Drawing a Skeleton Inside a Figure

A great exercise for learning anatomy as an artist is drawing a skeleton inside a figure drawing.

By drawing the skeleton as you draw the human figure, you are able to see the connections between the figure.

Explained are the various bony landmarks, providing a fundamental understanding of how the skeletal structure in a figure functions. Demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.


Toaster, Neil Espinosa, Pat McIlroy, Anastasia Lvova

Video Walkthrough

  • This exercise requires you to draw the entire figure, don’t leave out any body parts!
  • The purpose of this exercise is to make connections between various anatomical landmarks, so don’t worry about making a drawing that looks good!
  • A variation on this exercise is to draw a skull inside a portrait.
  • This is a drawing experience that is all about learning and seeing, how the drawing comes out doesn’t matter at all.
  • Using 2 different colored drawing materials, 1 for the figure, and 1 for the skeleton helps to see them more distinctly as you draw.
  • Start with a quick gesture of the figure, and jump right into the skeleton, even if you don’t feel super established with your figure drawing.
  • Having an anatomy book is helpful as you will be referencing several diagrams at the same time.
  • Visit our Anatomy Resources page for a list of anatomy books.
  • Prof Lieu recommends the book Artistic Anatomy.
  • This exercise isn’t about being precise in your drawing. (you literally can’t be!)
  • Approximate what you see in terms of the angles in the bones.
  • Don’t use tone in your drawing, it will be too difficult to see what you’re drawing with the skeleton, stick with line only.
  • Move back and forth between refining the skeleton and the figure so that they are being developed at the same rate.
  • The objective here is to learn how to distinguish between what is bone, muscle, tendon, skin, etc.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

I recommend trying to draw over the drawing; especially with a sustained drawing you can actually make things tougher if you keep re-starting the drawing.

Draw a Skeleton Inside a Figure, banner

A lot of a sustained drawing is figuring out how to make changes and fix things. If you’re always starting over you don’t get the opportunity to do that.

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