Archive for the ‘Right brain / left brain in drawing’ Category

Hand Drawing Tutorial #12, Part 2: Making a Pencil Look 3D

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

This is Part 2 of Tutorial #12.  If you haven’t already, please go through Part 1 first.

Left: Tutorial #12 hand pose. Right: Closeup of pencil held in this pose.

Shading the pencil in this hand pose is another opportunity to help your vision shift over to “right brain” mode.  If you can accurately locate the highlights and shadows in the pencil – including in that shiny metal holder on the eraser – you will be able to draw it realistically.

Shading the pencil so it looks 3-dimensional

Take a few minutes to really look at the pencil in the closeup above.  What gives the pencil a three-dimensional appearance?  First, notice the long highlight up the length of the wooden part of the pencil.  Is it narrow or wide?  Does it extend the full length of the pencil or only part way?  Does it run up the center of the pencil, or more toward one side?

As for the metal eraser holder, let’s break down what appears complex into simple shapes.  Squint your eyes really hard at the eraser photo (left) to help you identify the highlights and shadows of the metal.   What are the brightest highlights?  What are the darkest darks?  What are the basic subdivisions of the metal piece?

Below is a schematic of how I was seeing the pencil eraser (in “right-brain mode”) while I was drawing.  In the top left image below, I’ve placed lines on the photo of the pencil eraser demonstrating how I first drew its basic subdivisions.

Left: "Right-mode" view of eraser. Right: My drawing

If you can train yourself to see complex forms as simple component parts, you’ll be able to draw them easily.

Video of part of shading process for Hand Drawing Tutorial #12

To see the initial drawing phase of this hand pose, please see Part 1.

At the end of this drawing (Frame 21), I used white acrylic paint, applied with a very small brush, to intensify highlights particularly in the metal eraser holder.

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Hand Drawing Tutorial #12: Holding a Pencil

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

All of my drawing tutorials are based on two fundamentals:

1)  It’s always easier to draw a small, simple, flat shape than to draw a large or complicated one.

2)  Learning to see in “right-brain” mode enables to see your subject as a series of small, simple, flat shapes that all fit together.

Put these two concepts together, and you may envision something like a jigsaw puzzle….

Hand drawing #12: holding a pencil

Note: If you’re beginning these drawing tutorials for the first time, you may want to start with an earlier one – the first is here for example; the third here – and move forward from there.

Hand pose #12: Holding a pencil

For me, knowing how to draw is above all knowing how to see in what Betty Edwards called “right-mode,” or with the “right brain.”  So I’m always trying to think through what might show you how to see in this way.  If you learn how, it will help you draw easily.

As I was drawing this tutorial’s hand pose, I made a special effort to actually sketch in many of the guidelines I usually envision mostly in my head.  I hope this will help you see this hand pose as a series of easily-drawn, small, simple shapes.

Unlike many drawing instructors, when I say “simple shapes,” I don’t mean cones and cylinders.  That is, I’m not talking about volume. In my own experience, seeing objects as flat forms, like jigsaw puzzles, is much more helpful than seeing in terms of volumes.

After all, you’re drawing on a flat surface.  You’re not sculpting in three dimensions.  So it makes sense that you will be most successful if you can see what you’re sketching as a series of flat shapes.

As you’re drawing, think of shapes that make up a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces all need to be drawn accurately in order to fit together snugly.  If you form each little piece correctly, and fit it properly into its neighbors, you’ll find that your drawing is a realistic representation of your subject.

Tutorial 12 hand pose: holding a pencil

Earlier posts, here and here, have presented colored-puzzle videos of my jigsaw puzzle concept.  You may want to look at those before or after you go through the video below.

Which type of video helps you more?  Or are they both equally useful in your learning to draw?  Leave a comment below or email me to let me know.

Set up and work materials

Please see the relevant sections of this tutorial.

While most of my hand tutorials have been drawn from life (that is, my actual hand), this week I worked from a photograph of my hand.  I did this partly because I wanted to sketch my hand holding one of its most typical tools, a pencil.  I couldn’t hold a pencil in a natural way in my right hand while also sketching it!

I used the vertical setup, with the photo on a computer screen next to my easel.  If you try this, be careful that you can see both the photo and your drawing straight on, so your drawing won’t be thrown off by some odd perspective.

Hand tutorial #12 video Part 1: initial outline

There is a written commentary below the video, keyed to each frame by number.  You may want to open this post in two windows on your monitor so you can follow the commentary along with the video.

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Frame 1: I sketched in boundary lines along the left side and top of the paper. which enabled me to…

Frame 2: …draw a small rectangle in the upper left corner whose lower point would be the pencil tip.  A diagonal line then formed the pencil’s sharpened top.  To sketch the pencil at the correct angle, I envisioned where it would intersect my border-line if the line of the pencil were extended (I did extend it as a guideline, to be erased later on) .

Frame 3-4: Several triangles – formed partly by imaginary guidelines – told me where to draw bits of edges of finger tips and pencil top.  In Frame 4 I corrected the triangles I’d sketched in Frame 3.  Note that I’m using negative space here – the space around the hand and pencil, rather than the objects themselves.  “Pieces” of negative space are important parts of the jigsaw puzzle.  If you don’t yet know what negative space is, please look back at this tutorial.

Frame 5: I continued the process of envisioning the jigsaw pieces: the fingertip just below the pencil point, for example, had a curved bottom, two straighter sides, and a straight “top.”  This is an example of how important it is to envision the shapes you’re drawing as flat bits.  If I had been thinking about how to draw the 3-dimensional volume of fingers, I would have had a much harder time.  Instead, I easily drew a small, seemingly “flat” shape.

Frame 6-7: I continued the same jigsaw-building process.

Frame 8: In order to properly represent the long sweep of the lower hand, I needed to eyeball over a larger space.  I could see that the edge of the base of the thumb was beneath the middle of the forefinger tip I’d already sketched.  So I lightly sketched a vertical guideline.  I made a horizontal guideline from the bottom of the pinky rightward, to help me see where the most rightward curve of the thumb base should be marked.

Frames 9-11: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: fingernails make great measuring devices that you can use to check the accuracy of other bits you’ve already sketched.

Frames 12-14: I formed the side of the thumb and a bit of the fingers next to the pencil from simple, small shapes.  Can you identify these jigsaw shapes in the photo above?

Frames 15-16: I darkened the interior shape I’d just sketched, helping me see it more clearly to be sure it was exact.  This jigsaw piece is very distinctive and is at the core of the series of bits around it.  So drawing it precisely would help me with the rest of the hand.

Frame 17: Knuckle and palm wrinkles make fabulously helpful measuring devices and guidelines.  Here I used the thumb knuckle wrinkle to form a bridge to check the accuracy of lines I had drawn on either side of it.  The thumb cuticle also helped me refine the whole thumbnail outline.

Frames 18-20: Now that I had the lines on either side of the thumb placed pretty well, I could begin the neighboring triangles that form the palm and – via their negative space – the pencil edge.  Note that I used a palm wrinkle as a side for triangles.

Frames 21-22: The forefinger is made up of three jigsaw pieces.  Our image of fingers may be that they’re made up of three almost identical rectangles.  But look carefully at your pointer in this pose.  It’s made up of three shapes that are quite different from each other in size and shape.  Draw each of them right, and you’ll have the entire pointer in a pose immediately recognizable as realistic.  (My pointer in this pose has a short middle section and a seemingly-fat bottom section.)

Frame 23: Now that I have more drawn, I’m able to correct some palm lines.

Frames 24-26: I used a series of guidelines to form the right side of the hand, which helped me capture the knuckle-triangle properly.  I also used a very flat negative-space triangle, whose longest side was a guideline I drew from pointer joint to knuckle.

Frames 27-29: I used a series of vertical “plumb lines” to help me locate the correct placement for the bottom of the hand and the wrist.  I was also keeping an eye on the negative-space angle (imaginary triangle) formed by the pencil’s lower line and the wrist.

Frame 30: I began shading the distinctive palm-triangle under the pencil.

Frame 31: I erased a lot of my guidelines because when I’m no longer using them, they can become distracting.

Frame 32: I refined the thumb line and checked the picky using a negative-space triangle with the ring finger.

Frame 33: As I transitioned to the shading phase of the drawing, I began working on the distinctive dark areas of the palm.

I eventually drew the missing fingernails as I was shading the drawing.  We’ll take up that phase in the next post.

Hand Drawing Tutorial #11 Part 2: How to Draw Shininess

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Hand Pose #11 with Shiny Tube

If you haven’t already gone through Part 1 of this tutorial, please do that now.  It introduces the subject of how to draw a shiny object.  And its video shows this hand drawing in its initial outline-sketch phase.

The video below, at the end of this post, follows the drawing through creating the shiny look of the lipstick tube.

How to draw shine

Part 1 of Hand Tutorial #11 discussed how to look at the shiny tube as a jigsaw puzzle of stripes.  When you view the tube globally as “a shiny lipstick,” the tendency is to freak out: “I can’t draw that, it’s shiny!  How can you make a pencil drawing look shiny?”

In fact, it’s simple.  You need to shift the way you’re viewing the tube to “right-brained” mode.  In right mode, you see that visually the shiny tube is made up of easily-drawn “jigsaw” pieces, most of which are shaped a lot like stripes.

Tube with one shiny end and one dull end (and for once, my blue fingernail somewhat photoshopped out)

If you replicate these “stripes” in your drawing, you’ll find that your pencil will magically create shininess.

Video: drawing the shiny tube

To make your tube look really shiny, it’s important to draw the “stripes” and other reflection-shapes accurately.  To do this, I began (Frame 6 of the video below) by bisecting my sketched tube, following the dark line that happens to run down its length almost in its center.  I then divided up each half of the tube, duplicating the width of each “stripe” (Frames 7-8).

Because this sketch is in black and white, I had to represent the shiny tube’s dull green and beige (discussed above) in shades of gray (I began in Frames 9-10).  Your shiny object will probably also reflect colors.  To figure out what shade of gray should represent each color, squint your eyes hard.  The colors will begin to disappear and it will be much easier to see the relative values of the colors you will represent in shades of gray.

In Part 1 of this tutorial, we discussed the shading of the other end of the tube, which is much duller.  You can capture this quality by shading it as it appears: it’s shading is even and gradual, in contrast to the highly-varied stripes of the shiny end.  I began this process in Frame 11 and kept perfecting it later (e. g. Frames 14-15).

Photo of hand pose for Tutorial #11.

In any drawing, how you shade everything around a shiny object will affect how the shininess is perceived.  In my drawing, I kept perfecting the shading, in particular of the fingers close to the lipstick.

And notice how much lighter the highlights on the shiny part of the tube are than any other “jigsaw piece” in the entire hand pose (see photo right).  To make your drawing look very realistic, if you’re using white paper, you can darken every other area of the paper (this is why artists often begin paintings by putting a medium-toned wash over their entire canvas: so that the highlights will look strikingly bright against this background).  I began doing this around Frame 17 and continued through the end of the sketch.

Around Frame 19, I used white acrylic paint and a small brush to lighten the bright highlights on the shiny end of the tube (I also used it on the fingernail tips and in a couple of other spots that became smudged with pencil and were difficult to lighten with my eraser alone).

By the way, though I didn’t draw my watch, it has a shiny texture that you can study visually.  If you were going to take the time to draw all those little links, you would follow exactly the same process as we have with the relatively simple shiny lipstick tube.

Technical note:  This video is even jumpier than usual because of some difficulties with my tripod (accidentally knocking it a few times, etc).  As a result, there appear to be changes in the overall size of the drawing and its perspective.  These changes didn’t actually occur in my drawing.  You may find this video most useful if you focus only on the lipstick tube itself during the frames when I’m working on that.

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Hand Drawing Tutorial #11: Zen and the Art of Racquetball

Monday, March 28th, 2011

This is an advanced tutorial.  If you’re just beginning, please start with earlier lessons such as A Simple Drawing of the Hand and work your way forward.

I played racquetball last weekend for the first time in many months. I was surprised to find that my playing level hadn’t fallen off despite my lack of court-time. If anything, I’d improved.

Here’s what I think helped me: I hadn’t been hitting racquet balls in months, but I had been drawing constantly.

Hand pose, Tutorial #11

When I’m drawing, my utter focus on each “jigsaw piece” is a lot like the utter focus on the ball in racket sports. In both, you need to get into a zen-like state of total concentration on one small bit of your visual environment.  Your hand/arms/legs then know automatically what to do to sketch that bit or smack that ball.

I don’t want to make grandiose claims here. But I suspect that learning to see in order to draw may improve your sports skills as well – at least in sports that involve connecting with a fast-moving ball.

And maybe this underlines the fact that learning to draw is all about learning to see. To me, the most important part of learning to draw isn’t acquiring knowledge about proportions, perspective, or how to draw this or that.  It’s about training yourself to focus on and see what’s right in front of you.

Hand pose with shiny tube

Tutorial #11 hand pose with shiny tube

The object I chose for this hand pose is a metal tube.  It’s actually a lipstick, but I chose it because one end of it is very shiny, and the other end dull.  I think this combination – a simple shape with a very shiny surface – may help you learn to see in the highly focused way you need to draw (and maybe to play sports).

I could have just drawn the tube without the hand for this tutorial.  But for whatever reason, I’m not happy drawing only inanimate objects.  For me to enjoy what I’m doing, I need a person (or part thereof) connected with the object.

But if you’re able to find some kind of shiny tube, you might try first drawing just that, without your hand.

If you can’t find a shiny tube, experiment with drawing from the image of my hand on your computer screen.  Or try just the close-ups of the lipstick tube, below.  (See relevant sections of this post for materials and work setup.)

How does an artist make a shiny surface look shiny?

Ahh, here’s where seeing comes in.  What do you see when you look at that tube not as a “shiny tube,” but as a piece of a 2-D jigsaw puzzle?  Can you see that it’s made up largely of a series of stripes of white, gray, dull green, beige, and other colors?

There’s also the reflection of my thumb in one spot just above my real thumb.  And toward the sides of the tube, the stripes aren’t absolutely parallel the way they are in its front/center.

If you replicate these and other details in your drawing, your tube will look shiny.

By the way, I’m always tempted to photoshop out my smashed blue fingernail, but I don’t because I want you to be able to see the natural texture of the nail.  Nails are also shiny, though less so than the tube – you can see it most clearly on my thumb.  If you draw that semi-shininess, it will make your drawing look realistic.

Look at the contrast between the shiny end of the tube and the other, duller end (right).

Dull end of tube - notice how the shading here is gradual from left to right, not in distinct stripes as with the shiny end of the tube.

Here, the shading fades very gradually from dark on the left side to light on the right.  If you replicate that gradual shading – along with the bit of white highlight that begins right beneath my thumb – this end of your tube will look like dull metal and will not look shiny.

Why does my jigsaw approach to drawing work?

When you’re drawing, you are representing the 3-dimensional world on a flat surface.  So you need to learn to perceive the 3-D world in two dimensions.  Imagining this process as building a jigsaw puzzle can help you because puzzles are exactly this: representations of the 3-D world on flat cardboard.

Video demo #11

The video below shows how I drew my hand pose holding a lipstick tube. Part 2 of the video, showing the shading that creates the shiny look of the tube, will be in my next post.

For now, watch how I built the jigsaw puzzle of this hand pose.  (If you haven’t already watched my jigsaw videos here and here, please do it now in order to understand what’s going on in my mind as I draw.)

In this lipstick-tube pose, I kept refining each jigsaw piece as I went along.  I often didn’t get the size and shape perfectly on the first try.  But as always, the more shapes I drew, the more reference points I had to judge how to correct ones I’d already drawn.  Even after I began shading (see video next post), I continued to improve basic shapes and sizes of fingers, joints, and nails.

Notice how wrinkles and finger joints make great sub-units that help you judge and measure your shapes.  Periodically, I drew guidelines (later erased) from an already-sketched jigsaw piece to help me decide where and how to draw another piece.

The nails of the middle and ring fingers were especially difficult to place and draw properly because of their angle.  I just kept at it, though, correcting it little by little.  Sometimes things got worse before they got better!  But eventually I got it right.  If you persist in this way, you’ll get good results, too!

Note that the thumb in this pose appears wider than the right half of the hand because of the angle and position of each..  This is an example of why learning standard body proportions isn’t always that helpful.  When you’re drawing a body part from a direction other than simple and straight on, proportions appear distorted by the perspective you’re viewing it from.

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Come back next post for more on how to create the tube’s shiny surface.

Hand Drawing Tutorial #10 Part 2: Jigsaw Video of Hand with Paper Clip

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Hand Drawing Tutorial #10 hand pose

It’s always easier to see and draw a small simple shape than a large, complex one.

This is Part 2 of Tutorial #10: Help from a Paper Clip. Part 1 is here.

See the end of this post for a video of this sketch’s “jigsaw puzzle,” which will help you draw this pose – or anything else.


This paper clip pose brings to mind echoes of a teacher – in my early days of drawing lessons – pointing out the need to capture the way the paper clip tucks lightly into thumb and forefinger.  To make this drawing convincing, the teacher would explain, parts of the paper clip must seem to disappear into the fingers holding it.  If you drew every bit of the paper clip, the teacher would tell us, it wouldn’t look like it’s being held.  It would look like the paper clip had been plopped down on top of your drawing of a hand.

What’s distinct about holding a paper clip?

The teacher would also have explained that a hand looks different when holding a light, delicate paper clip than gripping something heavy.  In a hand with a paper clip, muscles don’t bulge, veins don’t pop, nothing is under strain.  Only one finger plus the thumb are needed to support the light weight, so the other three fingers just float into resting positions.

In contrast, see the photo below of my hand with a tape measure.  Here my fingers are working differently to bear the greater weight than when I’m holding the paper clip.  Can you spot some of the differences?

Can you spot the differences in hand and finger position holding a paper clip vs holding a tape measure? How many fingers are needed to support the weight of each object? Is the hand relaxed or tense?

My three largest fingers are all needed to handle the weight of the tape measure.  And the pinky is balancing it from behind.  My thumb is straining awkwardly to do its part.

Meanwhile the hand with the paper clip looks as relaxed as a hand model in an ad for some product.

How do we convincingly draw a hand grasping a paper clip vs a small heavy item?

It can be entertaining and instructive to puzzle through how a hand looks different holding a nearly weightless object vs a heavy one.  I encourage you to constantly observe this kind of visual distinctions in the world around you.  That way you’ll build up your store of visual knowledge, which will unconsciously help improve your drawing.

But when you begin to draw, you need to put those observations on your mind’s back burner in order to focus only on what you’re seeing in your model.  You need to engage your “right-brain” mode function, which apprehends spacial relationships, shapes, colors, and shadows with lightning speed and good accuracy.

Thinking consciously about your knowledge store while you draw instead  engages “left brain” function – the comparatively lumbering, verbal mode of brain work.  Avoid debating knowledge when you’re drawing.

Simply look at the jigsaw puzzle of shapes in front of you.  Figure out their sizes, shapes, and how they fit together – because drawing small, simple shapes is always easier than drawing large or complex ones.  So you need to learn to see your model in small, simple pieces.

Drawing via “right-mode” vision is an easier, more all-purpose way to draw from life than is over-thinking.  With this method, you can draw accurately from life regardless of your subject – whether your hand is gripping a feather or a 100-lb. weight.

How can you reliably engage your right-mode vision?

Earlier posts have described my jigsaw puzzle metaphor for “right-brain” drawing.  My jigsaw metaphor seems to be the most helpful way I’ve found so far of explaining this technique (elsewhere I’ve described it as e. g. an “angle abstraction game.”)  I’ve found myself using game metaphors because when you get into this mode, drawing becomes like a game or puzzle.  You’re making decisions about what to draw with split-second speed, completely non-verbally.  You’re in the zone.

So to me, teaching some one to draw above all means teaching them how to see in right-mode.  Shifting to seeing via this non-standard brain-mode is easy once you “get it,” but sometimes hard before that.  To try another way of helping you make that shift, in this post I’m doing something slightly different for the video.  I’ve started with a photograph of my hand in the Tutorial 10 Paper Clip pose which I drew in my last post‘s video (scroll down that post to watch the video of that drawing, with written commentary keyed to specific frames).

Jigsaw video of this hand pose

Below, on top of the photo of my hand, I’ve superimposed what I was envisioning in my mind’s eye as I was drawing. 

  1. Each black line represents a line I actually drew.
  2. Each colored shape represents a “jigsaw” piece as I saw it in my mind’s eye.
  3. Each chartreuse line is an imaginary or actual guideline for a relationship to other pieces that I was using to check the size and shape of pieces I was drawing.
  4. Each pale gray shape is one that I pictured in my mind’s eye to help me draw something next to it.

Note that I put my puzzle pieces together in an order that made sense to my right-mode vision – that is, shapes that fit together visually regardless of which object they were part of.  I did not focus on completing all the fingers at once for example, or the entire paper clip at one time.  In fact I finished the final shape of the paper clip at almost the end of the drawing.

Does this type of video help you with your drawing?  Email or leave a comment below to let me know what works best for you.

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Learning to draw requires effort and practice.  But it’s also like a game, with potentially satisfying and fun results.

Hand Drawing Tutorial #10: Help from a Paper Clip

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Hand pose with paper clip: Tutorial #10

This is an advanced hand pose.  If you’re just beginning these hand drawing tutorials, please start with earlier lessons such as #1 and move forward from there.  Tutorial #3 has images portraying negative spaces; #6 covers left brain/right brain in drawing.  Tutorial #7 introduces my concept of right-brain drawing as  a jigsaw puzzle. Tutorial #9 was the first that incorporated an object into a hand pose.

The jigsaw puzzle of fingers and paper clip

I chose a paper clip as this tutorial’s object.  It turned out to be an ideal case of “right-brain drawing as jigsaw puzzle” (see Tutorial #6).  That’s because this kind of paper clip encloses a whole gaggle of interlocked pieces, so it’s already practically a jigsaw puzzle in itself.

And in this hand pose, the clip abuts and intersects a series of finger bits.  One example is the dark diamond-shape lying on its side between the paper clip, the pointer, and the ring finger (it’s indicated in red in the photo series below).  Getting the shape of this diamond sketched accurately helped me draw the fingers around it.

Another example is the small triangle of the middle finger visible through the paper clip’s bottom left (in blue in the photos below).  Again, drawing this tiny triangle precisely helps you draw all the other shapes around it.

Left: hand pose for Tutorial #10. Middle: Representation of some of the "jigsaw pieces" in and near the paper clip. Right: Enlargment of "jigsaw pieces."

So this “puzzle” was complex.  As I was drawing, each “jigsaw piece” I added made me recheck pieces I had already sketched, adjusting them to fit more accurately together.  This pose required a whole series of modifications to its component bits to get them to fit together properly.

When you look at the time lapse video of my drawing at the end of this post, can you identify my first sketches of the puzzle pieces in the graphic above?  Can you spot my ongoing fine-tuning of all these pieces?  I’ve added commentary below to help you see any tweaks you might miss.

Drawing small shapes is always easier than drawing big ones

A small reminder of why my jigsaw approach to drawing works: it’s always easier to mentally grasp and draw small shapes than big or complex ones.  If you accurately perceive and draw all the small shapes in your subject, fitting them together precisely, you’ll end up with a very good sketch of your entire “puzzle.”

Setting up for your own drawing of your hand with a paper clip

For materials and work space setup, see the relevant sections of Tutorial #1.

Hopefully you’ll be able to find the type of paper clip I used – apparently it’s called an “Ideal Clamp.”  If you can’t find it, use a regular paper clip or any kind you can find.  Hold it in your fingers in a similar pose to mine, and work through your sketch as in the video below, or in any order that makes sense to your eyes and right-mode perception.

Time-lapse video of my drawing

Beneath the video is my written commentary keyed to some of the frames.  You may want to open this post in two windows at once, so you can follow commentary in one as you watch the video in the other.

I’ve been debating whether it’s helpful to readers if I take the time to create a parallel video of the jigsaw pieces I envision as I draw each bit of the hand, as I did in the Tutorial 7 video.  I may do this in my next post.  If it would be helpful to you, please leave a comment below so I’ll know for sure it will be worth my time to do it.

Technical note: The blurry frames are not part of my drawing process – they are bad focus in my photography (as I’ve often said, I’m an artist but not a photographer).

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Frame 1 – As with many of my hand drawings, I began sketching the edge of part of my hand by envisioning imaginary triangles to help me get the angles right (see the Tutorial 7 video for colored diagrams of this type of triangle).  I had already sketched in a horizontal line above the hand which helped me picture the triangles.

Frame 2 – I drew the side of the pointer finger as an undulating line almost paralleling the first edge I’d drawn in Frame 1.  I judged the placement of this line by envisioning it forming more or less a long, thin rectangle with the first edge.

Frame 4 – I completed the pointer, picturing it as a long rectangular shape made up of 3 smaller rectangular segments.  Judging size and shape is always easier for smaller objects, so the smaller rectangles are helpful as measuring devices for the entire finger.

Frame 5 – I adjusted the bottom segment of the pointer when I realized it needed to end closer to the top of the knuckle.  I drew in a horizontal guideline (later erased) to help me judge this.

Frame 7 – I sketched in the first line of the paper clip: the top, which visually bisects the pointer’s tip (green and lavender puzzle pieces in the photos above).  I also drew the roughly-triangular shape which forms the top edge of the ring finger.  I drew a vertical guideline to help me judge where this triangle should end.

Frame 8 – I decided where more paper clip lines should go by picturing them as triangles intersecting the guideline I drew in Frame 7.

Frame 9 – More paper clip lines.  I assessed their placement by their intersection with the ring finger and by the shapes formed with the other clip lines.

Frame 10 – I adjusted the paper clip lines as described in my intro above.

I also drew in the odd little bit of the palm visible in this hand pose.  This palm-shape is a great example of why learning standard proportions doesn’t help much in drawing the myriad positions the hand can fall into.  A general rule of the size of your palm would tell you the palm should be bigger than the fingers.  But not in this pose!

Frame 11 – With so many other lines in this area sketched in, it was easy to figure out roughly where the inside of the thumb should go: it connected the lines I’d already drawn for the ring finger and palm.

Frame 14-16 – I knew that getting that seemingly-dark central puzzle piece set down accurately would help me with everything around it (it forms the pinky and fits into the thumb and palm).  So I fiddled with it in these frames, making a series of tweaks.

Frame 17 – I modified the shape of the thumb.  I also colored in the dark central puzzle piece, which helped ground me in the whole drawing.

Frame 18 – I fine-tuned the lines of the thumb tip and ring finger where they appear to intersect, adding another paper clip line.

Frame 19 – I adjusted two paper clip lines, measuring them in my mind’s eye against everything around them – e. g. I could see the paper clip line shouldn’t touch the thumb-tip, as I’d drawn it, but had to be at a little distance from it.  And I added joint-wrinkles in the fingers, which I always use as measuring devices.

Frame 20 – I drew the thumb nail.  By this time, I was also able to judge where the curved end of the paper clip should fall, so I drew that.

Frame 21 – Here my photography unfortunately got blurry.  Still, I can see that I was firming up the lines of the pointer and middle finger nails.

Frame 22 – I tweaked the lines of the paper clip yet again, now better able to assess their positions compared to all the other shapes around them.

Frame 23 – More paper clip modification!

Frame 24 – Thumb joint wrinkles helped me improve my placement of the edge of the thumb.  Wrinkles are such great measuring devices!

Frame 25 – I began to shade the tips of some fingers.  At this point, I was aware the outside long line of the paper clip was still out of whack, but decided to wait till later to fix it.

Frame 26 – More shading and a slight paper clip adjustment, using the diamond shape (discussed above).

Frame 27 – Began to shade the large expanse between thumb and hand, measuring and judging size and shape the same way as when I was drawing lines.

Frame 28 – I darkened the diamond shape that formed one side of the paper clip.  I had placed my hand against a dark background so the delicate paper clip would be clearly visible.  Now I realized that I was going to have to recreate that dark background in my drawing for the same reason: to make the very thin lines of the paper clip visible.

Frame 29-30 – I darkened more of the negative spaces inside the paper clip, using the darkness to help me check once again whether I had the shapes formed properly.

Frame 31 – I adjusted the shape of the ring finger as noted in intro above.

Frame 32 – I began darkening the background behind the hand.  As I came around to the paper clip, again I fine-tuned it.

Frame 33-36 – more darkening of the background and shading of the hand.

Frame 37 – Corrected the size and shape of the thumb nail and thumb tip.

Frame 38-40 – Continued darkening the background.  Wherever it bordered the hand, I used the darkness to double-check whether I had the line of the hand drawn true to life.

Frame 42 – I used a bit of white acrylic paint to clarify the lines of the paper clip because its delicate shape made it impossible to erase sufficiently.  By now I was pretty confident I had all the clip lines drawn properly.

I continued darkening the background and shading the hand for quite a while beyond this point.  At the very end, I did a tiny bit of very delicate shading to the paper clip, which gave it a more 3-dimensional look.

TECHNICAL NOTE: I worked a bit differently this tutorial, for the first time drawing from a photo of my hand rather than from life.  I did this because I’ve been frustrated in past tutorials that I haven’t been able to publish a photo taken from the exact angle from which I see my hand when drawing from life.  Since I took the photo first this time, I drew it from the exact angle you see it from in the tutorial, enabling me to point out shapes such as the diamond noted periodically.

The downside of drawing from the photo is that drawing from life provides more visual information than my low-res photo.  As a result, the shading of this drawing is less detailed than in some other recent tutorials.

Hand Drawing Tutorial #9: Drawing The Hand – Or Anything Else (Part 1)

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

This is the introduction to a new series of hand poses which include inanimate objects.  The actual tutorial and video demo of pose #9 will appear in my next post.

Meanwhile, you have a bit of homework to prepare for the tutorial:  you need to find a good object to hold in your sketch.  Please see the last section at the bottom of this post to learn what you’re looking for.

Sketch of hand holding bottle opener

In my next few hand drawing tutorials, I’m going to add an assortment of inanimate objects to each hand pose – to begin with, I chose a bottle opener (right).  Over time, we’ll practice sketching the hand from various angles holding items of diverse shapes and sizes.

I decided to introduce inanimate objects because in my kind of right-brained drawing technique, there’s actually no difference between sketching a hand or sketching anything else – as long as you’re drawing some kind of model (a live model or a photo).  In my rather Zen approach, you pay no attention to whether you’re drawing a hand or a waterfall.  You do this because you need to empty your mind of everything that gets in the way of your seeing the shapes, shadows, and highlights that are actually in front of you.

In pure right-brained drawing you learn to see what you’re drawing in a very abstract way.  You look only at shapes, angles, darks, lights. 

Parad0xically, this abstract approach can produce hyper-realistic results.

Other types of hand drawing tutorials

My method is almost the opposite of the approach taken in most hand drawing tutorials.  They recommend learning as much as possible about the anatomy of the hand and body proportions, and viewing the hand as made of sub-parts of different volumes.

Illustration from Ron Lemem's hand tutorial. Click on the image to go to this lesson on his website.

For me, learning all that stuff would completely inhibit my drawing, as I wrote in “Me against Da Vinci: What’s the best way to draw?”.

But I encourage you to explore all kinds of approaches to find what works best for you.  A couple of good websites to review for non-me techniques are Ron Lemen’s and odduckoasis.

I suspect that learning about e. g. hand anatomy is important if you’re drawing purely from your imagination.  If you’re drawing a comic book, for example, you probably want to know how to quickly suggest a hand in an appropriate position without having to find a model.

If you’re drawing from life, though, I highly recommend that you do your best to empty your head of all left-brain information about anatomy or the function of the hand, or anything else.  If you hold that information in the front of your mind, it will get in the way of your focusing on what you’re drawing.

This is an intriguing paradox: you fill your brain with technical anatomy in order to draw from memory rather than from life.  But if you want to draw realistically from life, the best approach is the very abstract, right-brained one.  I’ve observed this paradox in another earlier post, about Marie McCann-Barab’s paintings (scroll down to the last section, “Yin and/or Yang”).

I’m very interested in drawing what’s in my imagination, these days in my Playground of the Autocrats triptychs.  But my preferred method of drawing is still always from life because I find its infinite variations thrilling.  So I always look for models that approximate what’s in my imagination, rather than drawing purely from memory.  As I wrote then,

For me, the everyday visual world is full of such surprises that I don’t want to just repeat from memory something I’ve drawn or seen in the past.  Drawing from my memory of “what an X looks like,” by definition means I’ve developed a somewhat standardized way of seeing and drawing X.  For me – and maybe for you – there’s nothing like the magical pleasure of discovering what’s unique about the particular “X” I’m drawing at that moment, and capturing that uniqueness on paper.

Bottle opener I used for Hand tutorial #9 (see next post for demo)

Your scavenger hunt for your object for Hand Tutorial #9

In the next few days, keep your eyes open for an appropriate object for our first pose of the hand holding an object.  The ideal object for your first sketch is something like the bottle opener I chose (right).

Here are the qualities you should look for:

  1. A fairly simple object – don’t choose something with complicated patterns or writing on it, like a food bottle.  In general, an object with some straight lines, rather than entirely curvy, may be easiest for your first drawing.
  2. An opaque object – don’t choose something transparent.
  3. A fairly compact object – don’t choose something long like a knife or dowel that will extend far from your hand.
  4. A mildly interestingly-shaped object – my bottle opener was perfect because of the nice enclosed negative space and the nice, small number of distinctive details.
  5. If you’re able to find a bottle opener like mine, or an object with a similar size and shape, it may be most helpful.  However, if you can’t find that, rest assured the technique will be the same no matter what your object is.

Have fun with your hunt, and see you next post!

Hand Drawing Tutorial #8: Foreshortened Pointer via Right-brain Drawing

Monday, February 7th, 2011

The much-feared foreshortened finger may actually be the most helpful tool to shift you to right-brained seeing.  Its shape is so alien to our standardized image of “finger” that we have no other choice but to abstract how we see it.

Tutorial #8 hand pose with foreshortened pointer

In this tutorial, we’ll take on the dreaded foreshortened finger (in this case, the pointer).  The hand is often considered the most difficult of all subjects to draw, partly because we so often see the fingers from angles that conflict with our mental shorthand of them as tube-shaped.

Through the magic of right-brained seeing, though, the foreshortened finger becomes fairly easy to draw because it’s seen as a shape like any other shape.

In fact, it occurs to me that the much-feared foreshortened finger may actually be the best tool to help shift you  to right-brained seeing.  Its shape is so alien to our standardized image of “finger” that we have no other choice than to abstract how we see it.  Look at the schematic below to illustrate this (with continuing apologies for my blue smashed fingernail).

In the left column is a series of photos of my hand in slightly different positions.

In the middle column, I’ve traced over the shape of the pointer fingertip in red, and the fingernail in pale yellow.

In the right column, I’ve enlarged this shape so you can really see a few of the variety of shapes a foreshortened fingertip can appear to take on.  The fingernail also has very different shapes.

The more accurately you draw these shapes, the more realistic your drawing will look.

Seeing the foreshortened pointer as a simple shape. Left column: My hand. Middle column: My hand with the shape of the foreshortened pointer outlined in red (the fingernail is pale yellow). Right: Abstracted pointer tip shape, enlarged.

This week’s foreshortened finger pose

This hand pose is identical the one in tutorial #7, with the single exception that the pointer is raised so we see its tip head-on.

The most difficult part of drawing a dramatically foreshortened finger is actually not the drawing itself.  It’s keeping your hand completely still so you see it from exactly the same angle throughout your sketch.  A slight change in hand position will make you see the finger tip as a dramatically different shape.  Look again at the diagram above to demonstrate this.

To help keep your hand in the same position while you draw, the following can help:

  1. Pay careful attention to how your forefinger looks when you start sketching.  Note its exact shape.  As you draw, adjust its position very slightly to keep it looking that way throughout.
  2. Close one eye while you’re drawing the foreshortened finger (the same eye the entire time) because each eye sees from a slightly different angle.
  3. It’s always important to stand up while you’re drawing so that you’re seeing your work head-on.  If you sit down, you’ll distort your perspective and end up with a distorted drawing.  When you’re drawing something this foreshortened, it’s doubly important to stand up.

Materials you’ll need and setting up your work

Please look back at the relevant sections of the first tutorial for materials and setting up.

The foreshortened finger jigsaw piece

In the 2-part Tutorial #7, I described right-brain drawing as building a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces all need to fit together to form the whole.  You may want to look back on the schematics there, including the video at the end of Part 1 that demonstrates how to create the jigsaw puzzle.  You will approach this #8 pose exactly the same way as that one, building your puzzle from shapes of fingers, nails, and negative spaces around each.

The single change this week is that you’ll need to see and draw different jigsaw pieces to form the pointer and the part of the palm revealed beneath it.  I think the best way to help you see this isn’t to write more verbiage, but to suggest you spend some time carefully studying the diagram above.

Before you begin drawing your entire hand, practice seeing and drawing your own forefinger tip at slightly different angles. Sketch some of the various shapes it can take on a separate piece of paper.  Then add the fingernail shape.  You’ll be able to draw the nail accurately if you also observe the shapes of the skin visible around the nail.

Note the jigsaw-piece shapes immediately surrounding your fingertip when it’s placed in different positions.  Draw these.

Put this entire mini-jigsaw puzzle together right, and you’ll magically have produced a realistic-looking foreshortened fingertip.

Now turn to drawing your entire hand.  Look carefully at the puzzle piece of your own pointer tip.  It will be slightly different from mine in my drawing.  How is yours shaped?

Video demo of my drawing of  Hand pose #7

As you go through video below of my own drawing, you may notice that somewhere around Frame 21, I reshaped my pointer-tip jigsaw piece incorrectly, making it too wide.  I think this was the usual result of having moved my vantage point slightly (so do as I say, not as I do….)  I was very annoyed at myself!  I didn’t notice my mistake for a while, but when I did, I adjusted it.

This kind of error happens all the time.  Once you notice it, you just need to work through it, correcting it and the jigsaw pieces around it.

If your drawing has gotten so out of whack that you can’t salvage it without major erasures, don’t feel you’ve wasted your time!  You’ve learned a lot from this sketch.  Start a new one and see what you can learn from that.

Becoming good at drawing from life is a matter of constant practice.  And it’s fun!

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Hand Drawing Tutorial #7 (Part 2): Shading as Jigsaw Puzzle

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

The shading process – although it creates the 3D look in your drawing – is actually as simplified and flattened as the drawing stage.

Part 1 of Hand drawing tutorial #7 described the “jigsaw puzzle” line-drawing stage of this sketch.  Please look back at that post for a video of how I built my jigsaw drawing and its connection with right-brained seeing.

We’re now going to shade (render) your drawing.  This is the process that will give it a three-dimensional appearance.

Left: Jigsaw schematic of right-brain seeing. Middle: line drawing from Part 1 of Tutorial #7. Right: finished sketch #7.

I ended my last post with the thought:  “It’s interesting that my final assembled jigsaw resembles a common painting style in which shapes are simplified and surfaces appear flattened. Even though my actual drawing is realistic, my underlying  thought process sees each bit of the drawing as a highly simplified, flattened shape.”

The shading process – although it creates the 3D look – is actually as simplified and flattened as the drawing stage.  When I render a drawing, I’m looking for simply-shaped areas of light and dark in my “posing” hand,  duplicating them on my drawing.

At the end of this post is a video of the entire drawing and shading process for this hand pose.  Below I’ve placed a few still frames.  If you look carefully at their shaded areas, you’ll be able to see how I viewed each area of shadow as a simple shape.  (See below the images for more details.)

Building areas of shadow. (I added more contrast to these still images to enable you to see these areas more readily.) See text below for detailed explanation.

In Frame 24, I began shading with a triangular area at the left base of the hand and wrist.  I then noticed that the pinky finger created another dark area underneath where it folds over.

A vital tool in shading is … squinting your eyes, which enables you to see light and shadow more clearly.  If there isn’t a lot of light-shadow contrast on your hand as you’re drawing, the harder you squint, the more clearly you’ll see what little is there.

In Frame 26, I began to render the ring finger and pinky.  Notice that that the visible finger segments weren’t uniformly one shade.  They had a blob of darker shadow near the joint topmost in the sketch.  This was a product of the lighting conditions on my hand at that moment.

You will need to look at your own fingers to see what kind of light and shadow is is on them.  Use your squint!

Frame 27: I added blocks of shading at the base of the palm.

By the way, a drawing can start looking worse at this stage because you’ve gotten part of the shading done but not all.  So the image is starting to look more 3-dimensional, but out of whack because it’s still incomplete.  You just need to keep moving forward, seeking out all the areas of various depths of shadow and light, and eventually your drawing will look right.

Frame 34: I was now working on the pointer and middle finger, and deepening the shadows in general.  Again, note the areas of differing darkness in each area of the fingers: the joints tend to be lighter, while other areas are darker.  The shadows and highlights on the fingernails are different from those on the fingers because of their shape and the smooth hardness of their surface.  Your careful observation of your own hand will tell you where to place the areas of shade in your own drawing.

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Hand Drawing Tutorial #7: Right-brain Sketching as Jigsaw Puzzle

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Hand tutorial #7 drawing

In earlier lessons (examples here, and here), we’ve used the “negative spaces” around fingers to help our brains make the transition to right-mode seeing.  But in this tutorial’s hand position, there’s little negative space between fingers because they’re all snuggled up to each other.  So we need another tool to help shift our brains to seeing via “right brain” mode, the prerequisite to realistic drawing.

In this tutorial, I’ll try to help you see your hand as a puzzle of shapes that all need to be fitted together to form the whole.

Seeing your hand as a jigsaw puzzle

As I’ve described earlier, to draw from life, you need to learn to turn off your left-brain vision and turn on your right.

When you see in left-brain mode, you think of fingers as more or less tube-shaped, with rounded tops.  But if you look carefully at my drawing above, you’ll see that the fingers are irregularly shaped, not straight-sided tubes at all.  To help you see this, I’ve outlined my fingers as jigsaw pieces below.  Compare the colored puzzle pieces to the pencil drawing, and you’ll see that those odd shapes are truly accurate.

Look at that blue ring finger.  How weird is that?  According to your left brain, that’s not the way a finger is shaped!  And what is that wavy chartreuse worm thing?  Isn’t a finger seen from the front always straight-sided?

Well, no, it’s not.  The real world is full of all kinds of little “anomalies.”  Even if your fingers are naturally more regular than mine, they will fall into their own characteristic positions different from other people’s.

These endless idiosyncrasies don’t fit the left brain’s need to have one quickly-accessible, all-purpose image of “hand” and “fingers.”  Most of the time, it’s imperative that your brain not think of the infinite number of shapes that a finger can appear in.  If your brain had to call to mind all those shapes every time you said “finger,” you’d never get through your day.  This is why our everyday default mode of thinking is left-brained.

But when we want to draw, we need to shift our seeing to R-mode in order to capture the boundless quirkiness of the real world.

How to draw the jigsaw puzzle

OK, so now you know you need to look for the odd shapes that your fingers (or anything else you want to draw) actually are.  But how do you draw those shapes?  How do you record them accurately with your pencil or charcoal?

The answer is to take up each jigsaw piece, one at a time, and figure it out in relationship to the pieces around it.  And periodically, you need to take a look over the entire puzzle to make sure you’re not getting something big out of whack.

More specifically: as you gaze at each bit of your hand, you’re looking that particular bit’s shape and size in relation to other bits around it, and eventually in relation to the whole. Below is a time-lapse demo of my “jigsaw puzzle” as I put it together.

Rough (not exact) position I used for this drawing tutorial.

Let’s get set up for this week’s pose, and move through the jigsaw process below.

Materials and Set-up

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

Placement of your hand

In this tutorial for the first time we’re drawing the hand with your palm facing you, rather than the back.

Look at my hand (right) and try to place your hand in a roughly similar position. Fold your fingers inward to touch your palm.  For this tutorial, keep the visible part of your fingers straight.  If they curve, they’ll appear foreshortened, like those in the photos below.  Foreshortening is a challenge that we’ll take on in a future tutorial.  For now, we’ll keep it simple: keep those lower joints straight!

Left: hand has first joint of fingers bent inward, so they appear foreshortened, making them a bit more difficult to draw. Right: both joints of fingers appear foreshortened.

Snuggle the thumb gently up against your forefinger.

(Parenthetically, I have to apologize for my ugly bruised fingernail – I slammed it in a door a couple days ago.  In earlier lessons, I’d already apologized for my permanently-bent baby finger.  Come to think of it, that’s also a result of slamming it in a door.  Anyway, the internet is a wonderful thing except that it’s now going to immortalize my blue nail.  But for art, I’m sucking up all vanity and just getting the tutorials out, embarrassments and all.)

Building the right-brain jigsaw puzzle

Below is a time lapse video with a schematic representation (on the left) of how I built the jigsaw puzzle of this hand pose.  The “puzzle-construction” is a metaphor for how I was thinking while drawing. I made the puzzle just for this blog post, after I drew my hand, reconstructing my right-mode-drawing thought process in a way that I hope will make it understandable to you.

On the right of the time lapse is my actual pencil sketch.

Beneath the video, I’ve written a commentary of what I was doing in each frame.  I’ve numbered each frame so you can easily match it to the text.

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 (hopefully your computer set-up will let you do this – mine never does it exactly).

Note:  the colors I’ve used for my jigsaw pieces have no meaning.  I’ve chosen them for fun and to make the puzzle-building as visually clear as I can.

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Throughout the drawing, I’m thinking of each bit I draw as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that has to fit properly into the pieces around it.

All the verbiage below may seem overwhelmingly complicated to your left-brain.  But when you develop your capacity to see and draw in right brain mode, you will make these calculations with lightening speed and little conscious thought.

Frame #1 – I’ve drawn a light pencil line around the top and one side of my paper, to give me an additional reference as I draw.  It helps me envision correct shape for the elongated triangle (the chartreuse – chartreuse – “jigsaw piece” in the video) that forms the left side of my wrist and hand up to the curve at the bottom of my thumb.  It’s difficult to draw because of its length and because you have nothing else yet to relate it to.  Thinking of it as two sides of a triangle-shaped puzzle piece will help you get it right.

(The horizontal pencil line in the left margin outside this line has nothing to do with my drawing.  It’s only there to help me align each photo as I’m creating the time-lapse video.)

Frames #2-3 – Two more smaller elongated triangles (green and green in my puzzle) form the outside edge of my thumb.  (I’ve actually sketched in pencil the imaginary “third side” of the triangle, helping me visualize it more easily.)  As you’re drawing, think of these as two puzzle pieces whose shape, size, and position you need to draw in relation to the others you’ve already drawn.

Frame #4 – Trying to figure out the appropriate angle for the edge of my thumbnail, I notice that it’s in a line with the bottom joint of my thumb.  I lightly sketch this imaginary line in pencil.

Frames # 5-6 – Lightly sketching an imaginary line the width of my thumb helps me check that I’ve gotten the angles of my thumb joint “puzzle pieces” drawn accurately.

Frames #7-8 – The (imaginary) line I’ve just drawn helps me get the proper angles for the two lines of the other side of my thumb puzzle piece.

Frame #9 – I draw the next puzzle piece: the deeply-shadowed space between my thumb and forefinger.

Frame #10 – from here it’s easy to see where the side of my forefinger should be sketched.

Frame #11 – I draw an imaginary dotted line to check that I’ve ended the forefinger line in the right place.  I’m becoming aware that I shaped my first, large chartreuse triangular puzzle piece in a way that will make the palm of my hand too small.  But I’m not going to correct this till after I’ve finished the fingers (see below, Frame #52).  The bottom line of the fingers will give me the reference line I need to easily correct the size and shape of my palm.

Frame #12 – With all the puzzle pieces I’ve drawn around the thumb, it’s now easy to form the top and side of its topmost joint.

Frame #13 – A small grass-green triangle fills the space between the tops of the thumb and forefinger.

Frame #14 – A new and improved line for the nail-joint of the forefinger.

Frame #15 – Love those little triangle puzzle pieces that form the tops of fingers!  They’re small and simple to draw.

Frames #16-17 – I can now easily form the edges of the forefinger jigsaw piece, as it fits into the triangles on top and the dark shaded piece on its left side.

Frames #18-20Knuckle wrinkles are great measuring devices to check the relative sizes and shapes of the top and middle finger-segment puzzle pieces.

Frame #21 – Getting the shapes and placement of fingernails is key to drawing a realistic hand.  If you place all fingernails uniformly on every finger, your drawing will look awkward and unrealistic.  Fingertips and nails are also wonderful little measuring devices.  Because they’re relatively small, it’s easy to draw these jigsaw pieces accurately.  In this frame, I draw the finger area next to the fingernail.  You need to look carefully at the end of your finger.  Ask yourself: how much of your finger shows around the nail?  What is the actual shape of this flesh jigsaw piece?

Frame #22 – Ask yourself: what is the actual shape of the fingernail as it’s visible on this finger?  Every nail is seen from a slightly different angle, so appears to be a different shape.  Look carefully at your forefinger nail and draw it as it actually appears.

Frame #23 – Look at the shape of the little triangle between the top knuckles of your middle and ring finger.  Draw this jigsaw piece.  I also added a little line beginning the edges of two adjacent finger-jigsaw pieces.

Frame #24 – There’s a small triangle of shadow between the tip of the pointer and middle fingers (near the nails).  I always love such little shapes because they’re easy to draw, yet help a lot in figuring out the shapes of the adjacent jigsaw pieces.

Frames #25-26 – Figuring out the location of the edges of the middle-finger puzzle piece.

Frames #27-9 – I again use knuckle wrinkles to measure and shape the two finger segments above and below the joint.

Frames 30-31 – Look very carefully at the nail on your middle finger, and at the skin visible on either side of it.  There may be more or less flesh seen around this nail as compared with the pointer.  The nail will appear to be shaped differently, too.

Frames #32-34 – I form the ring finger shape as it fits into the jigsaw pieces around it: the green triangle above and the mauve and lavender middle-finger pieces to the left.

Frame #35 – a somewhat triangular piece sits between the bottoms of the middle and ring fingers.  A short curved line forms the deep wrinkle in the middle of the palm, which here appears to emerge from beneath the middle of the middle fingertip.

Frames #36-40 – A last little green triangle piece forms the top of the pinky.  The rest of the pinky fits into the side of the ring finger piece.  Knuckle wrinkles again help double-check size and shape.

Frames #41-46 – Fingernail jigsaw pieces are again formed by carefully examining  the size and shape of the skin visible on either side, and the size and shape of the nail itself.  The ring finger is the only one on which flesh is visible on both sides of the nail.  Each nail is shaped slightly differently.

Frames #47-48 – In my hand, as seen in this position, two shapes (divided by folds) form the areas immediately under the pinky.  What are these shapes?  Examine your own hand carefully to see what shapes form this area.  For my hand, there is an upper triangle and a lower almost-rectangular jigsaw piece.

Frames #50-51 – by making visual reference to all the shapes already drawn, I sketch in the right edge of my hand and wrist.

Frames #52-3 – I’m finally able to use the bottom of the four completely-sketched fingers to determine the right size and shape of my hand/palm left half.  I can now easily correct the error I made in its left edge at the very beginning of my drawing, and confirm the shape of the bottom thumb segment.

Frame #54 – I add the small triangle-shaped jigsaw piece that lies between the bottom of the pinky and the right lower edge of the ring finger.

Frame #55 – What appears to be a triangle puzzle piece is formed by the wrinkles in the middle of the palm.  This piece nestles beneath the middle fingernail.

Frames #56 – 7 – the basic drawing of my hand is completed with the thumbnail.

Next week, we’ll continue with the rest of this drawing: the shading, seeing it as the addition of more jigsaw puzzle pieces.

A last thought:

It’s interesting that my final assembled jigsaw resembles a common painting style in which shapes are simplified and surfaces appear flattened.  Even though my actual drawing is realistic, my underlying  thought process sees each bit of the drawing as a highly simplified, flattened shape.

Next post we’ll see that the shading process – which creates the 3D look – is actually as simplified and flattened as the drawing stage.

I’d love to hear from you:  Did this jigsaw puzzle metaphor help your drawing process?  Let me know what works and doesn’t work for you in learning to sketch realistically.