Historically, many artists have had difficulty painting and drawing hands. Edgar Degas often obscured the hands of his ballerinas or painted them incorrectly, whereas Mary Cassatt knew the hand well and never shied away from them.
Why are hands a challenge to paint and draw? In this post, I will outline the top 5 common mistakes artists make. These mistakes will point out the difficulties in drawing hands while explaining how they can be drawn correctly. Hands are known as the most difficult subject to draw. Interestingly, even non-artists know this.
Several years ago I painted a large body of work (26 pieces) where I featured the hand as the subject to tell my visual story. Through the power of hands, I commemorated the women of the 1800’s, conveying the important contributions they made to the United States. The series is entitled, “No Time for Idle Hands.” My book describing my process and experiences is titled, “An Artist’s Journey with the Women of the West.” The watercolor painting above is “Always on the Move.”
The common 5 mistakes artists make painting and drawing hands:
1. Artists tend to rely on their visual dictionary when painting and drawing hands. It is important to let-go of this visual history and really LOOK at the hand you want to draw. Because we see our hands all day long, we have a tendency to make assumptions when drawing hands.
2. It is important to notice the negative spaces between our fingers. It is easy to get caught up in drawing the fingers and palm/back of the hand, meanwhile you loose the essence of what you want the hand is to be doing when the negative spaces are not accurately seen. For example, in “Prized Possession,” (below) you can see the various negative spaces I had to draw to convey that this woman was playing a pump organ keyboard.