Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hands



My teacher in art school told me way back: "Once you figure out how to draw hands well, once you know the bone structure and how hands work mechanically and emotionally, the rest of the human figure will come fairly easy to you!"
He had a point. Hands are very complex body parts, and it takes serious study to understand and appreciate their expressiveness. 
In animation it's mostly head and hands working as a unit that communicate the character's emotions. The more comfortable you feel with hands being part of the acting the more successful your scenes will be.
I did these sketches above in preparation for Gaston, who needed to be handled with a fair amount of realism. But even if the style of the film is much more graphic and caricatured than Beauty & the Beast, I think it's always a good idea to research real hands as a basis to start from.

So let's take a look at how animation's master of linear hands Milt Kahl does it.
I made up these sheets of Brom Bones' arms and hands for inspiration and as research for Gaston. Since there is no shading in the drawings Milt makes every pencil line count. Even difficult positions are beautifully depicted, the anatomy is always spot on. Foreshortening, correct placement of fingernails and defining boney as well as fleshy parts, all that doesn't seem to be a problem for Milt at all.






Years later for the characters of The Sword in the Stone Milt pushed the graphic style of hands much further. All those boney knuckles, wrinkles and flesh folds are a joy to study, because this is now sophisticated design.



Ludwig van Drake's hands are much simplified, and the fingers maintain somewhat of a feathery look.



Medusa is about to grab the diamond from Penny, but before that she nervously opens and closes her hands in anticipation. These are the sketches of a master. The perspective just kills me.





Now she has the diamond in her hands and moves it in front of her. Look at the brainwork involved in finding the best staging and design for this short scene.



29 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for this post! Reminds me to draw hands more often!

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  2. Oh my gosh!! Thank you so much for posting this!

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  3. I think I may do a whole life drawing class just focusing on the hands! Thank you

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  4. nice.

    Off-topic, there's a photo of you and lots of others at the Mel Shaw exhibit on this page here: http://micechat.com/22836-the-colorful-life-of-mel-shaw/ . Very impressed that Ty Wong is still going!

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  5. Wonderful! Very well-explained. I suppose you can't do subtle acting without mastering hands. Kahl was a master! Always amazing analyzing his work. Thanks for the post.

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  6. These are amazing. Would Milt be working from reference? If he did these freehand (no pun intended), then it makes me gasp. They do remind me of the preparatory sketches done by the Renaissance masters.

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    1. You can gasp, Milt drew Brom Bones without reference.
      And I agree with the comparison to the Renaissance masters.

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  7. Ah. The master of hands Milt Kahl. The stylized hands in sword in the stone are one of the distinctive features of the characters (not often hands stand out in that way). Hands aren't easy and I'm impressed by animators ability to show expressive hands. The Medusa hands are really great too..

    Also I must commend you for your animation on Jafar. Watching the rough animation pencil test you posted one of the things that stood out to me was how expressive his hands were and how he talked with his hands. Great stuff...

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  8. Oh, how I wish I could draw good hands.

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  9. I once read from Burne Hogarth that great artits distinguish from the way they draw hands. Master Kahl is a great example. Do you know if he took inspiration from the great american ilustrators. The more I read the Famous Artist Course the more I feel Mr. Kahl approach drawing their way. Thank you so much for the post and the inspiration.

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  10. A whole bunch of us probably just got the urge to draw hands and sigh with jealousy after this inspirational post. Thanks! :D

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  11. Amazing hands! (They are such a pain to draw!) Definitely, the sign of a skilled artist!

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  12. Yeah hands are very difficult to draw. When I first started drawing and sketching out characters I would all ways get frusterated in drawing the hands. Though I've gotten better they're still a pain. But that's cool you used a past Disney animator's drawing as inspiration I sort of did the same with some of Glen Kean's drawings of Ariel and Rapunzel for a short film a few months back.

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  13. Thank you, great post! Seeing more this kind of info about drawing and animating details of character would be awesome. Thank you, this was inspiring, got to draw hands today :)

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    1. ... What movies/actors could you recommend as reference where is great acting with hands? :)

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    2. Watch any good character actor, who expresses him- or herself physically.

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  14. Other than "draw, draw, draw", do you have any tips for learning to draw hands well Andreas?

    Thanks for posting these drawings :)

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    1. Study master drawings and paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque to the modern era.

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  15. When I grow up I want to draw hands like Merlin in The sword and the stone

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  16. Hände sind tatsächlich schwierig zu zeichnen. Ich übe meistens durch intensives Studium der eigenen Hände in verschiedenen Posen, aber ich denke allgemein ist es wichtig sich alle möglichen Hände, ob real oder gezeichnet, anzuschauen um dieses "Werkzeug" wirklich zu verstehen (wenn dieser Prozess den je wirklich abgeschlossen ist)..
    Vielen Dank für diesen sehr informativen Blog Herr Deja, obwohl ich "nur" ein Hobby-Zeichner bin, sind mir die Arbeiten der alten Meister immer eine große Inspiration und Ansporn mehr zu lernen und ich greife mir alle Bücher zum Thema Animation und Character Design die ich kriegen kann. Im Online Bereich ist ihr Blog tatsächlich einer informativsten Quellen für mich und bringt mir so viel Spaß, wie er Ihnen hoffentlich auch macht :)
    Freundliche Grüße aus Deutschland

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  17. I find I'm terrible with hands, I need to study more.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I briefly saw your blog, and what I strongly recommend are life drawing classes in front of the model as well as sketching animals at the zoo. Also classes for perspective and landscapes.
      I don't know your age, but if you are serious about your goal,
      you need to learn how to draw very well.

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  19. Wonderful!!! I love those Medusa hand drawings. Would love to have those hand drawings hanging on my wall.

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  20. I guess the old teacher was Paul Schüllner...

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    1. Mit mir hat er einen ganzen Sommer daran geübt. Zu dem Zeitpunkt war er schon in Rente, aber trotzdem hat er mich so richtig in die Mangel genommen. Mit den selben Argumenten wie du sie oben beschrieben hast. Er hatte unbedingt recht und irgendwie hat es sich gelohnt..

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