Can you give me some help with painting expressive hands?
Rebecca Holgate, Canada Answer Mélanie replies
Hands are probably the most difficult anatomy element to paint, even more so when they have to convey an emotion. And if they’re not well executed they can ruin a painting. Hands can express everything from sadness to joy, but whatever the emotion I’m aiming for, I always start with sketches to find out exactly what I want to express. I don’t care if the anatomy isn’t correct – I just try to focus on the emotion and/or story that I want to tell with my character.
Once I have a clear idea of the composition, the next thing I do is to gather references, to help get the hands right. When I have to paint some complex-looking hands I usually use myself as a model. This helps to avoid any anatomy mistake and also it’s a great way to find the perfect hand position. Posing in front of a mirror will help you to capture the emotion that you’re after.
Your chosen lighting scheme can also help to increase the emotion of a scene. A soft light will go very well with delicate hands, while a strong light with contrasted shadows will be perfect for stressed-looking hands. You can also play with anatomy details such as veins if you want to achieve an even more intense emotion.
I sometimes use a specific colour scheme to enhance the feeling of an image. If the character is sad then I’ll pick pale, gentle colours. But if my character’s meant to be happy then the colour scheme will be more saturated, with intense colours on show.
The more you add volume to the hand, the more it’ll look real and so the emotion will be easy to convey.
To paint a hand, think of it as a box and cylinders when you do the line art sketch. It’s more easy to visualise and add light to these kinds of geometric shapes.