The Hip Bone’s Connected to the Artistic Bone: John Murray Gets to the Marrow of Figurative Work

John Murray’s “Artistic Anatomical Drawing” class could be bone dry. But instead of lectures akin to medical school discourse, Murray incorporates figurative work and his breadth of knowledge of the human body to make figurative work really move.

Artwork by John Murray

Artwork by John Murray

Murray, whose design of Abraham Lincoln graces the $5 bill in your pocket, has a history of artistic anatomical work spanning more than 20 years. His interest in anatomy comes from a keen curiosity in art, rather than a medical background—a detail that keeps his course from becoming a medical illustration class and instead elevates students’ figurative work across mediums. This class focuses on improving drawing the human body, but sculptors and painters can also benefit from the innate knowledge of the human body that Murray imparts.  

Artwork by John Murray

Artwork by John Murray

“By the end of the class,” says Murray, “students should have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of human musculature.” Students will work with models, creating gestural drawings, learning anatomical drawing strategies, and watching demonstrations as they perfect their art.

Artwork by John Murray

Artwork by John Murray

While it may not seem like something that all artists should pursue, anatomy is something that has been so highly sought after by the great artists of history that they went to extremes to study it further. In the early 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci, prohibited from using human cadavers to sketch, had to steal his subjects from recent graves or pay off the hospital director to let him sit in on dissections. Michelangelo, faced with the same constraint, was allowed to use the bodies of convicted criminals as a convenient loophole to the church’s ruling on dissection of bodies.

Artwork by John Murray

Artwork by John Murray

These days, working with live models is much more palatable. “Artistic Anatomical Drawing” allows students the opportunity to dive into anatomical work, without the trip to the morgue.

Learn more and sign up for John Murray’s “Artistic Anatomical Drawing” class starting Sunday, January 13, by visiting The Art League website. You can also find out more about John’s background at work by visiting his website. Spots in “Artistic Anatomical Drawing” are limited.

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