Lisa is such a good model that it seems a waste to be drawing only part of her. However, I felt we must concentrate on hands…
…because they keep being fudged – or left out altogether – in life drawings.
This is partly because we run out of time. But in that case, why should hands be left so late in the process? Is it because they occur at the extremities?
In the end, I think it is because hands, like faces, are a challenge to draw. The trouble then is that hands and faces give so much expression to a pose that we simply can’t afford to duck the challenge.
So my suggestion is that we remember to tackle hands at an earlier stage of the drawing.
We had a series of shortish poses from Lisa, and the brief was that whatever got missed out in the time available, it wouldn’t be the hands.
And this is what we got:
Lisa by Angela. This drawing is entirely about the hands and arms and seems totally successful to me. The character of the left hand is obscured, so the wrist has to be right – which it is.
Same pose, by Julie. Most of the detail is concentrated in the hands and face. A good example of how well-drawn hands and a well-drawn face combine to communicate strong expression despite lack of detail elsewhere.
Lisa by Marta. Again, detailed work on the hands (really good) and face mean that the drawing is strong even though everything else is spare and sketchy.
Same pose, by Jane. It’s a tricky balance, getting the details right without sacrificing Jane’s natural freedom of stroke. In my opinion the left hand works but the right doesn’t. Just that suggestion of hinges at the wrist and knuckles gives the left hand an underlying bone structure.
Lisa by Angela. The hands are nicely drawn. But there is a problem which stems from the fact that the hands, particularly her left hand, are closer to us than the head and torso. So this hand in particular has to be drawn bigger than it actually is for it to appear nearer.
Same pose, by Julie. Same problem, though here I think it is the right hand that looks particularly small in relation to the arm it is attached to.
Same pose, by Marta – and same problem. Even more so this time because the face is a bit big.
In fact because we are dealing with depth, which is an illusion we have to create, I think we should consciously exaggerate in this situation. The hands are near, so make them extra big: the face is further back so make it even smaller. Here’s an example:
This is not a picture of Lisa, and the artist (Oskar Kokoschka) doesn’t attend these drawing sessions – partly because he’s dead. But this is what I mean by ‘when in doubt, exaggerate’. There is the same foreshortening problem as Lisa’s pose (above), and the artist has embraced it by making the hands bigger, and the face smaller, than the reality.
Finally, Lisa by Jane. This was a long pose, but Jane had given up on her drawing and started a new one with five minutes to go. Ok, the hands are a bit weak, but that is made up for, I think, by overall freshness and expressiveness.