Drawing Hands & Feet
I prefer drawing from life to drawing from photography or memory, but in certain situations this is not always possible; for example, if I were to draw a ballerina in motion. So, following in the footsteps of Degas, I use memory and imagination to produce an image.
Drawing from imagination is not difficult – as children we did this quite naturally. All adults can draw from imagination, even if the outcome is a simple matchstick figure. However, if you find the idea of drawing a hand or foot from imagination too daunting, I recommend that you try the box method.
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The box method
Modern animators often use the box method to depict cartoon characters in action when making preparatory sketches. By representing the subject as a series of boxes, it becomes easier for the artist to visualize the form and give the drawing volume from the outset.
When I was creating the cartoon-character images in the diagram below, it was far easier to experiment with the articulation of the limbs by imagining a series of boxes, before settling on the final pose.
The thinking behind this method dates as far back as the early sixteenth century. The German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) produced the Stereometric Man (see below, left), a human figure represented as a series of cubes. This preparatory sketch was intended to be developed and included in the final chapter of Dürer’s Four Books on Human Proportion, which was published posthumously in 1532.
After Albrecht Dürer’s preparatory sketch for Stereometric Man.
1. First construct your imaginary hand as a series of cubes. If you are unsure where to start, reference your own hand to get an understanding of proportions. Be aware that your hand and fingers are three-dimensional and represent them purely as boxes, with no added detail. It is at this stage that you are able to alter your drawing and experiment with the finger boxes in different positions.
The schematic sketch
A schematic sketch can be used to help you to capture a form in just a few lines. The sketch creates a simple framework from which you can proceed to a finished drawing, using your own hand as a model.
Although similar to the box method, a schematic sketch is not quite the same thing. While both provide the first stage – the framework – of a drawing, a schematic sketch is used to capture the outline of the form whereas the box method effectively constructs the form. The schematic sketch is a simply-drawn framework, containing just enough information to enable you to complete a finished drawing.
In the example illustrated below, of a pair of hands gripping a walking stick, note that the handle is drawn in full in the schematic sketch (below left). This will ensure that the visible parts of the stick appear in the correct place and not distorted when you start to develop your drawing.
This illustration is an excellent example of why it is helpful to first produce a schematic sketch; it is also a demonstration of how artists have the power to see through solid objects!