Painting a Hand with Gouache
How to paint a hand with gouache
Artists, beginners and experienced alike, are often afraid of drawing hands. So I decided that I needed to work on drawing hands to overcome my fear. I drew quick sketches using various techniques (like trois crayons), drew my own hand, and today I am trying to work on the modelling of the hand.
I suspect that drawing pictures of real three-dimensional objects is very good practice for this, so I am drawing this hand from a beautiful Roman marble fragment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It may seem odd, but I have always loved the grey paper many museums use as a background in their photos of small objects. I love it particularly when the fragment’s colour is lighter than its background. I used gouache to try to convey this impression.
For the first part of this project, I drew the hand with pencil. I would usually use a graphite pencil, but I noticed that graphite pencil on grey paper was not easy to shoot with the camera above me, because it was too reflective. I decided to use a black coloured pencil so that you can see it better.
When I paint with gouache, I almost always use the same two or three brushes. I have lots of other brushes, but I always come back to these:
My go-to brush is a soft round brush (size 18 in France).
Sometimes I add one or two flat bristle brushes.
For this painting I used only four colours: black, white, yellow and yellow ochre. I mix my gouache directly on a piece of the same paper as the one I am painting on, so I don't have to guess how the colours will look on it.
It is exactly the same material I am using in the post on how to paint a cat.
Step 1 – Drawing a hand with pencil
First, I drew the hand with black coloured pencil. As usual, I first tried not to think of it as a hand but as various geometrical shapes I was trying to reproduce as closely as possible from my model. I mentioned my three-step process in the self-portrait post:
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 the thing I want to draw (a hand). Does it look like a hand? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.
In the short video above, this drawing runs from 00:00 to 01:18. It actually took me 15 minutes.
Step 2 – Painting with values
To paint this hand, I use almost the same trial and error process, except that, instead of considering shapes, I considered values. The value of a colour is basically how light or dark it is. So a light yellow and a light blue can have the same value (imagine them in black and white).
I look intently at a small part of the reference photo, as if it were an abstract shape.
I try to reproduce the value on paper, looking back and forth a lot between the photo and the drawing. Do the values look the same? Yes: keep it. No: you cannot erase gouache, but you can add a layer and repeat.
Then I look at my drawing again, this time not as different values but as the three-dimensional object that I want to draw. Does it look like a hand? Does it look like something in three dimensions? Yes: keep it. No: you cannot erase gouache, but you can add a layer and repeat.
In the short video above, this drawing runs from 01:18 to 03:12. It actually took me about 35 minutes.
Step 3 – Finishing details
I add the final touches at the end, including using white paint on a dry brush to add little dots of light here and there, blending the edges and adding shadow.
Throughout the project, I used the tip of the round brush for details and the flat bristle brushes either for large strokes or, more often than not, to blend layers with a dry brush. That is why you can see me sometimes applying bold values (for example, large grey areas) and then blending, blending, blending.
In the short video above, this drawing runs from 03:12 to 04:06. It actually took me about 20 minutes.
And voilà! A hand painted with gouache.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. As always, I do not pretend to be a teacher, a seasoned artist or an expert in anything, just a very motivated learner who finds a deep joy in a regular art practice.
If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other projects about hands. Enjoy!