Interview with Introduction to Figure Drawing & Anatomy Instructor Robert Atkins!

Enrollment is now open for our Introduction to Figure Drawing & Anatomy course! This six-week, online course begins on March 29, 2017, and is taught by artist and longtime Comics Experience instructor Robert Atkins.

Robert is a working comics artist and commercial illustrator, whose clients include Hasbro, Playful Games, and Marvel. Robert has earned accolades from Comics Experience alums, who credit Robert for his thoughtful, supportive, and methodical approach.

Here, Robert talks with us about Introduction to Figure Drawing and Anatomy, and shares some recent work. Get Robert’s insights here, then head over to our course page for more course details and to sign up!


Figure drawing might be one of the most intimidating things for beginning artists to get a handle on. How do you help your students get over that hurdle?

We start from a basic structure of forms that are easy to break down and reproduce. Then week-to-week we start to tackle each muscle group of the body (back, front torso, arms, legs, hands/feet/head). We layer each visible muscle of the body and give a formula to refer back to whenever you build up a figure drawing. The purpose of the course is to unlock those mystery areas of the body that all too often we have to “fake” because it’s hard to understand what’s happening in those areas. When we break down the body into smaller areas and focus on them for an entire week. It really helps lock in that knowledge and increase retention of that information to use as a foundation after class.

What are some of your favorite moments from this class?

I have two kinds of favorite moments. The first being when a student that feels like they know nothing about anatomy besides what they’ve seen other comic artists do. They know they need work, but haven’t had a good opportunity to study the figure. Then after the class, they have a working knowledge of each muscle of the body and how to sculpt it out in their drawing. The final they produce is often leaps ahead of what they could pull off before class. The other moment is when I get a student that actually has put a lot of time and effort into learning the muscles of the body. You’d think that when they take this class it’d all be old hat for them. However, the approach we use to teach this course not only defines each muscle, but shows a practical knowledge of how these muscles interlock and are co-dependent. When one muscle flexes it affects many areas of the body and other muscles around it. It’s one thing to know the muscles, but it’s even better to understand how they work together. These students really excel because it offers them weeks to refine what they already know, and they come out of class really producing phenomenal work.

What’s unique about the way a comic artist approaches figure drawing and anatomy?

Unlike with normal fine art classes that offer figure drawing based on observation, as a comic artist you have to draw the figure from every imaginable angle, and in some of the most extreme poses. It’s rare you’re going to find exact reference for every figure you’re going to draw in a comic, and it’d be even more rare that you’d have time to photograph or find all that reference and get your book done. So it’s essential as a comic artist that you know how the body moves, and can create it proportionally from your imagination. The best way to do that is to have a clear understanding of the basic forms (head, rib cage, pelvis), to be able to draw them from any angle, and to add on the muscle groups as they would pertain to that pose.

Also, as comic artists, we are reducing our depiction of the figure’s form and volume to line. Meaning we aren’t painting, or using a full range of values to show from. Usually, it’s done by abstracting a 3-dimensional world to a 2 dimensional representation through line. It become essential to know where a muscle starts and stops, where those fibers insert and attach to the bone, and how they lay on top of or beside other muscles of the body. That can only be achieved through an in depth study of the figure.

How has this course changed and evolved in the time you’ve been teaching it?

I’ve refined the content to the point where I know exactly how much I can cover within the given time, and that’s allowed me to be very effective in how much information we go over. This is a tough class, with lots and lots of information to cover. Luckily it’s recorded and you can go back and take notes as many times as you need throughout the weeks of the course! Also, I enjoy teaching the class because it always makes me refocus my anatomical knowledge and make sure I’m as accurate as possible in my own work. We’re always learning, and it’s good information to go over repeatedly.


Introduction to Figure Drawing and Anatomy begins March 29, and course size is limited. Don’t wait to sign up! Visit our course page for details and registration.

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you’ll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Nicole Boose

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