Drawing Hands: Anatomy and Construction

As I draw, I am actually always focused on the anatomy. The drawing is a progression, starting with the gesture through construction, but always in relation to the anatomy. In the following drawings and diagrams you will see that there is really no separation. As you develop your understanding and skill you will essentially use all of the elements, at the same time emphasizing one or the other as needed.

Hand Anatomy 1
Hand Anatomy 1

In illustration *A* above I have indicated the abductor pollicis muscle that originates on the underside of the middle metacarpal bone as it attaches to the thumb.

Hand Anatomy 2
Hand Anatomy 2

The first dorsal interosseous muscle between the thumb and index finger crosses over as shown in illustration *B*.

Hand Anatomy 3
Hand Anatomy 3

In illustration *C* I have shown a general plan of the extensor tendons of the hand. In moving the fingers of your own hand you should be able to see the large tendons as they pull over the joints when you move your fingers.

Hand Anatomy 4
Hand Anatomy 4

Look at hand *D* and try to see how the tendons come to the surface. Notice that the tendons are not always in the center of the joint.

The construction is derived from the anatomy. The knuckles are formed by the joints between ends of the metacarpals and the tops of the first phalanges. The metacarpal bone has very distinct corners with a ball joint to the finger. The top of the bones tend to be flat. This is the basis for using the box form for the fingers. The tendon rides between the corners of the box with the muscles, as shown, coming down the sides. In profile you can see that the bones are actually arches. The fingers are composed primarily of bone, tendon and fat.

In going from gesture to construction, I generally do one on top of the other, keeping the gesture part of the drawing very light. In these construction drawings I still keep a fairly loose feeling to the drawings even though I am using box forms. Remember no rules, just tools.

In constructing the hand, I start from the wrist and visualize it as an oval or box form. I add the wrist, visualizing it as a spherical form, much like a mannequin. In approaching the mass of the metacarpals, keep in mind the slope to either side from the middle finger, and also the fact that the palm is larger than the top of the hand, extending half way to the center of the finger joint. In the next series of examples I am focusing on illustrating the box forms. In practice, I still always start with the gesture. The box is a tool that help you understand how to render the form, and helps in organizing and clarifying the forms in space.

By Glenn Vilppu

This article was taken from the first lesson in the Vilppu Drawing Hands and Feet Manual and is the first in a series dedicated to teaching how to draw the hands and feet. Glenn Vilppu teaches life drawing at the American Animation Institute, the Masters program of the UCLA Animation Dept., Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Dreamworks and Rhythm & Hues Studios. Vilppu has also worked in the Animation industry for 18 years as a layout, storyboard and presentation artist, most of this time was spent working at Disney. His drawing manual and video tapes are being used worldwide as course materials for animation students. Glenn Vilppu has, in effect, either through teaching them directly or teaching their teachers, trained an entire generation of professional animators.

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