Drawing Anatomy Lesson: How to Draw Hands

Today we bring you Jon deMartin’s lesson on drawing anatomy, specifically, how to draw hands. It comes from his new book, Drawing Atelier: The Figure. We’ll begin with one of my favorite quotes from Jon: “Whether emphasizing line, value or both, the more techniques you have in your arsenal, the more you can exercise your imagination–your most valuable asset of all.”

Drawing anatomy, art by Michelangelo

‘A Flying Angel and Other Studies’ (black chalk, 15×16) by Michelangelo, ca. 1534–1536. Collection: The British Museum, London, England

Drawing Anatomy: How to Draw Hands by Jon deMartin

The series of drawings below shows the stages of hands drawn in different positions, all following the same basic steps. This approach goes back hundreds of years.

To practice, first try tracing the outline of your own hand on the paper to give yourself a “live” model of a hand’s proportions. Start with simple views and build to more complex ones.

Drawing hands well (or anything else for that matter) requires a deep understanding of structure and perspective, as well as many years of study. These are the hallmarks of true classical drawing. But far from being constrictive, a classical approach will let you enjoy more freedom than you ever thought possible.

Drawing anatomy, how to draw hands

Stage 1: Light lines are used to describe the large sweeping abstractions based on the hand’s most important projections. These can be observed both optically (their contours) and structurally (their boney landmarks).


Drawing anatomy, how to draw hands

Stage 2: In the middle phase, look for subtler forms, such as the bending of the knuckles, while considering their form’s three-dimensional appearance in perspective. Up to this point, lines are kept light and even.


Drawing anatomy, hand drawing

Stage 3: Once you are sure that the parts relate well to the whole, use line to sculpt the hand’s three-dimensional appearance in space. This gives permanency to the form, and as a result, makes it easier to control the placement of lights and darks. The model’s hand might move, but it will matter little because it is already solidly constructed.


 

General Advice for Drawing Anatomy:
Make your first sketch with the fewest, lightest lines possible in order to capture the general idea; it’s simply an approximation of what the finished drawing will look like. The universal rule of all drawing is not to finish any single part right away, but to faintly sketch the whole. In other words, you should give a certain visibility to all of the principal parts before finishing any single part. This will enable you to make intelligent and informed corrections. Whatever the stage of a drawing, it should have the same degree of resolution throughout.

Drawing Big:
Once you’ve established your format, get in the habit of setting guidelines on your drawing so that you can fit the drawing within your marks. Get used to drawing larger because it encourages you to draw all parts of your subject. Mistakes are much easier to see at a larger scale, and drawing large has the benefit of allowing you to include the small, beautiful structures of a form. Learning to draw on a large scale makes it easier to draw on a smaller one. The opposite is not true–if you get comfortable drawing small, then drawing large becomes difficult. When copying in particular, make sure that your copy is at least the same size as the original. ~Jon

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