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  • Carolina Hrejsa

An Ecorché Workshop - Mastering the Anatomy with a Muse

All I know is that I know nothing. I have always looked at the details of human anatomy from a strictly scientific perspective. I viewed art as an anatomist breaking down the body into its mechanical parts, the muscles and bones, only seeing their structural makeup. However, the Human Anatomy workshop led by Andrew Cawrse has significantly shifted my perspective. He revealed a fresh way of looking at anatomy, one that transcends the physicality of bones and muscles to expose the beauty that is intrinsic to the human form.

Drawing a figure can be an intimidating task. And yes, practice offers improvement but never perfection. Even with the insightful knowledge I gained from Andrew's workshop and his notes on "magic" measurements, the human form is a living, breathing muse. The expressive quality of the body is ever-changing and it’s movement is evident on paper; art is a living moment frozen in time.

With the insights I've learned from Andrew, I approach the task of capturing form with renewed confidence. By using techniques I have learned, such as mapping out bony landmarks and utilizing visual cues for precise measurements, I find myself better equipped to embark on my artistic attempts without needing to use my anatomy atlas. We had a pre-determined pose to work from with well-guided instruction and handouts, but we also had the honor of working from a live cirque performer, Stephan. Stephan's physique was a marvel, with muscles upon muscles showcasing every intricate detail of human anatomy. Although we were captivated by his form, alas, photographs of our muse were strictly prohibited.

I am unable to divulge his trade secrets; in order to really experience it, you must attend a workshop. Only one month of the year is dedicated to teaching for Andrew, who provides back-to-back courses for enthusiastic attendees that are typically sold out. It is admirable to try and study on your own, or dedicate some spare time to learn a new skill through an online tutorial. However, attending a 5-day intensive workshop is the best way to throw yourself deep into a task without the distractions of everyday life and responsibilities. I was grateful to attend and showed off my enthusiasm by sitting front and center. Sitting in the front row, usually sets you up for being called on. I wish I had done a crash course on anatomical structures prior to the workshop so I can show off my knowledge rather than fumbling through material I show be an expert on.

I also enjoyed the intimate setting with a handful of likeminded people. Contrasting with the bustling environment of the annual AMI conferences, where time is limited and interactions are abundant, this smaller setting allowed for more meaningful connections. It became apparent that medical illustrators share a common persona—nerdy artists with a love of natural science collections (bones, butterflies, fossils) and nonfiction science literature. We all got into the studio early and stayed late, often losing track of time. Andrew noted our group as a “dedicated bunch”, each of us driven by a perfectionist streak. The camaraderie extended beyond the workshop hours, as we bonded over dinner and drinks, forging new friendships and exchanging valuable insights with fellow professionals navigating the same creative waters.

Since my return from Las Vegas, I've made it a nightly ritual to sketch. While my tendency is to focus on my favorite anatomical features—like the alluring armpit—I recognize the importance of challenging myself with the fundamentals, particularly gestural drawing, which I've yet to master. I came to this workshop to improve capturing the rhythms of a gestural sketch, so I have to push myself out of my comfort zone. What I appreciate about 60-second gestural drawings is their efficiency; within just 10 minutes, I can complete 10 sketches. Time seems to go relatively quickly while I'm in the zone, which makes the process simple and repeatable. "What's your repeatable process?" Andrew would quote often. I intend to continue my enthusiastic journey into sculpting the human form.

Information about his on-site workshops can be found here



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