Hands and feet are subjects that seem to continually give artists, professionals as well as students, a great deal of difficulty. There are many good books on anatomy, but few actually give much instruction on how to draw. It seems a basic truism for anatomy books that the one thing you are looking for is not there. We all end up with a bookcase full of anatomy books. Hopefully this small book will fill some of the gaps, if not in anatomy, in drawing.
In this volume, I am presenting procedures and methods of drawing hands and feet that go back to the 15th century. The two main parts of drawing anything is having an approach to analyze the subject and knowledge about the subject. In the drawings of Albert Durer, Hans Holbein, and Luca Cambiaso, done in the 15th century, we see the same methods of construction that are used today by fine artists, illustrators, traditional animators and computer artists to construct complicated forms. Simplifying forms using boxes became a necessity with the development of perspective in the 15th century just as it is in three-dimensional computer construction today.
Construction itself is only part of the process. Hands are one of the strongest elements
of expression in humans, and as such, the gesture of the hands is a vital part of the drawing. The gesture, what the hands are doing, is the first consideration in drawing them. Once we give the hands and feet gestures that fit the subject, we focus on how to draw them.
The analysis takes many forms, the essential approach being from the general to the specific. Most difficulties arise when we attempt to go into the details before having a solid foundation to apply them to. Hands and feet are particularly difficult because of the complexity of the forms to start with, and the variety of shapes, combinations and gestures they take. The natural tendency to focus on the details ends up making them even more difficult, which often leads to overworking. The end result is that they become even more conspicuous.
The ability to simplify comes not only from reducing the drawing to simple forms. An understanding of the basic structure gives authority to the form in simplification. In both the hands and feet, the bony structure is the primary source of construction and dictates the form that the simplification takes. The understanding of the basic anatomy of the hands and feet is a necessity, and as such plays a vital role in this book.
The basic layout of the book is designed to go along with the steps that we go through in doing a drawing. First the gesture, then construction, and ending with the rendering of the form. I will at the same time introduce the anatomical analysis that is the basis
for the drawing. Use this book as a textbook and guide to your studies. In the examples there are many drawings that show clearly the steps that I go through from
gesture, to box forms, to anatomy, to rendered surfaces.
By Glenn Vilppu
This article was taken from the Introduction to 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.