Sketching Hands with Trois Crayons
How to draw hands with the aux trois crayons technique
Drawing hands was one of the things I used to fear most when it came to drawing. And I am pretty sure I was not the only one! So I decided to tackle the issue with various projects involving the drawing of hands (and, believe me, you will not see the half of it in this blog!):
In today’s project, I am using as an inspiration a sketch by the British artist Sir Peter Lely, dated circa 1665. It is a very simple sketch in which very few lines and colours define the subject very well. Trois crayons is a beautiful technique: let’s try using it to draw hands!
First, what is the aux trois crayons technique? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in the entry on ‘Chalk Drawing’:
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Peter Paul Rubens and other artists often combined black and white chalk, a technique known as aux deux crayons. … The devices employed in the 18th century to achieve this subtlety of effect included the use of coloured paper; combining red, black, and white chalk (a technique known as aux trois crayons); and manipulating the medium to create an effect of mass rather than of line.
Since I did not have a lot of time for this project – less than half an hour in fact – I decided to emulate the effect of the aux trois crayons technique with pencil.
Sir Peter Lely (Soest, Westphalia, Germany 1618–London 1680) was the most famous painter of mid-17th-century London. He was especially famous for his portraits.
I used three coloured pencils:
I would usually use a graphite pencil, but I noticed that graphite pencil on coloured paper was not easy to shoot with the camera above me, because it is too reflective. I decided to use a black coloured pencil so that you can see it better. I also think that the general effect is closer to the effect of the chalk in my inspiration sketch.
Step 1 – Sketching a hand with pencil
First, I sketched the hands with black pencil. For those who are not familiar with my current drawing technique, it is basically a three-step trial and error process:
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 it is meant to look like. Does it look like the hands of my model? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.
In the short video above, this runs from 00:00 to 02:08. It actually took me 15 minutes.
Step 2 – Adding details with black pencil
Secondly, I added details with the black pencil:
in some places, a thicker line instead of a shadow.
In the short video above, this runs from 02:08 to 02:35. It actually took me 3 minutes.
Step 3 – Adding details with orange and white pencil
Last but not least, I added white and orange details:
white accents, mainly in the centre of the composition, to create an effect of mass rather than of line;
orange lines alongside the black lines in some places.
In the short video above, this is from 02:35 to 04:06. It actually took me 3 minutes.
And voilà! In less than half an hour, you can have a beautiful sketch of hands for your sketchbook.
You can also frame it to add it into your home décor. See, the cat seems to like it in my home!
I realise that I love using brown paper. I should use it more often. I should also try other aux trois crayons projects. We shall see!
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. I am just a very motivated learner who finds a deep joy in regular art practice.
If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other projects about hands. Enjoy!