Artistic Anatomy Part 2: Brow & Forehead Muscles

Now that we know the bones of the front of the skull, let's learn some muscles!

First, a quote from Andrew Loomis's Drawing the Head and Hands, p. 45 (a book I highly recommend. Downloadable pdf's of all of Loomis's books can be found here.)—"I do not see any material advantage to the artist in knowing the names of all the muscles and bones of the head, but it is of great importance to him to know where they are, where they attach and what they do."

I couldn't disagree more! If it's important to know where they are, where they attach and what they do, then you need to know what to call them. Muscle names often reveal information about where they are, where they attach and what they do so knowing their names is hugely beneficial.

Second, an awesome online resource for facial anatomy and expressions is Victoria Contreras Flores's ARTNATOMY/ARTNATOMIA (Spain, 2005) at This site is hugely helpful; it allows you to see the results of the contracting of each muscle. You MUST check it out!

The two muscles for this lesson, with accompanying images, are:

L. rugare—to wrinkle
origin: inner part of superciliary arch
insertion: medial skin of the brow
action: pulls skin of the eyebrows together causing vertical wrinkles on the forehead

Frontalis (Epicranius, frontal belly)
G. —epi, upon + kranion, skull
origin: cranial aponeurosis [a flat sheet or ribbon of tendonlike material that anchors a muscle or connects it with the part that the muscle moves]
insertion: skin of the brow
action: pulls skin of the eyebrows up, skin of the forehead down creating horizontal wrinkles across the forehead

Here's a page from Scott McCloud's "Making Comics" (highly recommended) that describes the corrugator, the frontalis and all of the other important expression-making muscles. I've colorized the two muscles on this page as I did on the skulls:

Page from Scott McCloud's "Making Comics."

Once you've learned these two muscles you'll be ready for the next lesson: planes of the forehead.

Is this information making sense? Do you find it helpful? Would you like to add to it or ask a question? Please post your comments!

Artistic Anatomy Part 1: Frontal Skull Bones

Hopefully convinced you that in order to understand the planes of the head we need to first understand the skull then the muscles.

Here's a front view of the skull with the bones labelled:

Note: the best way to distinguish yourself from other artists is to have a solid command of artistic anatomy (a goal I'm still working towards!) To that end, investing in a replica skeleton (the skull of mine is in the photo above) would greatly contribute to your learning. You can't touch nor examine closely a photo or illustration especially since most from the internet are low resolution. This is the skeleton I bought in 1997 for $349 from Evolution in New York City (notice that it's now $269; I paid $80 more and had to physically drag it home on the commuter train!) Despite not using the skeleton as consistently as I should have all these years, I guarantee that studying anatomy is infinitely easier by having a model to look and touch. See the bones in 3D makes them easier to understand and communicate on a 2D surface.

Back to the skull: as you do daily drawings of the front of the skull, memorize the names and locations of the individual bones. We'll start to build on that knowledge in the next post: muscles of the brow and forehead.

Would this post have been better in some way? Do you feel you're learning anything? Post a comment!

Until next time, happy drawing/studying!

The BIG SECRET Revealed!

So here's the big secret: you canNOT understand the planes of the head until you throughly understand the skull and facial muscles.

Not a big revelation?

Then why are so many amateur artists online venting their frustrations and confusion about not understanding the planes of the head? They, like me, approached this topic incorrectly: we separated the planes from the skull and muscles. This separation abstracted the knowledge; the planes ended up having no relationship to a real human head and became impossible to remember. On the other hand, when studying the planes while keeping the skull and muscles in mind, they suddenly made complete sense!

I searched numerous sources for this skull–muscle–planes connection—Reilly, Fixler, Loomis, Vilppu, Bridgman and the Famous Artists Course—but found nothing that clearly explained to me how all of the elements worked together.

Finally, I stumbled upon Jeff Jackson's blog, the first clear explanation I could find. Here he diagrams the skull, muscles and planes; his step-by-step instructional PDF on drawing the planes is also helpful and I recommend that you download both.

Following Jackson's example, I decided to break down every step of this topic into even smaller, more manageable steps. This method is helping me and I'm confident it will help you.

Next post: learning the bones of the front of skull.

Would you like to see improvements in these lessons? Tell me about it by posting a comment!

More Planes of the Head…PLUS!

Learning the planes of the head is hard.

I'll make it easy!

Follow my upcoming series of posts and you'll learn not only the planes of the head but about artistic anatomy, too!

I'll also tell you THE BIG SECRET to learning and understanding the planes of the head.

That will be revealed tomorrow!

The Brain & Caricatures

Photo: Joshua Anderson; caricature: Court Jones

I just read a fascinating article in Wired magazine about how the human brain recognizes faces and, by extension, caricatures. There are some helpful bits about how and why caricatures appeal and why we're able to recognize the subjects. Read the article here.

Progress continues!

Below are the latest, new scenes:


The progress chart has been updated, too! I'm now 56% completed with the clean animatic.

How's your project coming?

Latest Animatic—071111

Here's the latest. At this point, a couple of things towards the end need some minor tweaks but aside from that, I think it's good to go!