This is an article about drawing hands when you are drawing a human figure. Although it isn’t a step by step drawing tutorial, like our other lessons, it is a helpful article about drawing the structure of hands.
Drawing Hands : How to Draw Hands and Underlying Structure
Bones of the Hand
Everyone knows the physical appearance of the human hand so there is no need to describe its shape or list its visible parts by name. Very few people, however, are familiar with the size and shape of the bones in the hand, and for this reason we have included this picture. Study this diagram carefully until you have a clear mental picture of it. Note that the first, or “pointing,” finger and the third finger are of approximately the same length. The second finger is the longest and the fourth finger is shortest. Note also that the thumb and fingers contain three bones each. These move like a hinge toward the palm. The finger bones are hinged to each other and to four additional bones located in the hand itself. These and the thumb bones are joined to a series of small wrist bones. By moving your own hand into many positions you can readily see the natural function of these bones when brought into play by the action of muscles and ligaments.
Size of the Hand
Next to the eyes and lips, no other feature of the human figure is capable of more expression than the hands. There are many sizes and types of hands and each may take on attitudes of work or expression representing hundreds of different mass shapes. When the palm of the hand and its fingers are fully extended, however, the length of the palm is usually equal to the length of the second or longest finger. The overall length of the extended palm and fingers is in turn approximately equal to the distance from the base of the chin to a point on the forehead where the hairline begins. Measure your own hand for comparison.
Checking further you will note ( if you are a man) that the basic shape of your palm, minus thumb and fingers, may be compared to either a square or a circle. The female hand, being longer, more slender, and more delicate proportionately than the male hand, may be compared to a rectangle or an oval. Remember that in both male and female hands the palm is concave and the fingers bend or hinge inward to increase this concavity. The back of the hand is convex.
These observations will be very helpful to you in the laying out and rendering of hands. With the aid of a mirror you are expected to employ one of your own hands as a model. Take considerable time to study it carefully in as many different positions as is possible. Compare its contours with the diagram, Fig. 31. Note particularly the size, shape, and position of the thumb in relation to the fingers and palm. Study other persons’ hands as carefully as your own. See them as a mass, free of superfluous details, and you will soon have the necessary familiarity with their basic construction.
Layout and Construction of the Hand
Numerous pencil construction drawings show you several ways to lay out hands. At the top left you are shown a method of employing straight lines to represent the bones indicated in Fig. 31. At top right, imaginary ovals represent the thickness and foreshortening of the fingers. Lower left shows the bones used for a foundation layout, and lower right shows the fingers, hand, and wrist cut into imaginary sections for analysis. The sketches in the center were based on straight outlines proportioned by thumb-and-pencil measurement. Study them with care.
Drawing Model Gloves
Although the best method for practice studies is to employ a model or your own hand and a mirror, some students find it difficult to do so at first. For the benefit of such persons, the picture of a glove above, has been included. It shows how a leather glove can be filled with cotton or some other packing material and used as a model. You must be careful, however, not to mold gloves contrary to the shape and attitudes of an actual hand. A pair of old gloves already shaped to your hands will be better than new ones lacking the necessary form.
Even at best, however, gloves are limited in their usefulness as models. They cannot be expected to perform like the hands they are only intended to protect. But in relaxed positions they will remain stationary for as many hours as you require for practice sketches or until you can make a satisfactory charcoal rendering. Try to locate a pair of mens’ leather gloves having extra pieces of leather sewn in the sides as shown in the picture of a stuffed glove above. These will make it easier for you to see and indicate three dimensions; length, breadth, and thickness. Ladies’ gloves will help impress upon you the pointed daintiness of female hands as compared with the square bluntness of male bands.
Rendering / Drawing Hands
When rendering hands for commercial purposes, it will not be necessary for you to show such elaborate details as veins, finger prints, characteristic wrinkles, or fingernails. If a client wishes an illustration of hands for some specific purpose requiring such detail, he will employ a good photographer. Where detail is concerned, you cannot hope to compete with the accuracy of a precision camera. Today, only amateurs earmark the hands of their figure drawings with veins and fingernails. Professional artists merely suggest detail in any rendering, whether it be hands, feet, or any other part of the human figure.
It will be necessary, however, to suggest the construction of hands by the manner in which you render the lights and shadows falling upon them. A highlight falling across the palm of a hand, for example, should definitely indicate that bones and muscle exist beneath the skin. As in the case of drawing any object, you must represent the hand as having three dimensions—length, breadth, and thickness. As has been repeatedly pointed out, the only way to acquire ability to render a drawing is through practice from actual models, either your hands or the hands of others.
To demonstrate further the unlimited forms of hands, the above picture of outlined hands have been included. Study these accented outline drawings thoughtfully and then prepare dozens of others like them on sheets of practice paper. Insist on working industriously until you acquire similar skill with outlines and then concentrate on masses in light and shade.
Always try to remember that poor lighting can make solid forms appear either flat and lifeless, or cut-up and unrecognizable, with meaningless shadow patterns. When rendering a study of hands in masses, by all means remember to consider carefully the location of your light source or sources. If you will always devote at least five or ten minutes to this kind of planning you will not waste valuable hours in trying to improvise or guess where the lights and shadows might fall if the study were lighted in the proper manner.
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