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By Ron Lemen

The hands, along with the face should recieve careful attention. for  one thing, aside from the head, they are usually the only other exposed  part of the body. Secondly, they are equally as expressive in gesture,   emotion and action. Because of the complexity of joints, masses and  planes, along with their expressive nature, the hands can, and usually  are, the hardest thing to learn on the entire human form.

The first thing that most artists in training do wrong is they make the  hands too small. Here is where the importance of head drawing comes in.  If you know how to proportion the head into its proper units of  measure, then you have also determined the units of measure for the  hands. If you place your hand over your face, the tip of the fingers  will start at the hair line, and the palm will end at the chin. This is  your measuring device for the hand.

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I hope the importance of figure drawing is really starting to sink in  now. If you can draw the figure, you can essentially draw anything for  two reasons; one, you have studied diligently in knowing that the human  form consists of masses of solid shapes, and two, if you place a figure  in a room full of things, you can use the figure as a measuring device  to judge all of the objects in that room. You also know that these   objects, like the figure, have mass.

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Back to the point- Composing the hand The hand has two masses, that of  the thumb part, and that of the hand proper, or, the rest of the hand.  The double rows of the carpel bones, or wrist bones are fused to the  hand, making one mass. The wrist is not a floating mass, or ball joint   like those of the wooden art dummies. The hand always moves with the wrist. Twice as wide as it is thick, the wrist gets a bit smaller where it joins the arm. You can also think of the wrist as a universal joint because of its side-to-side and up and down motion as well as all of  its rotary movement.

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The center of the body of the hand is slightly below the body of the  arm. For example, lay your arm and hand flat on a table, palm down, and  notice that the wrist does not touch the table top. You will see the  mass of the wrist rises from the hand at a slight angle where it joins   the arm.

The thumb side of the hand is larger than the side of the little  finger. The hand is broader at the fingers than at the wrist: however,  at the wrist it is deeper. also notice on your own hand that the palm  is longer than the back of the hand. The thumb is set into the palm by  an independent and highly mobile "ball of the thumb", giving it a great  range of movement independent from the rest of the hand. In the palm of  the hand most of the modeling is caused by a system of cushions and  pads, nicely "upholstered together. On the front of the thumbs and   fingers, as well as a considerable area of the palm, the substance  built upon the bony foundation is literally padding. The fingers all  taper, with the middle finger, being the longest, forming the apex of  the mass. Each finger itself tapers, with a tendency to converge toward  the middle finger. Measured outside, the length of the thumb equals the length of the middle finger. The body of the thumb is heavier than the  other fingers, but, but unlike them, only the last joint tapers. The   sections of the fingers are more square than they would seem at first  glance, with the last section containing the nail being quite  triangular in shape, the nail with the flesh on either side forming its base. You will do well to memorize the anatomy of the hand and fingers  for if you know the bone construction of the ahnd, you will never have  trouble in drawing it with character and expression.

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It is important to know the joints and their degree of limitation and  movement. The first joint of the thumb and the first two joints of the  fingers are hinge joints. Movement is limited to up and down, not side  to side or rotational. Fully extended, the topmost joint of each finger  is bent very slightly backwards. The lower joints of the fingers and   the lower joint of the thumb will bend forward to an acute angle, while  the upper joints or finger tips cannot bend even to a right angle. Review that really quickly the top two joints of all the fingers and the thumb are hinge joints, 90 degree motions only. The lower joint of  the fingers and thumb, as well as the wrist are ball joints. You never  need be at a loss for models of hands to study. Even when drawing, you  have another hand to serve in that capacity at any time and as faithfully as you choose. The addition of a mirror in front of you in  which to reflect your free hand will give you an infinite variety of  poses to choose from.

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1. To draw the hand in action the first step is spacing and placing. You want to sketch in the action and approximate location of the hand,  fitting each part as it appears.

2. Next solidify, or construct the shapes-the block method of drawing  the hand is of great assistence in defining the planes and surfaces of  the hands and fingers.

3. Next start to add the details. Carefully add the details of the  hand and fingers erasing the first two steps as you go, and as they are  no longer necessary, or they have already served their purpose.

4. Finally, add the tones, or light and dark planes. Reflective light  applies here, so long as the shot calls for it.

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Memorize this stuff, get an anatomy book, and study. You will never  stop studying the hand as you will probably never draw the same hands  in the same pose twice. Every shot is a new lesson in hand   construction, and a new journey or exploration into a great adventure  of expression. Again, the hands are equally as important as the face. They require equal importance of attention and study as the head.

Hope this helps out a bit. Happy drawing.