Human anatomy is a daunting subject! For an artist, understanding anatomy makes all the difference between a good figure drawing and a masterpiece!
Do you want to transform your figure drawings into masterpieces? Perhaps, you wish to become a professional artist – a technical illustrator or a caricaturist? If yes, you are probably looking for an online anatomy-drawing course that will teach how to draw swiftly, intuitively, and imaginatively.
Wondering which course to select? A popular option is the Proko Premium Anatomy of the Human Body for Artists.
But is the Proko anatomy course worth it?
To get some answers, I registered and dived headlong into the lessons. Now, after weeks of learning, I am eager to share my experience…
This review will help you to make an informed decision. I will provide insight into the course structure, content, demos, and assignments. You’ll also learn about Stan and Marshall, the instructors.
Let’s start with the course structure.
Anatomy Course Structure and What You’ll Learn
The Proko anatomy for artists course is an exhaustive curriculum that approaches the subject in a structured and streamlined manner. The focus is on anatomy from the artist’s view – no unnecessary minute technicalities to overwhelm.
The aim is to demystify the human figure. You will feel less intimidated by anatomical terminologies and complexities. Today, I have a far better knowledge of anatomy. And believe me, my figure drawings have seen a marked improvement as a result.
Before moving on to the course structure, here is a caveat for beginners…..
Human anatomy – if not rocket science – is a very complex subject. Knowing figure drawing fundamentals is a must. If you are a beginner, you could probably start with the Proko figure drawing course. Check out my review of Proko’s Figure Drawing Course for more details.
To enable an in-depth study of the human body, the course is split into three separate packs: torso, arms, and legs. You can buy all three together or buy them one at a time.
The curriculum begins with introducing the language of anatomy, types of joints, and anatomy tracing.
Do not rush through these introductory lessons; spend enough time understanding anatomical terms, learning the different joint types, and practising anatomy tracing. You will find it a lot easier to follow Stan’s narrations in the later videos.
The introductory lessons lead on to the Torso, Arms, and Legs sections. Stan follows a recurring pattern across these three sections. He begins with the ‘Bones of the Area’ and then moves to the ‘Muscles of the Area’. Here’s a portion of the Table Of Contents to give an idea.
Each section is a comprehensive study of the anatomy and motions in that portion of the body. The level of granularity achieved across the course is amazing.
A typical lesson consists of:
- Introductory video – walks you through the anatomy of the area
- How-to draw video – walks you through the anatomy drawing process
- Assignment examples – provides practise assignments
- Assignment answer videos – demos how to draw the assignment examples
- eBook – provides the content covered in PDF format
- 3D model – provides an interactive 3D view of the anatomy being discussed
- Critique video – provides expert opinion on other students’ artwork
This organization of content is useful. It facilitated systematic learning. I am sure you will benefit from it, as I did.
Skeleton and Bone Structure
Stan always begins with the innermost layer – the skeleton and bone structure.
The ‘Bones of the Torso’ section has the following subsections: Spine, Pelvis, Ribcage, and Shoulder. The arms and legs sections also have similar subsections to provide complete knowledge. I am sure you will have absolutely no complaints regarding the depth and volume of content covered.
You will meet Skelly – the animated skeleton and Robo Skelly – his 3D version. Stan uses Skelly as a running theme through the lessons. A wonderful touch, I think. Skelly is a brilliant visual aid to learning besides being hilariously quirky.
Then there are the sections dedicated to muscles – ‘Muscles of the Torso’, ‘Muscles of the Arms’, and ‘Muscles of the Legs’. Each of these sections contain several lessons. For example,
The ‘Muscles of the Torso’ section is split into Pecs & Breasts, Abs, Obliques, Shoulder, Lower Back, Upper Back, and Neck.
Talk about granularity! Stan explains the names, function, form, layering, and how to track them.
So, what does tracking muscles mean? It is identifying the points of origin and insertion.
You will learn…
The origin is the immovable end, whereas the insertion is the movable end. When the muscle contracts or relaxes, the insertion moves towards or away from the origin. The tutorial, combined with Stan’s voice over explains the idea clearly.
Understanding this subtle yet pivotal difference will help you to imagine how motion affects muscle shapes. Combine this knowledge with lots of practice, and you will be able to draw creatively from your imagination.
Simple Forms of the muscles and bones
Muscles, bones and tendons overlap, intertwine, and wrap around each other. The tiniest of movement changes these underlying elements in shape and volume, in turn impacting the pose.
Imagine a well-toned model can bulge his biceps brachii by flexing his upper arm. In the relaxed state, this bulge is not so visible and has a different shape.
Further, the simple forms of muscles look different when viewed from different angles.
Stan brings out these significant subtleties brilliantly. He uses simplified, planar, blocky forms to explain perspective, proportions, and shading. You will find visualizing 3D shapes a lot easier – almost like an instinct.
Layering Of The Muscles
Stan discusses in detail the layering of muscles and how they appear with the skin on top.
A good example is the muscles of the upper chest – pectoralis minor and major. Pectoralis minor is totally covered by pectoralis major, and the need to draw it will probably never arise. However, Stan doesn’t bypass it. Being an expert, he knows the impact of deep-seated layers on surface muscles. This is the benefit of learning from an experienced teacher!
Cross sections help you to visualize muscle layering and relationships between the different muscles. Wherever needed, Stan uses cross section images to convey a concept.
Let us consider the How-to Draw the Lower Leg lesson. This video uses a cross-sectional view of the area to show the relative position of muscles. These lower leg muscles – like the Tibialis Anterior – control the movement of the toes and can change the surface contour of the lower leg based on whether they are flexed or not.
Understanding these types of muscle groups is important yet often overlooked. Knowing how muscles layer and affect the shape of the figure will make your artwork more realistic and convincing. Your figures will stand out compared to a batch of amateur drawings.
Variations and Different Body Types
Variations! They are the banes of an artist’s life – unavoidable and challenging.
Every artist has to get a grip on the different body types. Physiques vary from person to person and with gender. There are the bodybuilders – with super-defined pecs and abs – or plain skinny types.
No anatomy drawing course is complete without delving into varying physiques. Stan goes an extra mile to teach variations. Pick any section, the lessons will cover the anatomy for all possible body types that you are likely to encounter.
The ‘How-to Draw Abs’ class covers the lean, average, muscular, and heavy physiques. Then you have the ‘how-to draw variations’ videos, like the one on obliques. I appreciate the effort and thought gone into these special videos.
Idealization Of The Human Form
Idealization is a trick, or should I say, skill, artists must master. The ability to idealize allows you to give full rein to your imagination. You no longer are a “slave to the reference”, as Stan puts it.
With a solid knowledge of human anatomy, you can idealize your sketches – improve them. You will know what to enhance or remove while still making the anatomy of the figure feel believable.
That’s the secret behind amazing figures, like the Hulk and the Zombie!
Function Of The Different Body Parts
Finally, your body is a superb, well designed machine, with each part made to function in a specific manner. With this course you will learn the functions of the different body parts and their limitations.
Let me explain…
Take a look at your thumb. The thumb functions in opposition to your fingers – enabling you to grasp things – a paintbrush, for example. There are four thumb muscles – adductor pollicis, abductor pollicis brevis, flexor pollicis brevis, and opponens pollicis. These muscles flex and extend in a specific manner allowing the thumb to exhibit six basic movements.
If you understand the how and how-not of thumb movement, your drawings will look authentic and more plausible – whether you are drawing from reference or imagination.
Teaching Style & Course Features
I bet you’d want to know about Stan’s teaching style…
The effectiveness of any educational program hinges on the content quality and the instructor’s ability to teach. This next part deals with the teaching style, resources, assignments, and video content – features that contribute to your overall experience of the course.
The Learning Experience
Stan’s teaching style is simple and easy to follow. He has ample classroom teaching experience, and knows how to simplify complex ideas. The lessons are brimming with information supported with visual examples.
I am a visual learner. Rote memorization has never been my strong point, nor do I have the time for art classes. This course is tailor-made for students like me.
I think anatomy is a visual subject. Simple 2D diagrams from a book aren’t enough.
The Proko anatomy course is the complete package with 3D models, 2D diagrams, motion graphics, and loads of drawing videos, examples, and practice material. So, irrespective of whether you are a visual learner or not, this course will be beneficial for you.
The Proko team offers a small portion of their courses as free videos. But it’s the premium subscription that gives the complete package.
The Premium courses offer extended lessons that are nearly 3x longer, with lots of actual demonstrations and assignments. There’s one lesson per muscle and bone. You can pause and rewind videos until confident with one piece of anatomy before proceeding to the next muscle group or bone.
Anatomy Drawing Demos & Examples
Art instruction videos form the backbone of online art courses. A typical anatomical chapter has two main types of videos: Anatomy of the ‘Area’, and How-to Draw the ‘Area’. See the image below.
The introductory demos are on an average 10 – 20 minutes in duration. Stan describes the form, motion, function, attachment, variations, location, fibre direction, etc. You have plenty of diagrams, motion graphics, and, of course, our dear friend Skelly.
The how-to videos are combo packs, where Stan explains and demonstrates simultaneously. Most chapters have more than one how-to draw demo, averaging about 8 – 10 minutes in length. In the Arms and Legs chapters, however, the introduction and drawing videos are clubbed, stretching beyond 15 minutes. For example, the ‘Drawing Hands Part 2’ lesson is 22 minutes long.
Anatomy Drawing Exercises, Assignments & Answers
Practice makes perfect! Cliched but true.
The more you practice, the more realistic your figures will be. Stan can only teach what and how to practice. The rest is up to us – the students.
There is plenty of scope to practice on this course. You can follow Stan as he demonstrates, and also do the lesson assignments, of which there’s a lot available across the lessons. Just the breasts section has 11 assignment poses. You will get plenty of practice material to help you improve quickly!
The best part is the assignment answers. Always compare your assignment drawings with the answer videos to ensure you are on the right track.
Rote drawing will etch different areas of the anatomy of the human body in your memory.
But a word of caution here. Avoid developing bad drawing habits! So, do not skip any of the videos, especially the how-to-draw and critique ones. They are crucial to you drawing the correct way.
The bottom line is – practice, practice, and practice. Visit the Proko website, get the model packs and practice these poses to your heart’s content.
Each chapter has an eBook that you can download in PDF format.
The books range from 20 – 30 pages in length. You will get terminologies, muscle and bone names, location, function, motion, interaction, 2D diagrams, and human figure images.
I have kept printed versions as reference material to refresh my memory without rewatching the videos. Another set of useful learning resources for premium learners!
Critique video recordings are special features of the anatomy premium course. They show Stan critiquing art works submitted by some of his premium students.
Every chapter comes with a critique video. The critique setup is a sophisticated, pen-on-screen, Cintiq-24D display. The digital display makes it easy for him to critique in detail, pointing out errors by tracing over or drawing on the side. I find these videos very informative. After all, one learns a lot from other student’s mistakes.
Interactive 3D Models
The Proko team has put together interactive 3D models for each chapter of all three sections – Torso, Arms, Legs. All you need is an internet browser and your mouse. Click on the 3D model and move your mouse to rotate in every which way to study the shapes and forms.
They are excellent aids in comprehending proportions, movements, and volume – especially in doing the assignments. These 3D models are icing on the cake. I love them!
Assets & Video Quality
To begin with, every video in the course is downloadable. Click the ‘download video’ link – save the video on your tablet, iPad, or PC – study offline at your convenience. As simple as that.
As for the video quality ….
The anatomy course videos are 1080p Full HD video mode, with a 1920 x 1080 pixels display. I am certain you will have no complaints regarding clarity. I faced no issues, but some of you with smaller screen size may have to resize the player or view the videos on your Proko dashboard.
My learning experience, for the most part, has been excellent. However, without sounding too finicky here are few downsides…
I believe, considering the price tag, some people would have liked the curriculum to include anatomy of the face and head. However, those topics are covered in detail in the portrait drawing course – where it makes more sense. For those who think it’s pricey, I’d suggest you purchase the first pack as a trial.
Then there is the matter of humor – the continuous thread of visual gags running through the entire course. You’ll get a large dollop of Stan’s wisecracks and Skelly’s play acting. I think they add a bit of comic relief to an otherwise heavy and difficult topic. But you may not, especially if crazy humour isn’t your cup tea.
Personally, I would have loved to see much more of the variation videos. I stand by my previous statement about the extensive coverage of variations in body types. However, considering the range of human diversity, you can never have too many how-to-draw videos.
Free Vs. Premium Anatomy Courses. What is the Difference?
Free course videos are boons for struggling student life.
The Proko team is well aware of this fact. Their YouTube channel hosts freemium versions of all their courses. For obvious reasons, these videos – like movie trailers – only provide a sneak peek at the premium content.
The free videos introduce concepts and the Premium course goes way beyond to elucidate these concepts. The lessons are lengthier, videos are uncensored, you get bonus sections, 3D models on your browser, and cheatsheet answer videos.
Following is a sample comparison to name a few differences:
- How to Draw Pecs: free video is 7:21 minutes; premium video is 15:55 minutes
- Anatomy Critique Pecs: free video is 12:32 minutes; premium video is 37:34 minutes
- Bonus videos: Torso drawing part 1, 2, and 3; Belly Buttons and more
In terms of value for money, the premium version gives you a ton of extras. You’ll find these invaluable…
Is The Proko Anatomy Course Worth It?
A big YES from me.
Whether you are an amateur or aspiring to be an animator, comic artist, motion graphic designer, or art instructor – a solid background of anatomical study will stand you in good stead. And this course will give it to you!
Having completed the course, I am definitely more observant and confident. My figure sketches look like real people. However, learning is a lifelong process, and I have a long way to go yet. This course has given me a solid foundation to build on.
Extensive content, flawless presentation, downloadable videos, 3D models, HD clarity, clear audio, loads and loads of example and answer videos, and a competent instructor – with some commitment and hard work from your side, it’s a win-win situation.
If your basic drawing skills are strong, and you wish to draw like a pro…
What’s holding you back? Go ahead and register for the Proko anatomy of the human course today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who is Proko?
Proko courses are the brainchild of Stan Prokopenko, a realist artist, art teacher, and draftsman par excellence. He is based in San Diego, where he works with his talented and dedicated team to bring you brilliant art instruction courses.
Stan has been teaching at Watts Atelier since 2007. He’s been posting online tutorials since 2012. Be assured, you are in good hands!.
Who is Marshall?
Marshall Vandruff is a fellow teacher at Proko. A master illustrator and art instructor, he started his career working in advertising companies and then moved into teaching. In the anatomy course, you will meet Marshall in the Types of Joints answer and critique videos.
Is the proko anatomy course good for beginners?
The Proko Anatomy course can be difficult for beginners to figure drawing. I’d recommend they understand the fundamentals of figure drawing first before taking on this more advanced course.
What Other Courses Are Available On Proko?
Some of the other Proko premium courses that may interest you are: