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How to Draw the Lower Leg – Anatomy for Artists

October 11, 20190 Comments

Assignment

Your assignment is to do more shaded studies of the forms, like last time. I’ve provided 2 photos in the description below.

Calves assignment

Download Assignment Photos

Anterolateral-Assignment-Images.zip


How to Draw the Lower Legs

Quads, hamstrings, calves… Most people can name these muscle groups. But what do you call this area? In this video we’ll take your anatomy knowledge to the next level by learning the less-loved muscles of the lower leg so that in a crowd of anatomically uncertain figures, your art can stand out. These muscles are more complicated than the calf muscles in the sense that they spread out, like tree roots gripping the ankle… and instead of performing simple flexion/extension movements, they pull the ankle into offset multiplanar movements… and they control your toes. But we can simplify them into easy to draw tubes, and we will, and in 10 minutes you’ll at least be able to draw them!

Five Columns

We can think of the lateral side of the leg as 5 columns that alternate thick to thin. The first two columns are the calf muscles we covered last time. A thick column for the gastrocnemius and a thinner one for the soleus. Opposing the calves are the anterior muscles, creating columns that mirror the two in the back. A thick one for tibialis anterior, and a thin one for the extensors. Both columns flow in front of the ankle to the top of the foot. The middle column, made up of the peroneals, is thick. It starts at the head of the fibula and flows down behind the lateral malleolus. That’s this ankle bone.

The 3 anterolateral columns are made up of 6 muscles, but let’s save the details for the premium lesson.

So to draw the outside of the lower leg, think of the 5 columns… If the muscles are flexed and you can see them. But, a lot of the time these muscles are going to blend together on the surface. The tibialis anterior is the really important one to remember because it’s quite large. But it’s good to learn these subtleties if you want to do awesome drawings.

Forms

We have these 5 columns, but we can rotate to show more of gastrocnemius, or more of tibialis anterior. You can foreshorten the forms by looking up or down on the leg… but to really foreshorten well, you need to understand the cross-sections. The lower leg is interesting because everything is a little offset.

The cross section of the upper half looks kinda like this. A circle with a diagonal piece of the medial half sliced off. This creates the flat plane for the tibia. The fibula sits next to it. Behind these bones is the large mass of the calves, rotated toward the medial side. This remaining space between is the anterolateral group.

The best bony landmark on the lower leg is the tibia. The tibia’s sharp front corner and medial plane are exposed all the way from the knee to the ankle. When drawing the front of the leg, I like to use this C-curve for the tibia. This line does two things: It continues the gesture from sartorius and the adductors as they curve around the knee to the front. And it follows the exposed shinbone down to the inner ankle and then to the big toe, putting the tibia firmly in front of soleus and gastrocnemius. In doing so, it connects the upper leg to the foot in a single rhythm. Quick and elegant. Since there are no muscles along the medial plane of the tibia, just bone with calf behind it, when you foreshorten the lower leg, remember this dip… contrasted with the fullness of the calf and roundness of the anterolateral volume made up of long tubes.

Up high, about half of this anterolateral volume is the tibialis anterior and the other half the peroneals and extensors. As we move our way down the leg though, about halfway down as muscles become tendons, everything gets splayed out. The tendon of the tibialis anterior is a thick cable, running along the tibia, to the inside of the foot, here. When you dorsiflex or invert the foot, such as when you kick a soccer ball, that tendon pops out.

The tendons of the extensors take up most of the anterior surface of the ankle. Even in the most minimal line drawing, these tendons from the extensors and tibialis anterior matter, because they soften the ankle transition from a rock climbing wall into a ski ramp. So, look for that sloped wall front plane at the ankle. As you might expect, the cross section down here at the level of the malleoli is rectangular with a triangle in the back for the Achilles tendon.

This thick middle column, the lateral compartment, is made of two muscles: peroneus brevis on the bottom half and peroneus longus on the top half, shooting its long tendon over the brevis. When flexed, the peroneus longus tendon provides a nice long straight line on the surface. Both of their tendons hook behind the lateral malleolus and aim at the pinky metatarsal. Peroneus longus begins right below the head of the fibula. If you remember from the hamstring lesson, the tendon of the biceps femoris is a very powerful straight that inserts on the head of the fibula. So, if you follow the hamstring down through the knee, it leads you to the middle column of the lower leg, and straight down to the malleolus at the ankle.

So that’s it for the anterolateral muscles of the lower leg. Generally nothing too sexy here. Just a bunch of tubes and a long bony medial plane. But of course there’s a lot of little details in here that I skipped over. If you want to keep learning and level up your anatomy game, get the premium course at proko.com/anatomy. In premium we always go into more detail, I do demonstrations of all the assignments, you get 3D models of the all the muscles, ebooks to quickly review the information from the videos, and extended critique videos. The premium course is insanely packed with content.

Assignment

Your assignment is to do more shaded studies of the forms, like last time. I’ve provided 2 photos in the description below.

Calves assignment

Download Assignment Photos

Anterolateral-Assignment-Images.zip

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