Help me paint a skeletal hand!
Molly Coaldrake, New Zealand
When painting skeletal elements it’s essential to use a reference of some kind. For instance, the human hand has 27 different bones, and all of those bones have very subtle details. Unless you’ve spent a great deal of time studying the human skeleton, it’s nearly impossible to draw an accurate skeleton purely from your imagination.
Ideally, you should use a life-sized human skeleton model, and most art school have them for life-drawing classes. However, for someone not at a university, this may not be an option. If you don’t have access to a skeleton model, a good anatomy for artists book can be very helpful and these are available online. If you’re using dramatic lighting and don’t have access to a model, use some clay or Sculpey to create a skeleton hand for a quick photo reference.
The bottom line is, when painting a human skeleton, don’t try and make it up because you’re almost guaranteed to get it wrong. The human skeleton is something that everyone can tell when it’s wrong in a painting, even if we can’t explain why.
You can see all the subtle little details in the bones that would have been nearly impossible without a solid reference to work from. This is the photo reference I used to create this painting, which helped to take a lot of the guesswork out of the process.