Drawing Hands for my New Year Card
How to draw a New Year card
Each year, it’s the same story. It begins in November, when I am convinced that I still have plenty of time to make this year different: this is the year I am going to create, write and send my New Year cards. And each time the same drama unfolds: first, I have more pressing things to do in November, then I convince myself that I am going the French way (in France, it is customary to send New Year cards in January, not in December), then I don’t like my New Year Cards so much, then I don’t know what to write – and, if by chance I have written cards, I may forget to send them altogether. I know, it sounds like a mess – which it totally is! I consider myself a very organised person, so this is a bit of a mystery because it is totally out of character for me to miss such a deadline. There is definitely an unconscious resistance at play here! Maybe it is because I am an introvert? Or torn between different cultural traditions? Or uneasy with the professional/personal boundary? Anyway, enough of the excuses – this year is going to be different. Because I am trying to shift my approach to this exercise and turn it into creative challenge, I am using the opportunity to practise in three different areas that interest me:
drawing with ink
For the first part of this drawing, you don’t need a lot, just:
a pencil (I use 2B)
white paper (I draw on 250 gsm/90 lb grained A4 paper).
Then you can either ink with a regular fountain pen or black pen of your choice, or draw digitally, which is my choice for this project. I use a Wacom tablet paired with my computer.
Step 1 – what do I want to draw for my New Year card?
First, I take my time to figure out what message I want to convey: peace, serenity, giving, warm wishes and a focus on artistic practice, because it’s me. I think that showing hands bearing festive baubles (bubbles) would be a nice way to convey all this, and it would be very personal because I have an obsession with drawing hands that is well recorded by now.
Then I ask myself how I want to draw them, and what style I am going for. I am very attracted to the way in which printmakers and etchers created pictures, working with the technical constraints of their art by using a network of black lines to represent things and people. I admire the intricacy of such works of art, the skilful way in which they express volume and the minimalist aesthetic of the result. I notice that some of them have very ordered, tidy waves of black lines, while others are messier. I like both styles. I made a little selection of my favourites examples from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Handen, Stefano della Bella, 1620 - 1664
Zes handen, Francesco Bartolozzi, after Giovanni Battista Cipriani, 1796
Drie handen en één paar handen steunend op een stok, Stefano della Bella, 1620 - 1664
Vijf handen, Stefano della Bella, 1620 - 1664
So, what reference picture am I going to use now? If you have taken my course on drawing a self-portrait, you will know by now my personal tip for creating a reference picture: I record a movie of myself (in this case, a movie of my hands) and I choose my favourite picture from the movie. When I extract it, it is a little bit blurry, but I don’t mind since it is just an intermediate step, a behind-the-scenes reference that I am not going to show publicly.
Step 2 – Drawing hands with pencil
If you are a regular reader of my blog, this part is very familiar. As a first step, I did not innovate but employed my usual method of analysing my reference picture as an arrangement of abstract shapes. It is very much a trial and error process, in three steps:
I look intently at a small part of the reference photo, as if it were some abstract shape.
I try to reproduce it on paper, looking back and forth a lot between the photo and the drawing. Do the shapes look the same? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.
Then I look at my drawing again, not as geometrical shapes but as what it is supposed to represent. Does it look like the hands in my picture? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.
Step 3 – Creating a digital drawing That resembles ink Drawing
In this step, I wanted to create the illusion of ink drawing using digital tools. As I mentioned above, I am very inspired by the way that etchings or engravings are made up of tiny black lines as the sole means of expressing light and shadow and of imparting volume to the subject.
I have worked on this effect several times before: for example, in a previous project in this blog, and in other personal work.
For this project, I first took a picture of my drawing and imported it into my computer. I then used the real drawing on paper to create a very messy sketch with real ink.
It was a quick sketch and it confirmed that I needed the computer to create the effect I was aiming for. I knew that I wanted to have my picture printed, so I thought I would have a more regular line and a more beautiful print by drawing directly on the computer (I have also come to really like drawing on my Wacom tablet). I went back to the sketch on my computer, using it as a guide to draw the black lines. Then I created the baubles digitally, and erased the pencil sketch. For the baubles, I went for a very minimalist style, with an almost matt effect. It would have been so easy to create a very shiny effect or different shadows with the computer’s 3D capabilities. But I wanted a rather minimal, almost abstract effect, just playing with various shades of yellow.
And voilà! My New Year cards are now ready! I have had them printed (in a landscape format), and just have to write and send them now. I’ll keep you informed of that side of things in Behind the Scenes (the mini-blog where I share the daily life of The Daily Atelier).
Your turn! Are you creating your own New Year cards this year? If so, I hope this project gives you the inspiration and motivation to do so.
If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other projects with hands. Enjoy!