Photo Credit: J.H. Winter

Drawing Hands and Feet

Photo Credit: J.H. Winter

Hands and feet have always been my enemies, when it comes to drawing. I saw a post by a fellow illustrator (alias: Muffin Girl) years ago, that mentioned the very same thing. Her illustration included her trademark character, Muffin Girl, getting a piggy-back ride on the back of a human girl’s shoulders. As you can see, the girl’s arms are splayed out to the sides, hands off the page entirely.

Photo Credit: A Muffin Valentine Illustration 2014 via Artist Muffin
Photo Credit: A Muffin Valentine Illustration 2014, via Artist Muffin

That pretty much sums up how I feel about drawing them. It also probably explains why I don’t use realism in my portfolio. This way, my drawings don’t have to be perfect.

The hands and feet do, however, need to look proportionate and be posed in such a way that they look natural. Practice almost always makes perfect, and drawing is no exception.Tweet: Practice almost always makes perfect, and #drawing is no exception.

One helpful tip all artists are given at one point in their career or another, is to take a life drawing class. Understanding how hands and feet move organically and can be posed in a variety of ways, then drawing them from every angle, is the easiest way to convert them into more simplified lines for later illustrations.

I should have done this. I may still, if the opportunity presents itself.

My way of getting around not having this experience under my belt, is to pose myself or have someone pose for me, getting the angle of what I need captured in a photo for reference. If I need to draw a hand holding a pencil, or a character sitting cross-legged on the floor, I get out the camera.

Photo Credit: “6 of Swords” Art by Elisabeth Alba. Concept by Deborah Blake.

There was a great post I read, where concept creator, Deborah Blake, and illustrator, Elisabeth Alba, talk about their process for creating an illustrated deck of tarot cards. In the post, Elisabeth explains how she often uses photo references to get the angles of her characters just right. These references also help her know how a character’s clothing should move across their body, while standing in various poses.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Alba, Illustrator
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Alba, Illustrator

For the 6 of Swords, Elisabeth’s card shows a witch wearing a skirt that is bunched beneath her, while she sits atop her broom. In order to get the angle of the character and the lines of the skirt accurate, she did what any self-respecting artist would do: she got a broom.Tweet: She did what any self-respecting #artist would do: she got a broom.

Standing in the living room of her house, her husband took a picture of her on the broom, wearing a white skirt, and viola: photo reference accomplished. Life drawing at its best. Free of charge, and didn’t even have to leave the house!

Photo Credit: J.H. Winter
Photo Credit: J.H. Winter

Here I am in a pose I plan a character of mine to be in, for an illustration that is still in the concept stage, at this point. All I have is a chicken-scratch doodle for the drawing (see below); one I scribbled on a piece of orange note paper at work—very official, I know.

When I am drawing elements in nature, I always—ALWAYS—check photos on Google Images to see what the actual plant, animal, or underwater sea creature looks like. I may not consider myself a realist when it comes to my art, but I do like to know what the real life organism looks like. It helps me with color scheme and any texture I may want to add when doing the final touches.

Whether you are taking a still life drawing class, looking up an image on Google, or creating your own photo reference, having something to compare to is always helpful when drawing.

Unless of course, you are drawing aliens on some other planet, that don’t have five fingers or five toes, whose planetary wildlife looks nothing like what we have here on Earth. If that is the case, all I want to know is, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It would have saved me a lot of heartache trying to draw those perfect hands.

Do any of you find hands and feet difficult to draw? Have you found ways of skirting around the problem (certain angles, hiding them in pockets, etc.)?

"Wildfire" - Photo Credit: J.H. Winter
“Wildfire” – Photo Credit: J.H. Winter

4 thoughts on “Drawing Hands and Feet”

  1. Do I draw hands and feet *thinks* are they difficult to draw *rubs chin* No, and yes. But I like your blog and I wish I could. To be able to draw pictures to compliment stories would be perfect. My not trying to is not a lazy thing it is just.. *frowns* I have so many words to put down I may miss some if I take my eye offf the page.
    Nice work I think I will follow I hope you don’t mind.

    1. That sounds great! Drawing pictures to compliment my stories is the best way, I find, to visualize my characters. Especially if I’m writing for younger audiences. If I’m writing for teens or older, I just use pictures from Pinterest for character visuals. To each there own! I have visited and followed your blog as well. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

    1. I know, Elisabeth told me. I am such a dunce. :( I actually follow, Brenda Drake (also an author), on Twitter and must have just seen her name. The funny thing is, I proof read my blog posts 3-4 times before posting them, and still didn’t catch it. I had your name correctly spelled on the photo credit. That must count for something, right? I fixed it immediately after Elisabeth told me, so it should be correct now :)

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