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Classic Human Anatomy in Motion by Valerie L. Winslow

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We spoke with Valerie Winslow since her new book Classic Human Anatomy in Motion was published recently.

Could you tell us how long have you have been teaching for the Academy of Art University?

Since 1989 when I began teaching at the Academy of Art University, I have taught figurative art and artistic anatomy.  For the last 11 years I have been the Anatomy Coordinator for The School of Fine Art.  

How did you become an exhibiting artist?

I began my professional career by submitting examples of my paintings to galleries. Networking, meeting people in my field, and developing connections is an important part of my success. 

After joining a co-op gallery when I completed my education, I was given the chance to exhibit my work. Many opportunities for group and solo shows were possible at this time. 

Why did you write your first book and what happened that made you want to write a follow-up book?

When I began teaching, many students encouraged me to write a book about anatomy. Since I teach the concepts in an easy-to-understand way for the artist, and keep the information anatomically accurate, writing a book was a natural development for me. 

The research I gathered through my teaching enabled me to present information and drawings to my publisher when I proposed my first book, Classic Human Anatomy.  This book was published in 2009 by Watson Guptill, and was designed to be a basic anatomical reference guide for figurative artists.

After the positive responses to the debut of my first book, including many professional artists, art students and physicians in the medical field, I felt encouraged to write a follow-up book. This book called Classic Human Anatomy in Motion was released in August of 2015 and is about anatomy with an emphasis on movement. It contains over 500 drawings and includes anatomical charts, life studies, gesture drawings, and longer study poses. This book is intended to create a bridge between the anatomical concepts of motion and drawing the live model in action.

Why does the study of anatomy help an artist?

Depending on the focus of an artist and the artistic discipline being studied, anatomy allows us to understand the complexities of the human form on a deeper level, whether we sculpt, paint or draw the figure.

 

The figurative artist who has a realistic and classical drawing style will find the knowledge of artistic anatomy beneficial. Anatomical knowledge informs the artist in understanding the complexities of the human form. When sculpting, painting or drawing the figure, solving difficult problems more easily through knowledge of anatomy is the goal. Anatomy expertise can also assist in drawing figures from imagination with authority and skill.

 

Do you have any advice for students?

I live my artistic life based on a well-known quote from the American mythologist Joseph Campbell, “follow your bliss.”  My version is, “Find your passion and run with it!”

Look for other creative outlets to combine with art in seeking your passion. Many artists blend two or more creative directions. Examples include; writing and illustrating, music and art, design and printmaking, film and music, painting and sculpture, digital art and script writing, mural painting and set design, theater and dance.  It is easier to channel work and focused energy into the things you love to do, so find them and do go do them.

Always get accurate information on the subject of your interest. Research

the material you study and get it from an authentic source.

Practice…practice…practice. As you learn the material required for your discipline, practice as much as you can to improve your skills. Draw every day in a sketchbook. Paint, sculpt or digitally create you own images. Find a workshop and work on your skills.

Learn from the past, look at the present, and be flexible for changes in your future. Study art from history and research other cultures to get inspired. This is important when you find yourself in a creative slump. Try looking at art from the past for new ideas.

Also look at art present time. This study can inspire you to find your own voice and help create your own unique images.

As you develop your artistic style, be prepared to stay flexible for growth.  That way your art will end up being unique and vibrant. Experiment and try new things to keep the passion alive in your art.

Build a support group of peers and gather supportive people into your life. These people should believe in you and your work. These people will include family members, partners, friends; including all your friends on social media, mentors, and business people you work for in the art world.

Perseverance is a key word for all artists. If your art is important to your existence, keep at it. If one door closes, keep searching for more doors that will open. Usually these doors lead you to more opportunities.

 

What are you currently obsessed with?

I believe successful artists are obsessed people (in a good and creative way). If you are not obsessed with the desire to continually create and pursue your passion, then the art can get sidetracked over time.  Creative obsession keeps you on-track, even in difficult times.

My obsession has always been the human figure and artistic anatomy. The figure is one of the most challenging forms to draw, paint or sculpt. Anatomy helps me understand the complexities of the human form and how to interpret it in many different ways.

I’m working on a new series of figurative paintings and low-relief sculptures and am gathering research for a future book.

 

What inspired your path to art?

My maternal grandmother, who I never met, left me two beautiful ink drawings that she created in the early 20th century. Her style was greatly influenced by the American illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. I would look at those drawings everyday as a young child, desiring to draw as well as she did. 

Music also inspired me and I was very fortunate to learn how to play the piano at a young age, because this helped re-wire my brain to focus better.

This desire (obsession) of wanting to draw well, pushed me to take my art in a more serious direction, and so the next logical step in pursuing my goal was to study at a private art school. I met many wonderful artists who became great mentors. Being exposed to different styles of figurative art from the last few thousand years, as well as studying the art of the great masters, (Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, and many others), was also extremely inspirational.

My challenges now are to find a balance between teaching and working as a professional fine artist. 

You can view Valerie’s work on her website at: valerielwinslow.com