Category: Sketching Blog

Action Sketching: How to draw abstract hands

There are numerous, very generous tutorials on the web that teach how to draw anatomically correct hands, but unless you are creating formal portraits, often it is what you don’t see that shapes the perception of what is going on. Frequently, portions of hands and fingers are hidden, either behind something, like a sports ball, or they are just to small to be seen clearly.

To demonstrate how tiny hands can be in a drawing, I sketched a pitcher inside of a full-size trace of my own hand. You might think his right hand is about to throw a ball, but it is your imagination, not your eyesight that informs you. Although in my last blog I did show a detailed drawing of a hand holding a softball, even in that picture, your imagination informs you what that hand looks like behind the ball and not anything I expressly showed you.

When sketching characters in action, abstract images become the key ingredients of suggested reality. Rather than worry about hand anatomy, make sure the general shapes you draw suggest what you want your viewers to see, then trust their imaginations to fill in the rest.

Jim Lee, a highly regarded comic-book artist, writer, editor, and publisher, produced the best tutorial on the subject of abstract hand shapes I’ve ever seen! Use the tips shared in the following video and you’ll never have trouble drawing active hand motions again.

In my next blog on action sketching, I’ll again turn to Jim Lee’s advice on how to show body motion without too much concern about anatomy. If you use a fully-jointed mannequin, as suggested in Action Sketching: A supplies list, you’ll get even more out of that lesson.

Links:

Author:

This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. January 22, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

All material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at karen@littleviews.com.

 

Action Sketching: Hands holding sporting equipment

While learning the anatomy of hands is very useful, when drawing action figures, rarely are hands empty or leisurely posed. Instead, hands curl, splay, and are often wrapped around something.

This tutorial shows how to view and ultimately draw hands holding equipment even though you might be too far away from their action to actually see them.

Hand holding a football - by Karen Little of Littleviews

Man holding a softball - by Karen Little of Littleviews

Illustration of man holding a tennis racket by Karen Little of Littleviews

Like with drawing full bodies in action, hands can be interesting subjects themselves. They hold poses generally no one sees unless they watch ultra slow-motion video or see photos.

Likewise, the only way you’ll ever know what hands do is to refer to photos as videos seldom refer to them.

To build your own reference library, attend games or practice sessions and take close-up photos of people holding equipment. If you need to capture hands holding baseballs and bats during, say, basketball season, however, visit a sporting goods store with a friend and take  picture there.

Make an effort to organize your photos. Review them prior to attending a game if you plan on sketching while you watch the plays. Your memory of what you saw will help you capture what “is” that you can’t really see.

My next Action Sketching blog will be how to create abstract hands when sketching full body action where hands are simply a fractional part.

Links:

Note that most online tutorials specialize in drawing empty hands in various positions. The information is very useful but relies on you having to imagine an anatomically correct hand holding something.

Author:

This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. January 15, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

All material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at karen@littleviews.com.


Action Sketching: How to accurately sketch people in motion

The purpose of this tutorial is to teach you how to quickly and accurately draw active people, without resorting to anatomy lessons or guesses. This method relies on reference photos of active people. After selecting a subject, it requires that you draw two sketches of it (a preliminary and final), each on top of a simple, hand-drawn grid.

Photo of man playing tennisUnlike sketching architecture, where the subject, such as a house, is immobile and constructed from a repeatable plan, active people have wildly different physical features and no shared postures.

Although we can imagine how someone kicks a soccer ball or jumps a hurdle, the only way to accurately draw this behavior is by viewing it as a frozen image through a photograph or stop-frame video.

Learning anatomy helps you understand how physical postures might look when in motion, but it does not inform you about specific postures that take place. Consequently, anatomy lessons are not included in this tutorial as they are too general.

Keep in mind, however, that this method is about sketching, not developing illustrations for art galleries. By using it, you’ll produce very satisfying sketches, and hopefully, you’ll be pleased enough with your results to want to further your skills and encourage others to join you.

Materials and Tools

  • Drawing paper (I prefer Canson Mix Media for a more tactile feel under a pencil, but any paper will do)
  • A pencil (I like a BIC mechanical pencil because they are inexpensive, but better ones exist)
  • A straight edge (a ruler or any straight, hard surface  next to which you can draw a line)
  • A photograph of a person in action from any source. Note that if you are producing drawings for sale or publication, you need to obtain permission from the owner or subject to use it if a copyright exists.

Preliminary Image

Example of a preliminary action sketch by Karen LittleYour next step is to create a preliminary image like the one on the right, drawn in under 4 minutes. This is the first of two images you’ll quickly sketch, from the preliminary to the final.

The preliminary image is your exploratory drawing. It is here where you observe your subject and strive to sketch him or her proportionately, without distortion.

The preliminary image helps you organize what you see, with your final composition demonstrating what you learned.

The grid is made up of guidelines that mark the top, bottom, middle and center of the  subject, such as clearly depicted in the diagram below.

Action sketch grid used to help prevent distortions in drawing by Karen Little

Crucial to the diagram is the Center Point, which falls between the high and low point on the perpendicular line between them.  Measurement units, such as inches or centimeters, are not important.

Before starting to sketch, note the location of the center point on your subject. This point will match the grid’s Center Point.  As you go forward, start sketching at the center, not on the top or bottom. Sketch what falls within each quadrant and how those things relate to one another. Do not focus on the image as a whole.

By working in small, highly-focused areas, you will be less likely to introduce position distortion into your overall sketch.

To demonstrate, below is my preliminary sketch superimposed on the diagram.

Demonstration of a preliminary sketch on the action sketch grid by Karen Little

In this example, part of the face, a shoulder, and hip are in the top, left quadrant. The back of the head, a shoulder, and two arms are in the top right. Each leg is in its own quadrant, but such even distribution is not always the case.

Rapid Sketching

Starting at the Center Point, rapidly sketch what you see, going in any direction you please, but focus on what falls within each quadrant, not the whole image. Consider such things as:

  • Shoulder positions
  • Neck placement
  • General head placement, especially observing the relationship of the chin to the shoulders
  • Elbow and knee relationships
  • Hip placement and direction
  • Angle of extremities from their origins
  • Foot and hand angles

Final Sketching

After completing your preliminary sketch, draw the grid for your final work on a second piece of paper.

Again, measurement increments are not important. Use what you learned when doing your preliminary as a guide for developing your final.

In the following example, my preliminary sketch helped me form my final and while constructing my final, I made corrections that I did not initially see and improved upon its overall look.

Even if you do not understand anatomy, the grid forces you to focus on positional relationships, enabling you to sketch the final with more confidence and fewer distortions.

Sketch of many playing tennis to illustrate action sketching by Karen LittleYes, there is more to learn about sketching than what you see here. Even studying anatomy is very helpful. Most important with this technique, however, is that you learn how to quickly and accurately plan and sketch relationships between body parts in action.

Date your final sketches and keep all of them.

Refer back to your sketch library to see your own growth, identify areas you’d like to improve, and/or use poses for future projects.

Photo and Illustration References

The photo used in this article is by Bogdan Glisik as originally posted on Pixel.com.

Illustrations by Karen Little.

Links

Author

This article was written and illustrated by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. January 4, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free for non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

All material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at karen@littleviews.com.

Action Sketching: Drawing accurate relationships and cartoons

We at Littleviews encourage you to draw action figures because the act of drawing helps you to better understand a subject and it can fill your time with an enjoyable pastime.

Unfortunately, while many people take drawing lessons, they fail to achieve satisfactory skills. The reason for that is that they are taught to draw completely by eye, with no other tools to measure the correct proportions of a subject.

There are many tools that can be used to quickly create correctly proportioned drawings. Here are examples that appear in Google Image Searches:

If you search for “artist tools,” however, you will mainly see paint brushes.

Leonardo da Vinci learned his craft by spending years directly copying the work of his master, Andrea del Verrocchio. Likewise, Leonardo taught his students by using the same method.

Direct copying teaches people how to see a three-dimensional object, such an action figure, as a one-dimensional (flat) object on paper.

Example of freehand sketch using photo reference

Without using the Leonardo method, you can see above how distorted a freehand sketch can be even when based on a reference photo. The player’s left arm is completely wrong as is the left side of his billowing shorts.

If freehand sketching was your only option, you’ll almost never be able to understand distortion unless an instructor points it out.

Today, you don’t need to copy a grand master’s work to learn about proportions and relationships. Simply find and copy easily available photos and other images you see on the web.

Note that even on my finished painting, I improvised areas, rather than slavishly copied. A cartoon does not impose itself on you. Rather, you impose yourself on it.

Cartoons:

An outline sketch, whether proportional or imagined, is called a “cartoon.” Cartoons are guidelines. Cartoons, in fact, were used to sketch out the imagery that was eventually painted on the Sistine Chapel. Yes, the great masters were cartoonists!

While an outline provides a guide, it is how you finish your drawing that makes your work unique. I will discuss finishing techniques in future blogs.

Links:

For copyright-free reference material, visit:

  • Pixel.com for “the best free stock photos & videos shared by talented creators.”
  • Unsplash.com, “the internet’s source of freely usable images.”

There is a lot of information on the web about creating concept art.

An excellent tutorial by Donald Yatomi is “Sketching for Concept Art.” Yatomi shows how he uses a combination of very rough sketches, stacks of reference material, and his imagination to create previously unknown monsters and scenery. Unfortunately, this tutorial is only available through a subscription to Blueprint.com. The subscription is worth it, however, if you want to learn from masters, Yatomi among them.

Author:

This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on Littleviews.com. December 18, 2019.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to Littleviews.com and the article’s author.

All material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at karen@littleviews.com.

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