Proportions And Measurements

Anyone who has tried to draw the human figure has quickly learned that the hand is among the most complex of the body forms. To draw the hand accurately and with precision, you must know how to relate the individual parts to each other and how to unify the separate elements- A knowledge of proportions is necessary in art and should be used as a learning stage to new expressive adventures. This chapter will introduce essential measuring cues and their use in drawing the hand in correct proportion. Once the interrelated measurements are understood, you can create dynamic and alive hands without needing a model. You will also see the underlying symmetry and unity of the structures of the hand.

Hand Reach


The palm is I he governing form of the hand, and it vanes in shape from rectangular to square From it, proportions and measurements of the entire hjnd can be determined. Note two important measuring cucs shown here, First. the palm begins at the center of the wrist (Ay and extends to the base of the middle linger tB)* whieh forms part of the palm knuckle bulge. Second, the thumb emerges from the palm as a narrow triangular wedge extending at about a 25* to 30-degrce angle. The hasc of the triangle tG) aligns with (he \enical midpoint of the palm (Hi

The palm at its longest point (A it) H) is the same length as the middle finger (B to Fj. Every section of the middle finger is half the length of tlx: one above it. Thus the first phalanx and finger knuckle (B to O is half the length of the entire finger; the middle phalanx and second knuckle fl) to F) is hall the length of the first phalanx; and if the terminal phalan* (D to F> is divided, we have the length of the fingernail (E to F).

Other symmetries also exist. The schematic drawing at right shows, the index and fourth fingers to be equal in length. Check this in both draw ings and on your own hand. Also, the lips of the index and fourth fingers terminate at the nail bed of the middle finger. Not all people show these equal lengths exactly, but a large enough majority have (hem to make this a feasible premise. Now note how the end of the linle finger aligns with the knuckle of the terminal phalanx of the fourth finger. The thumb also aligns with the palm and palm knuckles—the index finger knuckle (!) lines up with (he knuckle at ilie midpoint of the thumb (J), and the tip of the thumb lines up with the first phalanx of I he index finger.

Line Art Realistic Fingers


The drawings here show foreshortened views and emphasize thumb placement. The curved series of arrows indicates how the thumb, in advancing and receding position* in the depth plane, relates to the mid-hand (both dorsal and palmar sides), the palm knuckles, and the mdex finger knocklcs. Use of these measuring cucs can help you draw with more ease.

Hand Draw Hands


Arcs shown by the arrows here point out the relationship of the three long fingers of the hand. The index and ring fmger lengths can be inferred from the mil bed of the middle finger. Since these fingers are usually about equal length, arcs from one to the other can be used to determine correct placement of knuckles and finger ends w hen viewed in the depth plane. Note that this works consistently in the variety of actions shown here.

Hen Illustration

LITTLE FINGER MEASUREMENTS The tip of the little finger lines up with the last knuckle of the ring finger, thus finger placement can be easily integrated in all positions when this measuring cue is used. Correct positions of other fingers are based on measuring cues already described in previous drawings. For example, observe the alignment of thumb knuckle with mid-palm in the drawing at extreme right.

Finger Sketch

ANGLE OF ULNA AND LITTLE FINGER KNUCKLE The large palm knuckle on the dorsal side of the hand, from which I he little finger emerges, is directly in line with the ulnar protrusion, the base of the outer bone of the arm protruding at the wiisi. This important relationship marks a transition point between top and side planes of the outside of both hand and arm. This alignment is quite apparent in the side view shown at lower left, but correct placement of these points is less obvious, though essential, when the hand is draw n from angles, as shown in the drawings at upper left and below.


The top sketch shows the line marking the side edge of the index finger knuckles and on up the arm. This line defines the transition point between top and side planes of the inside of the hand and arm. It rises high at the wrist and palm and then courscs down to the fingertips. The juncture with the wrist (zero pomt between arrow flows) occurs at the end of the inner forearm bone, the styloid process of the radius. The line of the thumb rises at an angle to meet the line of the index finger at the wrist girdling line. The juncture at the styloid process is invariable. The two lower sketches show how this point of intersection is consistent even in different hand positions and different views.

Hand Positions


Some of the most difficult views of (he hand are those yrtii from the palm side, especially if the palm and fingertips are in deep space with the thumb in some extended action. The thumb and index finger placement then becomes most difficult, as does placement of the lines from inner and outer arm. In the upper drawing, the thumb has been put in last, after the finger and rear arm lines have been set. Note the ease with which index finger and little finger palm lines relate to tf* contours of (he lower forearm. The thumb insertion ts found by relating it to the wrist girdle arnl index finger juncture (iero point) as described earlier. The lower sketches show how the thumb goes from forward thrust at left to a deeper, upended thrust at right. Also note the arm line positions, especially those on the little finger side.

Line Art Realistic FingersDrawing Proportion

PARALLEL CURVES AND SPIRALS Dealing with measurements, proportions, and finger placement is the mechanics of good drawing. However, it is equally important to understand the hand as a larger, interrelated system of natural rhythms. When fingers are extended to their limit, as shown in the upper drawing, two of these natural rhythms occur. The extended fingers show subtle crests and troughs, and an upswing develops at the fingertips, which seem enormously energized. A second rhythm sweeps in arcs from knuckle to knuckle and from palm to fingertips. The draw ing at bottom show s the almost nblike curves of the fingers. When they swing parallel across the hand, starting at the pa'™ continuing to the fingertips, the general design of the hand can be quickly envisioned

Hand Proportions


Awareness of the clltpucal spirals of I he hand may produce spontaneous insight into form and can help you organize form when the hand is seen deeply foreshortened or with projected or closing fingers, as in the two drawings here. Note how vitalized the fingers look here. It doesn't mailer at what point you stan to lay in the natural rhythms, beginning with a free sketch first or with knuckle positioning, the sense of this rhythm will help you greatly in your sense of the design.

Hand DrawingsSurface Anatomy Little Finger

LITTLE FINGER AND THUMB RELATIONSHIPS The little finger and thumb have an affinity for each other. If the palm is open and spread w ide, as show n in the center sketch, and lines arc drawn from the lip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger at the outside edges, these lines wilt be at a 90-dcgrec angle from each other and converge at ihc point where the palm joins the arm (zero point). A line can also be drawn from this point to the end of the middle finger. If the thumb is moved across the open palm, this movement will form a hyperbolic arc to a point of contact with the base of the little finger. The dorsal palm knuckle is directly under the thumbnail on the dor\al side of the hand.

The sketch at left illustrates that when the fingers are expressing number three, the thumb crosses and rests on the second knuckle of the little finger» actually lining up with the palm knuckle beneath it, as if the little finger were not in the way. Note that the vector lines from the outside of the little finger and from the outside of the thumb converge at zero point and are perfectly equal in distance from each other. Awareness of this relationship w ill help you in draw ing various hand positions in which the thumb is folded over closed fingers.

The sketch of open palm at right shows how the little finger can be brought downward across the palm and will almost touch the zero point. This is the only finger which will align with this point.

Zeropoint HumanDrawings Hands Squeme


Sf (he lingers are fully outs!retched as shown in the center drawing, there will be a ISO-degree angle between the lip of the tittle finger and the lip of the thumb. If the thumb and little finger are brought together over the midline of the palm, with the other three fingers outstretched, as shown in the drawing at upper left, the fingertips will meet as if both fingers were the same length. This relationship can also be seen in the sketch at lower right, with the hand shown from a foreshortened rear view Two positions of the thumb and little finger relationship are shown—inner and outer. It the little finger and thumb were to go from flat, horizontal positions up to an erect, closed position, the fingers at any stage would be given equal length.


In the upper, deep palmar view, with fingers stressed in full extension, note how the little finger and thumb appear to be lips of symmetrical homs, lying at the end of a great wavclike arc (sec smaller schematic at left). The lower sketch shows fingers more outstretched, with thumb and little finger moving toward each other but still maintain ing the wavclike form.

How Draw HandsHow Draw Outstretched Hands Drawing Hands

All hands and amis have a special behaworul characteristic which they also share with the legs—thev tend to curve inward This ma> account for the consistent underrurve of the arms mentioned earlier in Chapter I. As the arms move forward in ¡iclion. the tension projects the hands outward from the lines of the arms, as shown in the drawing above. Note especially the directional arrows on the forearms and the splayed index finger thrusts.

Note in the draw ing below that fingernails of receding fingers rorare from an almost straight-on view, shown by the index finger, to a curse on the little finger that is almost out of sight. The thumbnail, however, rotates according to the action of the hand or the action of the thumb.


If the base of the pal™ is level with the chin base, as shown at left, the fingers will reach the brow, and the long middle finger will touch the hairiinc. If the thumb is placed in the inner arm elbow depression, as shown at right, the hand will span from that point to the base of the palm, A knowledge of these proportions will be extremely useful when dealing with the figure as a whole.


In a final note on measured relationships, if the hand is placed in side position and laid on the brow, it will fit almost exactly between the hairline and the eyebrows. In some cases, a large hand will also cover the nose root. The palm can also be placed in side position in contact with the nose base, and the side of the palm will reach the base of the chin. These measuring cues can he especially useful when drawing multiple figure compositions.

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