In my recent post “Six things i learned from drawing 319 drawings in 4 months and 13 days” I suggested that you draw your own hand. It’s been a couple of days now, and I’ve been thinking about the subject – and come to realize, that there are in fact a lot of things that I’ve learned specifically about hands. So now I’ve decided to write this weird list of things that I’ve observed about hands after drawing them a number of times in my “One Drawing Daily” adventures. It’s not a “How-to draw hands” kind of “tutorial” – It’s just some observations that I’ve made.
Since I started drawing every day, hands have been one of my favorite things to draw. Why? Because hands are wonderful! Hands are beautifully proportioned by nature, they say something about a person and his or her life story. It’s because humans have hands that they built shelter, bows, arrows, and x-boxes. Without hands there would be no art and no civilization. We’d be more like.. shrimps if we weren’t born with hands. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a shrimp. They’re just a little boring, that’s all. As i said – hands are wonderful, and you always carry them around with you, they’re beautiful – so why not draw them?
1. Hands are masterpieces of nature!
The hand is built up after a principle that can be observed in many parts of the human body and in nature. If you’ve heard about the fibonacci number, golden section or the number “phi” – it’s all part of the same story. Long story short – human eyes adore the numbers that make up nature – we’re born with an unconscious appreciation of them, and that’s why all artists from the guys who painted the caves at Lasceau to Jackson Pollock (or.. let’s say everybody else than Jackson Pollock) made their art based on these divine proportions. A hand is naturally beautiful, and that alone is a great reason to draw it, but there’s more! Hands have wrinkles, bumps, small hairs, visible muscles, scars, scratches and they’re sometimes soft and silky-smooth or other times rough and really wrinkled. All good things! All perfect reasons for you to draw them!
The fibonacci numbers are behind spirals in nature like the examples in this picture (source [beware of naked butts]) and the Swiss architect Le Corbusier invented his own design concept based on these divine numbers. He called it “Le Modulor” and for years all that the guy designed – from huge buildings and down to the scale of furniture – was based on this system. It seems to make sense to use nature’s own proportions for making things for the human body to use and live in. It didn’t make much of a difference, though, for in reality craftsmen and workers had been using the same “divine” proportions since the beginning of time without giving it much thought.
2. Hands are bulgy like little sausages
Take a look at this photo if you don’t believe me! (source)
All hands are different, but when drawing them, it can help to try and forget for a little moment what you’re drawing. Each little finger-joint tend to look like a little bulgy, stubby sausage (I insist) they’re concave, and in the joints they have these deep canyons where you can push a little harder with your pencil for some shading. All this is not always true – it depends from hand to hand (well, mostly a pair of hands is pretty much identical) – but even if you don’t see it in your own hand as clearly as in my drawing above, try exaggerating it a bit in your initial sketch and then you can straighten it a little out when shading later on. This has helped me a lot in drawing hands.
3. The thumb is is just like a chicken leg on a chicken thigh
Call me crazy but… (maybe it IS as little crazy) but look at this! (source) It’s a chicken-leg and thigh and if you look hard enough, it’ll remind you of your thumb – which is a finger like the others – it’s got three parts, but only two of them are “outside” of the opened hand’s square-ish surface. I did a little high-tech illustration for those who think that i am crazy:
Feeling hungry yet?
Anyway – when you realize that the “fleshy” part of the hand (in out beautiful metaphor it’s represented by the thigh) – is actually part of the finger, much more than it’s part of the hand, your way of seeing your hand changes, and in the light of this new knowledge, you end up drawing it differently! You also start to crave KFC each time you’re at business meetings.
Is this getting a little strange?
4. Hands fold and stretch and wrinkle.. Just like elephant skin! (It’s true!)
Look at the skin between the thumb and the second finger on my drawing above.
Now look at this picture (source) – yes I know – it’s just wrinkles – you’re probably aware that humans and elephants alike have wrinkles – but try studying them a little closer. You can almost say that there’s a hierarchy in these wrinkles – individual “rings” around the eye and outwards – and then each ring is divided into segments by another type of wrinkle. There appears to be some kind of principle behind the general shape – the rings are round at the top and pointy downwards, and there’s a bulgy “eye-brow-ish” thing going on above the eye, as well as sacks under the eye. There’s some kind of logic in it, and then at the same time it’s chaotic. In my mind, there can be no doubt that: Logic + chaos = sublime.
Old and wrinkly hands may be hard to draw, but they’re just so much more beautiful!
5. Hands show emotion and state of mind just as well as the face
Look at the two drawings above. One depict a stressful, dynamic situation, the other a calm, passive situation. I bet you can tell which is which! (Or I’d feel a little bad about my skills…)
Hands that are tight and stressed are edgy and pointy. Relaxed hands on the other.. hand.. look soft and round and friendly. Hands can show emotions just as well as the face, so in a way, a drawing of a pair of hands, can tell you just as much about a person as a portrait. People say that you can know a lot about a person from their handshake, and I think that that might be true. Which other characteristics of the hand tells us something about the person they’re attached to?
Think of the following:
The tough hands of an old fisherman, the soft and clean hands of a privileged person, hands with stubby nails of a nervous person, elegant hands of a beautiful woman, a slender hand with long, dexterous fingers of a person who… Well I don’t know really, but you get the point!
So on a parting note, if you’re an artist – I’d like to propose that you do a hand self-portrait. What does your hand say about you? It would have to be your artist-hand, though, so if you’re going to draw it with the other one, or in another way is up to you. I’ll do one too one of these days!