Monday, June 29, 2015

Attacking Hands: The 500 Hands Challenge

Hands drive me crazy. I have always practiced them at intervals, but it hasn't been enough to get me where I want to be with them. Wanting to be better (and faster) at drawing them led to a conversation with some fellow illustrators. One fellow proposed the "500 Hands Challenge". The timeline: Beginning June 1, 2015 and ending October 1, 2015. I accepted.

Here are my tentative and awkward first three.  Realizing I was needing more of a plan than just randomly drawing a few hands a day, I came up with the following outline:

June: Copy other artist's hands to learn by studying the masters
July: Continue copying, adding emphasis on gesture along with the study of hand anatomy
August: "Deliberate Practice" using Stan Prokopenko's method of the same name; 
1. Make a mistake
2. Analyze it, imagining what it should look like
3. Re-draw and fix it until it is right 
Watch the video here:
September: Apply all the above, but draw every hand from imagination

Here's an early page of hands drawn from those of Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, and W. Heath Robinson.

And a more recent set from Vilppu and Bridgman. Jumping the gun a bit where anatomy is concerned, too.

After more conversations with the instigator of this challenge, I realized that the gesture piece needed to be put in place early on. His recommendation to check out the Vilppu methods was helpful--the Vilppu manual Drawing Hands and Feet is amazing! 
Find the book here:

This week a few of us are meeting over a beer to discuss our progress, and most of all to share what we know and have discovered in this first month of the challenge.

I'm a fifth of the way into it, and yes, this is pretty much killing me. Finding it very difficult to cram in concentrated hand studies along with my workload, but it's past time to do it--I need to do it.

Wish me luck and thanks for checking out the post!


  1. Starting mine July 1 (time to look over those winderful resources you have links for) because it will do me good. And my daugher has been after me for at least a decade to work on hands.

    1. Best wishes on this, AHA--hope to see some posts of the journey!

  2. I've always thought your hands were fabulous. In fact, I've copied them trying to get that beautiful knuckly grace you achieve. I can't wait to see how you develop after this exercise. Maybe I'll try a hand a day -- not prepared to try 500 yet, unless I have 500 days. :)

    1. Thanks very much, Joy! I love drawing the knuckly hands--hope to be better at them, but also gain some facility with many other types of hands. In many ways, a hand or two a day would have been a more reasonable approach, lol. We will see what happens :)


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