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Drawing Hands and Feet

Students often struggle with the hands and the feet when drawing the human figure. I have historically created a variety of different homework assignments that emphasize exploration of hands and feet (sometimes together, sometimes separately) as important components of the figure. It is relatively easy to create variations on this exercise that encourage more enthusiastic engagement by your students—you can ask for the hands and feet to interact with something, you can ask for a study of hands and feet that tells us something about the student by including additional information, you can assign it as a sort of self-portrait and leave the interpretation of this up to the students, you can ask them to incorporate different techniques for each hand or foot that is drawn (line only with tonal line variation, cross contour lines with tonal line variation, planar investigations with or without value structure, and full value studies of the hands and/or feet. You can ask them to compare the hands and feet of females and males. You can ask them to incorporate youthful hands and aged hands. You can ask them to incorporate some instances of foreshortening. There are so many ways to add interest and variation to this project, but it is absolutely vital that students draw from direct observation of hands and feet rather than photographs. If this presents an issue and you find that students are likely drawing from 2D images even when you have indicated that this is not acceptable, it is an exercise that you can tailor to the classroom so you know that students are drawing from direct observation.

Students will often complain that they can’t find a model, in which case I encourage them to draw their own hands and feet from direct observation or use a mirror to provide viewpoints that might otherwise be prohibitive. Even using a mirror to study their own hands and/or feet, you can ask for interesting and useful elaborations on their drawings as outlined above.

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