Art Anatomy

Bony Landmarks

From person to person flesh varies more than bone. Many of the landmarks familiar to novices are fleshy - the nipples, the navel, the outer curves of the limbs and breasts, the points where the limbs appear to meet the torso, and so on. These shapes vary enormously depending on age, sex, weight, and muscularity of the subject.

The skeleton, by comparison, offers a more stable set of reference points. Therefore artists are well served by becoming familiar with bony landmarks - points on the skeleton close to the skin that can be located by sight. By finding these landmarks, the positions of the bones can be determined, and the fleshy forms can be hung from them, as it were.

The reader is encouraged to find the bony landmarks on his or her own body - they can be located beyond a doubt by tapping them with the fingers.

The spine consists of a column of vertebrae (VER-teh-bree). The vertebrae between the skull and the ribcage are called cervical (SIR-vih-kul) vertebrae. The ones behind the ribcage are thoracic (thor-ASS-sick), referring to the thorax. The ones between the ribcage and the pelvis are lumbar (LUM-bar). The spine has three bony landmarks. Two of them are cervical vertebra #7, or C7 for short, and thoracic vertebra #12, or T12. Because of the way the cervical vertebrae sit on the ribcage, the neck pitches forward from C7; the whole head can be seen sitting forward from C7. Because of the mass of the ribcage, usually there's a shadow hanging around T12, where the two twelfth ribs connect. At the bottom of the spine is its third bony landmark, the sacrum (SAY-krum), a wide bone that connects the spine to the pelvis.

The pelvis has three important landmarks. One is anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS for short, said aces, like the top cards in a deck. This is my unofficial terminology, not something from the medical literature.) ASIS looks like a complex term, but not upon examination: anterior means in front, and superior means higher (it sits directly above a smaller spine on the pelvis). The bone on this portion of the pelvis is the ilium (ILL-ee-um), hence iliac (ILL-ee-ack). A spine in this context is a little projection of bone.

The second is posterior superior iliac spine (PSIS, said pieces. Again, my capricious terminology.) The term has the same derivation, but since it lies on the back, it is posterior. PSIS sits under each dimple on the lower back, right above the buttocks.

The third is the pubic symphysis, where the bones of the pubic arch meet in the middle.

The ribcage has three landmarks. The supersternal (soo-per-STIR-nal) notch lies above the sternum, between the clavicles. There's a little hollow here at the base of the neck. At the other end lies the infrasternal notch, where the ribs meet the sternum. There's a hollow here as well. The third landmark is the low point of rib #10. This is the bottom of the ribcage when viewed from the front, because ribs #11 and #12 don't attach to the sternum. Rib #10 seems to rise up from this point towards the sternum and towards the back.

The scapula (SKAP-you-luh) has three landmarks. One is the acromion (uh-CROH-mee-on) process, the bony point of the shoulder. One is the spine of the scapula, which extends from the acromion to the medial side of the scapula. The third is the inferior angle of the scapula.

The femur (FEE-mur), the large bone of the thigh, has three as well. One is the great trochanter (TROH-kan-ter). This lies under the dimple on the hip when viewed from the side. Visible and palpable on either side of the knee are the condyles of the femur.

The lower leg has two bones. The tibia is larger and has two landmarks - the medial condyle, and the medial malleolus (mal-ee-OLE-lus), which is the medial bone of the ankle. The fibula is smaller, and has two landmarks - the head, at the superior end, and the lateral malleolus, which is the bone of the ankle on the lateral side.

Between the femur and the tibia lies the patella (puh-TELL-uh), the kneecap, which is a landmark in its own right.

The humerus (rhymes with humorous), the bone of the upper arm, has two: the medial and lateral epicondyles, which can be seen and felt on either side of the elbow.

The ulna extends from the elbow to the pinky side of the hand. The point of the elbow is on the ulna, and is called the olecranon (oh-LECK-ruh-non). The head of the ulna is visible as a bump on the pinky side of the wrist.

The radius extends from the lateral condyle of the humerous (which is not a landmark, as it lies deep under the muscles of the arm) to the thumb side of the hand, where its styloid process is visible on that side of the wrist. It is worth noting that the ulna forms the axis of the lower arm; the radius is flipping around it as the forearm pronates and supinates. (Don't be fooled by the fact that the head of the ulna and the head of the radius are at opposite ends of the forearm. The heads of bones have a distinguishable common shape.)

The hyoid bone forms the corner of the neck. It's sitting at the top of the windpipe.

The bones of the foot are discussed in detail later. Its landmarks include the head of metatarsal #1, metatarsal #5, and the calcaneus (cal-KAY-nee-us), which is the great bone of the heel.

Likewise, the bones of the hand are also discussed in detail later. Its landmarks include the heads of metacarpals #2 and #5.

The skull has two landmarks useful for drawing the whole figure: the chin, and the occipital (ox-SIP-it-al) protuberance, a little projection of bone at the base of the skull.

Previous: Concave Forms on the Skeleton

Next: Control Lines

Table of Contents