When studying form nothing beats working from a real 3-dimensional object. For learning anatomy, a good skeleton model can be a huge help in seeing what the various bones are shaped like and how they fit together.
There are countless plastic skeletons to buy out there, but many are not very good. Fortunately a company called Workman Publishing makes a very inexpensive model that is remarkably accurate, even compared to models costing many times as much.
However, like most skeleton models (and artist manikins for that matter – I’ll discuss that in a future post), this model can’t quite do all the things a real skeleton can… without a few modifications that is. The model is produced with the shoulder blades firmly fixed to the back of the ribcage, the hips and shoulders attached with pins (not true ball and socket joints), and so on.
So I cut the shoulder blades from the back, snipped off the pins that attached the upper arm bones and thigh bones to the shoulder blades and pelvis respectively, and I also cut the collar bones from their attachments to the top of the sternum, but left them attached to the shoulder blades. Then I reattached everything using soft sculptors’ wax. This wax has the consistency of something like a kneaded eraser, but it's very sticky. It softens when warmed by the hands, then hardens a bit at room temperature.
Now he's a fully poseable skeleton that can, for example, lift his collar bone and shoulder blade when raising his arm above his head.
Or swivel his thigh bones out to the side. Or even stand unsupported in just about any pose. Amazing! The only thing missing is a flexible spine…
For less than $20 this little gem can be an amazing tool for studying the human skeleton. Here are some drawings I did a while back when learning the form of the pelvis.
I would not have been able to undertake this kind of analysis of the form working solely from 2-dimensional reference sources. The great thing about this little skeleton is it's small enough (about 10" tall) to hold in your hand and rotate while you draw. Here is next to my studio phone and ancient I-pod: