the head" kind of book. It's a lot deeper.

It is portable and sturdy (and inexpensive!) -- take it and your sketchbook along with you.

Do not expect crisp finished drawings or anatomical diagrams. The drawing style is loose and sketchy. Emulate it.

Recommendation for Bridgman's The Human Machine, an Inexpensive Classic

The Human Machine will help the eager and diligent student attain essential practical knowledge to apply human anatomy to make convincing figure drawings. No surprise that it stays in print.

Highly recommended. Bookmark and Share


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