Hands up!

     When it comes to drawing people, many artists do pretty well at getting the head, body, arms and legs to look natural,   But then they have to deal with hands and feet.  These are probably the hardest parts of the body to draw, and some people find it’s almost impossible to get them to look natural.  Inexperienced artists sometimes hide hands in pockets, behind the subject’s back, or under a bouquet of flowers.   Feet are a little harder to hide, but they can be buried under the sand or hidden behind grass and weeds.

     Eventually the artist runs out of ways to hide hands and feet, or really needs to show these parts of the body in a drawing or painting.  And that’s when he/she will have to actually look at hands and feet, and learn how to draw them.

     One of the biggest mistakes is drawing hands too small.  A lot of good portraits have been spoiled because the subject seems to have child-sized hands.  Hands are really bigger than you might think.  Look in a mirror and hold your hand up in front of your face, with your wrist resting on your chin.  You’ll notice that from the wrist to the fingertips, your hand is actually almost as long as your face, and about half as wide.

     Another reason people have trouble drawing hands, is that hands seem to be awfully complex, with all those fingers to deal with.  Think of the hand as being made up of three main shapes:  the thumb, the fingers and the palm areas.  If you lump the fingers together in one shape, you can see the three-shape arrangement of palm-fingers-thumb. Some artists start their sketch of a hand by lightly drawing a “mitten” to get the pose and proportions.  Then they break the big shapes down into a more natural drawing of fingers, palm and thumb.  It’s the same rule that holds true in all drawing:  get the big shapes located first, and then break them down and add details.

     Another way to draw a hand is to start with a circle for the palm (or a slender oval, if you’re sketching the side of the hand).  Add the fingers, noting that the middle finger is usually the longest.  Add the thumb, which is much shorter than the other fingers.  Notice where it hooks onto the palm and get the length right by noting how high up the index finger it reaches.

     Ask your friends or family to keep their hands still for you while they are reading or watching TV.  Draw all kinds of different hands – men’s hands, women’s hands, old hands, young hands and so on.  Your best model may be your own hand, stretched out or clenched into a fist.  After practicing for a while, try drawing hands holding a book, holding an apple, or sewing.

     Here are a few more things to keep in mind when drawing hands:  The fingers taper toward the ends, but widen out at the joints.  The fingers are about half the length of the whole hand.  The fingers have two joints, but the thumb has only one.  The width across the knuckles is about the same as the length of the fingers.  To get the shapes of the fingers right, it’s helpful to look at the shapes between the fingers.

     With practice, you’ll soon be very “handy” at drawing hands!

By Kay Sluterbeck/AAPJ

Published by on January 2012. Filed under Art-to-Art Palette Journal, HowDoit PB dept, Paint Box Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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