Why You Should Include Hands in your Art Portfolio

Art school admissions counselors request drawings and/or paintings of hands because it gives them an idea of the applicant’s ability to perceive and render functional structure, proportion and light on form in a realistic manner. 

Images of hands that you submit for your portfolio must be drawn from direct observation of yourself or a live model and without the use of photography. Drawings and paintings may be either in black and white or in color. Hands may be shown in repose or in action. 

Many artists have difficulty painting and drawing hands. It’s one of the most, if not the most, difficult subject to draw. 

Because we see our hands all day long, we tend to make assumptions when drawing hands. It is important to really LOOK at the hand you want to draw. 

One tip to render hands accurately is to notice the negative spaces between the fingers. We get caught up with the fingers and palm, and don’t pay attention to the gesture. When you look at the negative spaces you can see the pose more accurately. 

Also, take the time to learn the bone structure and proportions of the hand. Hands are complex, so think about the bones underneath when you’re drawing, particularly the knuckles. Just knowing the basic proportions of the hand will make it easier to draw without measuring. 

You can also break down the forms of the hand into simple shapes like cylinders and spheres, which will help you to understand the underlying structure, in order to learn how to draw hands with accuracy and confidence.

When you’ve practiced drawing hands enough that you’re able to use them as a subject to draw, paint or sculpt for your art portfolio, think about the symbolism of hands in art. 

The hand is the most frequently symbolized part of the human body. The hand speaks, they are expressive, conveying dramatic human emotion. The hands can indicate strength, power or protection. There are so many hand gestures varying in symbolism: blessing, consecration, guilt, healing, honesty; the hand on heart – for love and adoration or two hands clasped for friendship, or hands on hips for power or arrogance

In a way people’s hands can almost be said to speak. We use them to demand, promise, dismiss and threaten. We use them to indicate joy and sorrow, and they express approval, and wonder. 

Through drawing, painting or sculpting a single line, a portrayal, a simple gesture of the hand, a person’s character and personality are revealed as clearly as if you’d rendered their face. For most people their hands express feelings that we’ve taught our faces to disguise.

When you’ve taken the time to draw many people’s hands, the lines, the curves, the veins, the wrinkles, you’ll find that the hands have moods, character, and their own particular beauty. 

You can use your own hands as a reference, or a friend or family member. Before you start drawing a hand, make sure you pick an interesting gesture. Try to experiment a lot, by performing a gesture and notice what happens to your hand. Try to emulate those gestures in some fast and loose sketches.

Start by blocking in bigger shapes; and then later add details like small wrinkles or fingernails later. Observe how the finger and thumb bones, the joints, the wrist, the palm and the arches work together and what happens to the skin and muscles.

Keep in mind that learning how to draw hands can be a challenge. Even experienced artists struggle with it. But learning how to draw hands is a vital skill that you must learn and express in your Art Portfolio.

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