Learning to see: Drawing hands & feet

July 30, 2013 · 11 comments

in Inspiration, Making art

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If you’re looking at someone’s drawing or painting of the human figure, always check out the hands and feet. They’re a dead giveaway of an artist’s training. A lot of us are totally uncomfortable with these complicated appendages — which is why I’m so lucky to be taking a workshop this week that is teaching me to see emotionally on a whole new level.

Hands and feet are hard to capture because there are so, so many finely articulated bones and muscles. They are also incredibly expressive. I’m learning to see them as a series of tilts and angular shapes, which is totally fascinating.

We are working from a live model, a woman. She has lovely hands and feet. But you wouldn’t know it from my first attempt at drawing her right hand! It has a witch-y claw-like look to it. Still, it was better than any hand I’d ever sketched before. In my second take on that same hand, I could see more, which gives the hand a more natural volume. It’s not as flattened out.

I ended the 9:00-12:30 p.m. session by taking a stab at sketching the model’s left hand and eyeballing her foot. At this point, I was starting to see the role that shadows also play in conveying mood. Shadows will never again be simply vague shading blobs for me. Who knew — they actually cast their own geometric shapes that help define what we look at. Wow, wow, wow.

This workshop I’m taking will run every day this week. That’s five mornings of luxuriating in hands and feet — a visual mani-pedi, haha! It’s forcing me to slow down, get quiet and just be with myself. What a treat.

If you’d like to see my progress, I’ll add more pictures to this post during the week, with some notes. And, if you’d like to know when they’re up, just subscribe to this particular post by going to the comments section below and checking off the box that says “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” (You can always come back and uncheck the box and the notifications from this post will stop.)

In the meantime, you might have fun by joining me this week in watching how people use their hands and feet as they sit, walk, rest and talk. I am also appreciating the interplay that light and shadow brings to every single visual moment that fills my day.

The new challenge presented by this class is this: We all absorb visual information as we go through our busy days. But how much do we really see? Learning to look means figuring out what to do with the information that’s passing before my eyes. How much can I take in? What is my idea of reality and how much am I willing to see of it?

So here’s to a week of not rushing. Just being. Letting myself feel stuff — even the queasy, uncomfortable emotions and situations. If I give them a chance to play out on the palette of my life, there might be something truly beautiful waiting to greet me. xoxoxoxo.

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Update on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013: This workshop was so fantastic. Hope you won’t mind if I blog about it next week. I went into this wanting to draw and got much more. Will share on Tuesday.

Meantime, here’s a foot I drew during the middle of the week. The lighting isn’t quite right and my use of the pencil isn’t sharp enough yet but I am heading in a new direction. My goodness, it was still the best foot I’d ever drawn in my life — at least, up until that point in time! And check out those lovely toes!

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