Drawing Hands for an Exercise
Anyone can draw
The idea that people cannot learn to draw is ludicrous. Just the idea that you aren’t talented enough to learn creates a mental block that will prevent you from learning. Talent is some aristocracy that you are born into, or if you are not you are doomed to mediocrity. If that were so all my children would be artists, or perhaps I would not. Just like learning the piano, languages or mathematics, drawing can be taught and learned. It is time and practice that makes all the difference.
In an era of digital manipulation and awesome photography why would anyone want to go through the slow process of drawing? Drawing helps us to analyze and solve problems. It causes us to face taking risks. Your first lines in a drawing aren’t going to be perfect. That’s why we usually put then down lightly, knowing we will change them with several more lines that are more accurate. We are visually tapping into imagination and problem solving design elements that all people have inside them. If you can doodle, you can draw.
Drawing is fundamental to the seeing process. It is an “active way of engaging reality, to observe, analyze, and record it with the possibility of reimagining it.” (Eviston, web) What we artists are doing is learning to see and then translating that into lines that allow the viewer to see like we do. We do more than cameras can do (merely capture the image). If done well, we artists capture the feeling, the soul of the person.
Eviston, Brent. How Learning to Draw Had Taught Me to Live, Artists Network, web, 13 May 2016.
Have you ever forced yourself to do a difficult exercise to improve a skill?
Sometimes I used toned paper and pretend that the tone on the paper is the middle value. Then I have to build up the darker values and use white charcoal pencil or white pastel pencil for the highlights. I like the toned paper because some of the work is already done with the middle value already there. Also I like being able to add a highlight just where I want it. The deal is that you cannot and should NOT mix the white with the black. It doesn’t look right or good. The area where the white goes must first be free of any black smudges to be pure. This is done with a kneaded gum eraser.
Drawing in Charcoal
Drawing tips: Identify your weakness
When doing portraits, the underlying drawing is crucial. To accomplish good paintings, you must be able to draw well. And the key is practice.
Identify the area you feel you need most help with and force yourself to practice that part. For me it was the hands. My drawings of hands always look like blocks of wood; stiff, forced and unnatural. So I challenged myself to draw 100 hands; one per day for 100 days. I used charcoal pencils so that they would be easy to photograph later and share on social media and other web pages. Regular pencil lead does not photograph well because of the shiny nature of the lead. Charcoal stays smooth and black and doesn’t have brilliance issues.
I got photos from various places, online, stock photo sites, family photos and family events where I got my family to posed for me. After a while I could see the advantage of two hands together and interacting as hands normally do. I was tempted to count them as two instead of one drawing but decided I needed the practice more even of two hands in one drawing. I’m glad I did this because two hands interacting became a favorite subject for me.
Knowledge is empowering
I did all these hands on toned paper using black charcoal and white charcoal pencils. After the first 50 hands I started to see that they were easier, took less time to draw and I could see the details easier without straining and I didn’t have to keep measuring the proportions each time. After the 75 mark I started to get tired of the whole exercised and wanted it to end but I was so determined to make it to 100, that I refused to quit. Some were sloppy, some were less than perfect, some were terrible and some were terrific. In the end I was so proud of my accomplishment that it felt good.
After posting my drawings on social media, some of my friends and family were impressed as well. One friend was inspired by my 100 hands and asked if we could draw 100 feet next (also a difficult body part to get accurately) during the following 3 months. So I was very happy to take her up on her offer and we will be drawing 100 feet together for the next 3 months and posting them to compare.
I learned the names of the bones in the hand and the musculature, how the veins go near the surface and the tendons that show up during tension and hand movement. This was not necessary but helpful and I feel I am empowered by the knowledge.
My process goes like this: I draw the sketch, measure the proportions and block in the shapes all with the vine charcoal. If I need to rub out an unwanted line, I can. When all the proportions and shapes are the way I want them I go over them with an HB charcoal pencil, adding more details but still drawing lightly in case I want to make changes still. Next I pick up the 2B and commit to some of the shadow areas. Shadow shapes are very important. The shadows really define the subject almost as much as the positive or lit sides. If the shadow shapes are accurate you are more likely to have an accurate rendering. Next I pick up the 4B or 6B pencil and drawing lightly at first, build up the layers of deep shadows. At the end I pull up the light and highlights with the kneaded gum eraser.
When it is time to take a photo and share on social media or elsewhere digitally, these charcoal drawings photograph perfectly, with lovely dark to light shapes and lines with perfect contrast. Carbon pencils don’t photograph well because the darkest marks are shiny and cause a glare on the paper when being photographed.
Construction of Hands
The knuckles are curved, not square. The fingers are not sausages at the end of a rectangle; they are more square shaped with rounded corners. The backs of the fingers are longer than the palm side (ever noticed that before?). Halfway between the wrist and the longest finger usually falls at the web at the end of the fingers, not at the knuckles. They say the length of the hand from wrist to longest finger is the length of your face, but I either have a very long face or a very short hand. Measure yours and see. The width of the wrist is roughly the same as the width of the second, third and fourth fingers combined. A woman’s fingertips are more rounded, whereas a man’s fingertips are more squared. I think that has something to do with the musculature. A child’s hands are pudgy and the knuckles are usually not pronounced, but as you age, the knuckles become more and more visible until the elderly have very thin skin and the veins as well as tendons and knuckles become very visible.
Want to get better?
Do you have areas where you feel your drawing are less than perfect? Want to get better at lips or ears or hands? Do what I did and schedule one drawing per day for 100 days. It doesn’t take that long for just one drawing and you will be amazed at the skill and confidence that comes from the exercise. It is very galvanizing. Your drawings will never be the same.