How Not to Paint Hands
|How to Paint Hands in Oils|
- Painting the hands and the arms too small and thin in relation to the body.
- Portraying hands in a generalised way that does not set them apart from anyone else’s hands due to lack of observation.
- Painting only what the brain knows about hands rather than what the eye actually sees. For example, the palm is square; it is attached to a cylindrical wrist; it has five digits extending from it. Each finger exhibits a fingernail which has a crescent-shaped marking and (except for the thumb) bends at two points.
- Using flesh tint or pink pigment to represent the flesh tones of the hand.
- Using black to darken skin tones for the shadows around the hands.
- Using dark lines to represent the creases on the palms and on the folds around the joints.
- Painting fingers as extended when they are in foreshortened view or pointing at the viewer.
- Using poor photographic reference, forcing the artist to guess some of the detail in the hands.
To get to grips with painting hands, it is necessary to draw them accurately. The beauty of this is that the artist’s own hands are always available as a subject matter. Sketching hands at different angles is great practice for the figure painter. Try drawing the hand splayed out initially then try more challenging forms, such as:
- Hand in a fist.
- Hand holding a pencil.
- Fingers curled gently inwards.
- Finger pointing at the viewer.
- Handing holding a cup of tea.
- Hand resting palm upwards.
How to Improve Hand Painting
It is important to remember that hands are not only lines, but areas of colour and tone. Half closing the eyes and getting an overall view of how these abstract variations in skin colour are arranged will help in rendering more realistic paintings of hands. The following tips on painting hands will also help.
- Hands are much bigger in relation to the body than beginners often assume. This is because the brain assigns hands as less important than the head, and so represents this importance in size. The arms too are often represented as too thin. The length of an adult hand equals three-quarters the height of the head and the wrist is usually just a little narrower than the palm.
- The hand is also a more complex form than is often represented, consisting of sinews, muscles, hair, knuckles, wrinkles, cuticles and padding.
- Forget what the subject matter is when painting hands. This will help dispel any assumptions about what the hand “should” look like. View the hand as abstract forms and shapes. Observe the negative space between the fingers, as well as the shapes of the subject matter itself. If painting from a photograph, try turning it upside down.
- Hands can possess a multitude of colours that may not always be expected. Bin the black and the flesh tint. Mix colours from scratch. Oil pigments I often find in hands are: white, permanent rose, ultramarine blue, cadmium red, burnt sienna, burnt umber and pthalo blue. Other colours such as greens, violets and greys can also be found in hands. Interesting colours can be found in fingers that are backlit, allowing the artist to see blood colours shining through, or reflections from neighbouring clothing.
Oil Painting Techniques for Hands
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Links on Skin Colours and Figure Painting
Books on Figure Painting
Books on Oil Painting for Beginners
How to Paint Skin Tones in Portraits
How to Paint Figures