Hand Drawing Demo #5: Partially Hidden Fingers

December 2nd, 2010

This is the fifth in a series of online drawing lessons using your hand as your model. The first, most basic lesson is here.

This tutorial’s hand position is very similar to the one in  Hand demo #3 – but with the entire hand rotated onto its outside edge.  This demonstrates how a slight change in position can present an entirely new set of challenges in drawing the hand.

The challenge of drawing partially hidden fingers

My sketch of #5 hand position.

As I began drawing today, I suddenly realized I’d probably chosen a hand position that’s a bit ahead of where we’ve gotten at this point.  Every finger in this pose except the the thumb is partially hidden by other fingers or knuckles.  And you’re seeing them all at odd angles as they emerge from the knuckles.

I promise to return to a simpler pose next week.  But meanwhile, give this position a try.  The approach to drawing it is the same as to drawing anything else.  You may discover that your skills are developed enough at this point to capture your hand in this pose.  And if not, head back to whatever earlier lesson you enjoyed the most.  Practice is the key to learning to draw.

Later in this series of Hand drawing tutorials, we’ll return to more drawing of hidden fingers as well as foreshortened ones.

Setting up your work space and materials

Please refer back to the relevant sections of Demo #1 for materials you’ll need and how to set up your work space

Positioning your hand

Rest your non-writing hand (your left hand if you’re right-handed and vice versa) on it’s outside edge. Your palm shouldn’t touch the table at all.  Your wrist (1) will be viewed from the side (see photo below).

The knuckles of your middle (2) and pointer (3) fingers will be the only knuckles visible, and they too will be seen from the side.

Place your thumb over the middle joint of your forefinger, creating a roughly teardrop-shape opening (4).

Approximate hand position for this week's drawing tutorial. This photo was taken with a flash, which dramatically changed the lighting from the way it was as I was drawing.

It’s OK if your hand position doesn’t look exactly like mine.  Your hand is probably a different size and shape.  And the important thing is to practice different hand placements, not this exact one.

This photo of my setup (including my camera tripod to the right) shows more accurately the lighting of my hand while I was sketching (though my ring finger had moved out of correct position as I reached up to snap the photo).

Time lapse video demo: drawing the hand from the side, with fingers partially hidden

Below is a time lapse video of my sketching of this hand position.  I’ve numbered each frame so you can easily match it to my written commentary (beneath the video) of what I was doing in each frame.

You may want to open a second copy of this post in another window so that you can place video and text side by side.  You can press the Pause/Restart button to move through the images at your own pace.

My apologies for the inconsistency of lighting from one frame to another.  I’m a painter, not a photographer, and I’m not experienced in compensating for shifting light on a stormy day!

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Frame #1: As I often do when beginning to sketch, I scanned my eye over my entire hand looking for the easiest thing to draw first.  I decided it would be the angle of the back of my hand as it curves into my wrist.  I tried to accurately draw the tilt of this line as compared with an imaginary perfectly-vertical line.  I didn’t draw a vertical guideline, but I pictured it in my head.

Frame #2: I drew the angles on the other side of the wrist and sketched a rough guideline for the top of the knuckles.  My goal here was to sketch the overall geometric shape of my hand.

Frame #3: To check the accuracy of the line I’d just made for my wrist, I sketched a guideline encompassing the negative space next to it.  I noticed that this line was a continuation of the general angle of the first joint-segment of my thumb, so I used it to draw part of my thumb as well.  (For more on the all-important subject of negative space, see for example Hand drawing demo #3 and my post Me Against DaVinci?)

I then noticed that the top of my thumb ended at the same level as the top of the knuckles on the far side of my hand, so I drew a horizontal guideline between the two.  Finding relationships like this is all important to getting proportions accurate as you move ahead.

Frame #4: I sketched in the little teardrop-shaped negative space between my thumb and forefinger [see (4) in the photo of my hand above].  As I drew it, I scanned my eye over the geometric shape of my entire hand to be sure I was getting it placed and sized properly.

Here’s a classic example of where right-brained seeing helps you: if you envision your hand as a pure, flat shape encompassing another shape, it will be much easier to draw than if you get into long discussions with yourself about what a hand should look like when it’s in this particular position.

Frame #5: I decided to shade in the negative space to help me continue seeing it as an aid.  I also drew in the rough curve of the top of the knuckles as it transitioned into the top of my forefinger.  You can see how I’m using the horizontal guideline I drew in Frame #3 as an aid to placing this line correctly.  I haven’t made a distinction yet between the two knuckles because for now, I’m getting general shapes laid down.  Later on I’ll add more detail.

Frame #6: I drew in my thumbnail as a way of measuring whether I’ve got the proportions around it correctly.  I shaded in a bit of the triangular negative space between the pointer and middle finger.  I also began a little shading in the wrist area because this shadow’s edge was approximately halfway across my wrist, so I could use it as a guidepost for other shapes around it.

Frame #7: I was struggling a bit to see where the top edge of the middle finger would be.  So I drew a very rough line.  When in doubt, draw something in the right ballpark, so you can learn from that where a more accurate version will be (see the sailing analogy in my last hand demo.  As I wrote there, “each line you make will help you figure out what you need to do next.  Even if that line turns out to be wrong, making it will help you understand where the right one should be.”).

Frame #8: Sure enough, that crude line gave me more of a sense of where to draw a more accurate line.  I also used the small triangular negative space under this finger, along with a guideline I sketched between the two fingertips to help me accurately envision the negative space that formed the ends of the fingers.

Frame #9: I drew the little triangle-shaped first joint of my ring finger.  Notice how seeing it as a purely geometric shape – a triangle with one angle appearing to emerge near the base of the middle finger and another ending at its first joint – helped me capture this finger far better than would a brainy debate with myself about what a finger should look like from this angle.

Frame #10: I drew the rest of the ring finger, using a guideline to envision the triangular negative space between it and the middle finger.  I’m also adding fingernails as I go along, to help me check my sizes and proportions (this is similar to the way I used finger joints as measuring devices in this tutorial.  And see my diagram of fingernails as negative space for the finger tips around them in this lesson.)

Frame #11: I made a bizarre error here in shaping the bottom half of my pinky finger.  I can’t figure out how I managed this, except that maybe my hand moved while I was craning around to snap the previous photo with my camera.  But I never noticed my error until the very end of the drawing, so I can’t really use that as an excuse!  Anyway, it demonstrates that we all make mistakes as we sketch, and we just need to keep working at it till we get everything accurate.

Frame #13 onward: I began shading, even though I wasn’t sure I had all my proportions right.  You can learn more about what you’re drawing via sketching the shapes of its shadows and highlights.  At this point, I felt that shading would help me more than anything else to figure out improvements I needed to make in the drawing.  As I worked on lights and darks, I continued to hone the outlines of fingers and hand based on what I was learning.

As often happens, this sketch began to look worse before it started looking better.  When this happens, you need to simply keep calmly moving forward through the bad stuff to gradually figure things out and arrive at a drawing you can feel proud of.

I’d love to hear from you how this tutorial went for you.  Did you find this hand position difficult?  Were you able to make progress with it?  If you went back to an earlier lesson instead, which one did you choose?  Leave a comment below!

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