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Book Review: Stonehouse's Anatomy by Jeonghyun Seok

Jeonghyun Seok (or Seok Jung Hyun) is a South Korean illustrator with credentials and achievements too long for me to list. Stonehouse's Anatomy is a 660-page thick softcover anatomy instructional book authored by him and published by Superani.

This book was originally published in 2017 in Korean and the English translated edition came out in 2020. The price of this book is US $80 not inclusive of shipping. Here in Singapore it's sold for SGD 129 at Basheer Graphic Books. There's also a Chinese edition.

Jeonghyun Seok has worked 9 years on this book and made nearly 1500 illustrations. The amount of detail shown is incredible so it's easy to understand why it took so long to create this book.

This book is comprehensive and covers the human anatomy from top to bottom. That includes the head and facial features, facial expressions, body and parts, bones and muscles, gestures, body language and movement. The anatomy drawings are realistic and the comic drawings are stylised like Japanese or Korean manga.

The illustrations are accompanied by text explaining anatomy and how they work. You'll get to learn how bone protrusions and cavities work together, difference muscle shapes and how they work, why the legs of dogs are bent, how rig cage moves during CPR and more. The text is written in a conversational and engaging manner with some humor. I'm not sure how accurate the translation is though but there are some typos.

When this book came out, there was some controversy because people claimed the book has elements of sexism, misogyny, racism, bigotry and generalisation. Below are some of the pages highlighted by other reviews. Click for a larger view.

Page 32 has a drawing of a short and stout Eskimo in traditional Eskimo clothes with a spear in hand, and beside is a thin black hunter type wearing some sort of underwear and has a spear in hand.

On page 75 and 81, author mentioned Asian eyes are smaller, and that Westerners enjoy eye contact during conversations while Asian feel uncomfortable.

On page 93 and 94, there's explanation for why nose length differ for people from different continents.

Pages 340 and 341 shows how arm movements can make one look more feminine or masculine.

Pages 482 and 483 talk about facial features and body types that are considered beautiful.

What's my take?

Just because a caricature is drawn does not mean the author implied that certain groups of people can only look and behave that way. Just because there's mention that Asians have small eyes does not mean all Asians have small eyes. Do ladies in real world run around with arms tucked in (page 341) like in anime or manga? No. People have differences in race, colour, body type, body shapes, facial features, behavior and the way they speak. I think people are reading too much into negative meanings that are not supposed to be there.

The author explains how figures can be drawn to look more masculine, heroic, sexy, girly, etc and that is his take with his artistic license for whatever aesthetic reasons. You don't have to draw your character the way the author draws his. Whether you see a character as an archetype or stereotype is your choice. You can just draw our human figures with realistic proportions like the many featured in the book.

Maybe the author should have a footnote for the woke crowd saying not all people look like the caricatures drawn.

The more problematic areas are opinions mixed with facts. And that's why it's good to read more widely so that you can differentiate facts from opinions.

To conclude, this is a great anatomy book for artists. It's expensive but worth the money considering the amount of content you get.

If you find this book offensive, wait till you see what's in Kim Jung Gi's sketchbooks, also from the same publisher.

You can check out more reviews listed below for more opinions on Stonehouse's Anatomy.

If you want recommendations for less controversial anatomy books, check out this list of anatomy book's I've reviewed.

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Here are the other preview pages: