Master Collection activity 17: drawing hands
Students explore how artists have drawn hands, looking at examples in Folkestone Museum’s Master Collection and from across the world, including the works of famous artists such as Rembrandt, Dürer and Degas.
They then have a go, sketching the hands of their classmates in a variety of poses.
Increased knowledge and understanding of art techniques and the work of famous artists.
KS1-2 Art (life drawing, drawing hands)
Pupils look closely at Studies of a Youth, his left arm outstretched by Giuseppe Passeri (1654-1714). Ask the children the following questions:
- How many hands and arms can you see?
- Why has he sketched them more than once?
- Are hands difficult to draw? Why?
- Do you think this is a finished painting or a practice drawing? Why?
- Who is the person?
- What do you think they are doing?
Stories, drama and creative writing:
- With pupils working in small groups, ask them to imagine what the youth may be doing and what else is happening around him. Then get each group to present a scene to everyone else, with one of their group posed in the same way as the youth in the drawing.
- Ask pupils to imagine they are the youth in the drawing and to write about, or enact, what they are doing.
- Explore with pupils which Bible story the figure might belong to and why.
Hands are notoriously difficult to draw and paint. Explore hands in other drawings and paintings, and see how difficult some artists find them.
- Rembrandt sometimes had difficulty with hands, or they were less important than faces: for example in A Woman bathing in a Stream (National Gallery, London) the hands are quick smudges of oil paint:
- But Rembrandt could also paint exceptional hands, as in his portrait of the elderly Margaretha de Geer (National Gallery, London), where ageing skin is painted in semi-transparent layers
- Edgar Degas in his portrait of Hélène Rouart in her Father’s Study (National Gallery, London) has not completed her hands as well as her face
- Albrecht Dürer was very good at drawing hands:
- Rembrandt uses different hands very effectively to convey the story, and the different emotions and reactions of participants, in Belshazzar’s Feast (National Gallery, London):
In painting, drawing or photographing portraits, artists have many different strategies for poses of hands.
- Look at and discuss a variety, for example hands in paintings on artuk:
Artists sometimes fudge hands and often hide them. Men’s hands might be tucked in waistcoats, for example - an accepted male pose but usefully hiding difficult to paint fingers.
A person’s hands can also be very revealing about them or their work, and key to a portrait.
- Look at a variety of portraits and see how many omit or hide hands, and which portraits use hands revealingly:
Hands are difficult to draw well and some quite famous artists never managed to get them right!
Search online ('How to draw hands') for ideas and tips.
Ask half the class to be hand models… and to pose their hands in lots of imaginative ways… flat, as a fist, thumbs up, together in prayer, holding a pen or a ball… or as shown in different paintings in the Master Collection.
Practise drawing the hands for about 5-10 minutes. You can draw as many as you like. Practice makes perfect! Then swap round your models so the other half of the class can have a go.
You can work in soft pencil, or charcoal, or if you want to be just like artist Giuseppe Passeri, you should use red and white chalk on a light blue paper (and spray fix the artworks afterwards).
Learn with Objects links
Use Learn with Objects Master 17: Study of a youth holding a spear.