Artistic Anatomy


Nowadays it's common to stumble across artwork online that lacks a strong understanding of art foundation. 

This is why it's so important for aspiring artists and professionals alike to continuously work on learning and practice. Having a strong understanding of perspective, composition, design and anatomy is key to making convincing work. 

Artist Daniel Crossland understands this, and has dedicated his entire career to learning. His personal quest to master the art foundations shows in his artwork.

Daniel Crossland is currently a Lead Character Artist at Ninja Theory, working primarily as a digital sculptor creating maquettes for game hero characters.  

Daniel is also recognized as an expert on anatomy. He's been involved in several anatomy specific projects including  a series of 3D anatomy sculptures for 3D Total, and recently producing an Anatomy class for Mold3D Academy.

We had the opportunity to interview Daniel and talk about sculpting, 3D Printing and Anatomy. Check out the interview below.

Mold3D: Hi Daniel! Thank you for taking the time to talk to our audience! Can you please tell us a little bit about a typical work day?

Daniel: My job varies day to day. I can be sculpting or blocking in a character in the morning and the afternoons can be meetings about development, feedback and mentoring other artists on the team.


Mold3D: What’s your digital sculpting workflow?

Daniel: I work primarily in ZBrush, and my workflow really depends on what I’m doing. If it's an organic biped for instance, I usually start from an existing sculpt and work up the character from there.

If it’s hard edge I will sometimes block out the shape in Dynamesh for speed then re-topologize in Topogun before going back into ZBrush for details.


Mold3D: As a 3D modeler, how important is it to know anatomy? Why should someone study anatomy?

Daniel: Anatomy is perhaps the most important tool in your box as a character artist. The best artists I've worked with through the years have mastered the raw building blocks of anatomy, and when it comes down to it you can't break the rules if you don't know the rules to begin with.

Even if I’m doing a creature, I will block in the muscle. This knowledge makes the work more believable. From laying in that structure, I then can start creating and breaking it into something crazy. A character artist who knows his or her stuff will always stand out from the crowd.

.. you can’t break the rules if you don’t know the rules to begin with”.

Mold3D: Would you recommend a student learn or even master anatomy before moving on to sculpting characters or learning other 3D modeling tasks like clothing, hard surface, etc?

Daniel: I wouldn't say you need to master it because you will be waiting a lifetime for that event. I would say, take small steps everyday.

Don't just look in anatomy books, sculpt the shapes you see and refer back to the book. If you just use the books you won't get better at anatomy artistically.

In the games industry there is so much to learn in the pipeline you just have to tap into each part, but I believe the biggest segments of your time should be devoted to getting the anatomy and posture correct.

You can learn a program like Marvelous Designer in 3 days for instance, Anatomy will take far longer. So make sure you split that time up well.

I’ve seen so many people doing amazing stuff with clothing, but dressed a terrible figure. So take your time, tap into each area as much as you need to get the job done but make sure overall the anatomy sings slightly louder on the retina and you will have a more powerful piece of art- I promise you that.


Mold3D: Are there any resources that you use or have used to help you learn anatomy?

Daniel: Tons and tons of stuff. From an early age I drew daily and eventually found myself doing the same shapes and getting a style for the anatomical shape. I still draw today, usually from museum pieces of classical sculpture.

I also use the book, "Artistic Anatomy " by Paul Richer.  I refer back to it occasionally because it’s very well documented. I also use the Encyclopedia Anatomica from the Museo La Specola Florence.

I have also visited the Museo La Specola Florence many times to study from life models, mainly because it’s anatomy in its raw form. Drawing from a cadaver is more difficult to assess than the layout pictorials. Objects in real life are not rigid and formal but rather alive. 


Mold3D: What’s the best process to learn anatomy? Does drawing or sculpting work best? 

Daniel: Yeah I would say you need to do both in the early days, then you can move onto cutting it down to occasional drawings or mixing it up. You need to sketch daily whether its ZBrush or pencil. Do it daily and keep going until it’s like second nature.

Mold3D: How would you describe your aesthetic style? Which artists inspire and influence you?

Daniel: I'd say Classical Dynamic. I always try to have a sensation of history in my work, almost like a "thank you" nod to my idols. I've never really been one for making orc's and over-sized females. I like to make something where you could print it out and frame it or you could see it in a gallery. When you do that, it increases your awareness of beauty. You learn to think about what you are creating in interesting ways, composition, light, feel, pose, etc it all comes together.


Mold3D: Have you experimented with 3D Printing?

Daniel: Yes, I work with many companies making art for print. 


Mold3D: What opportunities does 3D Printing have for a 3D artist (in your opinion)?

Daniel: Endless! Recently I started working on industrial designs and these are projects that will be started in ZBrush, but end up as a physical product you can purchase in a shop.

This will continue to grow and  cross over will happen as more and more projects are realized using this technology. So for us 3D artists, we will always have work. It’s up to us to not only tap into it, but pioneer it into the mainstream. 


Mold3D: Thank you for your time Daniel! 


Daniel Crossland is currently instructing Artistic Anatomy for Mold3D Academy.