- Lesson details
We are pleased to share with you a 10-week long class brought to you by Art Mentors. In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermoe teaches figure drawing using the Reilly Method. In this 6th lesson, Mark will go over the Reilly Head Abstraction in detail and analyze selected master works of Matania. He will then demonstrate how to design the hands, first by laying in the structure, and then by refining the design through tonal and value control.
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In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermoe teaches figure drawing
using the Reilly Method.
Welcome to the 6th class of our course on figure drawing.
Today, I wanted to start showing you how to do the construction of hands.
The hands are really important for the whole gesture.
Now, we’re going to back in and refine and design.
We’ve already done the spacing and placing.
bit more I want to show you on the head drawing I started two lessons ago.
I also want to go over in detail the abstraction of the head that Frank Reilly designed.
I’ve touched it on a few times.
I didn’t get to it in as much detail as I’d hope last week so we’ll do that.
I brought in a really great artist named Fortunino Matania, 20th Century Italian artist who lived
and worked in London so we’ll take a look at his work today too.
And I wanted to start showing you how to do the construction of hands that way when we’re
doing our figure class we focused on two areas that are important in their own right, head
and hands, and then we’ll start a new pose next week, which will be our first female
figure and it’s a back view, very beautiful.
Okay, so that’s today’s outline or what we’re going to cove, and I’ll get right to it now.
So I have a diagram, a line diagram of what Reilly fashioned out of the forms and the
planes of the head and it’s not anatomy for artists its artistic anatomy because it
takes all those elements that we study as artists and human anatomy and it relates them
into rhythms and larger forms that combine muscle and bone, in some cases cartilage too.
So let’s just go over it.
The basics once again are the head is three units in height if I bisect it from left to
right and its two units across the widest point, just above the brow so it’s a three by two.
In profile because the cranium is deeper than it is wide that ratio changes.
If it were full profile this is three quarters, full profile it would be three units across
from the back of the cranium to the brow and three units in height from the apex to the chin.
So let’s a take a front view as our standard.
All of the proportions were going on are what we call standard proportions.
They’re not ideal proportions.
They don’t pertain to any particular racial or ethnic group.
They’re kind of a just; it’s a standard set of proportions that western artists have
been using since well about the 4th Century B.C.
Okay, so let’s go over the rest.
If I put two lines roughly parallel to the centerline here and they line up on the tear
ducts, the wing of the nose and the turning from the front to the side plane of the mouth,
that will help us develop our proportions across the head.
So that we’ll find at the halfway point from top to bottom, which is what this is
we’ll find that the eyes line up there and are five eyes across the head, one, two, three,
four, five; that helps when you’re trying to draw the front view because often times
the eyes are placed to narrow and sometimes too wide.
Okay, what else do we have, we have from the brow where it overlaps the eye we can take
that distance to the chin and divide it in half, that gives us the base of the nose and
So the ear is the same height as the nose from the root of the nose to the septum.
Halfway from the base of the nose to the bottom of the chin is the bottom of the lower lip.
Halfway from the eyebrow or from the brow bone to the
is the bottom of the eye socket.
Okay, we want to make sure we place the temple at the outside of the eye socket because that’s
where the head turns from its front plane to its side plane as the head’s not flat.
It has a front plane, two side planes, a top plane, a back plane and an under plane.
The nose and the ear can be broken into thirds here from the brow to the base of the septum.
We can take a third of the way down and that gives us the nasal bone at the inside of the
We can go a third of the way up from the septum and that gives us the septal cartilages and
the A-lar cartilages, which form the wings, and then we have the bridge in between.
If I drop another plumb line parallel to this one from the iris down that gives me that
corner of the mouth.
If I draw up another plumb line slightly angling inwards here from the center of the ear to
the angle of the jaw where it changes to be, from being mostly vertical to diagonal the
angle of the jaw will find lines up with the center of the lips, not the bottom or the
top, but the center.
Okay, what other important measurements do we have; well,
let’s go over some of these volumes.
What are these ellipses represent?
This one, which is circular seen from the front is the front, frontal prominence and
it’s not made up just of bone and it’s not made up of just muscle, it’s made up
of both and it rests on the frontalis bone at the front of the cranium.
To the side we mentioned the temples, which start with the temporalis bones forming the
side of the cranium.
In fact, the head has three volumes.
It has the cranium, the largest.
It has the face and it has the jaw beneath that.
If you can get those articulations between those three volumes then you’ve got basically
the essence of a person’s head.
The features only work when they’re put inside these proper proportions and among
these various formations.
One of them is the brow ridge here, is the more prominent on men than on females, but
it is there in almost all cases.
So if you’re going to do exercises to study this I prefer you draw mature men because
these forms are more evident then, for instance adolescents or certainly children.
The next one we’re going to look at is this ellipse, a vertical ellipse starting at the
base of the nasal bone in the bottom of the eye socket running here over the jaw and to
the bottom of the chin.
This is called the muzzle, like the muzzle on a horse or a gun I suppose, but the muzzle
is made up of muscles that are known as the quadratus, labia superior and they come down
here from the zygomatic process and extend to the corner of the mouth.
So also filled out by another muscle known as the buccinator muscle, which is a deep
muscle beneath these and beneath this muscle, which is the mandible.
The mandible is the strongest and most extensive on the head.
It’s the main muscle in operating the jaw, which is the only joint
that’s movable on the head.
Here this ellipse is called the barrel of the mouth or the tooth cylinder.
Scientific term for it, the anatomical term is the maxilla and that takes in all of the
upper teeth and the lower teeth beneath them.
It’s mostly made up of the orbicularis oris muscle, which is a sphincter muscle that surrounds
the mouth and the lips are part of it.
So through simple contraction the muscle fibers it forms the expression of the lips.
Here we have a horizontal ellipse known as the chin mound.
It’s made up of a mentalis muscle at the front and the quadratus labia inferior on
the sides; quadratus and then labia refers to the lips.
Superior means above the lips, inferior means beneath the lips.
I’ll just pull out a couple of anatomical guides that show the muscles and you’ll
see a little bit better what those rhythms and forms represent.
Okay, so the muzzle, the muscles that make it up fill out this fascia between the two
cylinders and the jaw, and here we can see muscular detail.
This is split in half but the head is symmetrical so what we have here on the frontal prominence
of the cranium is the frontalis muscle.
Together these form the frontal prominence and we see here the brow bone protruding forward
of the cranium and attached to it is this muscle.
A muscle that spirals over itself being finis at the nasal bone and thicker at the top outside
and this is the, hold on a second let me, orbicularis oculi, orbicular means that it
orbits and then oculi means of the eye, the oculus.
This is the orbicularis oris meaning the muscle that orbits the mouth oris.
These are the quadratus labia superior coming down to the corner of the mouth.
The buccinator is laid in back here overlapped by the masseter muscle and this is the chin
mound made up of those central mentalis and the two quadrati, quadrati labia inferior.
And here’s a muscle known as the triangularis, which is a nice transition, notice of dovetails,
it flows into the fibers of the orbicularis oris.
There’s another muscle at the top of the cartilages forming the bridge and septum of
the nose and that’s the nasalis, very easy to remember, and here’s the temporalis muscle.
I’ll just give you a profile.
You can see in the profile that the distance from the front to the back is the same as
the height from the top to the bottom of the head.
Three quarter view is somewhere between that and front view, which is three by two.
Here’s the side view, a couple of important muscles are this one, the sternocleidomastoids,
we usually call it mastoid, it comes up from the sternum here and the collar bone, which
is the cleido, the reference in the Latin and then it comes up to, so it would be here;
comes up to the occipital bone.
There’s a prominence at the base of that called the, the mastoid process, you can see
it here, large, rough, for the attachment of the powerful muscle.
Notice that the neck is not straight, the cervical vertebrae are aligned in such a way
that they get under the center of gravity of the head and so in the living model just
don’t stack these forms on top of each other.
The same is true of the lumbar vertebrae at the base of the spine.
They’re arranged diagonally to get under the weight of the ribcage.
That gives you an overview so we can later develop more detail as I refer to them during
If you have questions about that and just go ahead and submit the questions to me and
I’ll try to keep things very clear.
Well, Frank Reilly is not the only artist who had developed an abstraction of all of
the anatomy and the rhythmical relationships and volumes of the head, but his is a very
effective one and I know very many illustrators and painters were very familiar with it.
In my case I almost just visually project it right onto the, right onto the subject
Okay and now before I draw the last thing is the inspiration.
Today the artist is Fortunino, Fortunino Matania M-a-t-a-n-i-a.
He drew and painted historical subject matter and became very famous for his
World War I drawings.
I’m going to be doing a female back view nude next week
So, me might as well start with that.
So if you want to zoom in on this I can make a view points.
Okay, this is an oil painting and we see here regardless of the color choices, which is
more pink in this area, almost more greenish, yellowish up here, just look at it in terms
of seeing the, as a monochromatic.
He still establishes his light and dark pattern.
He does not lose it.
He keeps his edges harder on this side with the light coming from the upper left, same
thing here, softer edges on rounded forms.
Firmer edges on angular or bony forms, even here opposite the sacrum we see muscle attachments
and the harder edge where it overlaps the sacrum and softer on the opposite side.
Let’s just take a couple looks at some of his drawings of heads and figures.
In this factory scene at the time of World War I, we see
almost the same archetype as was used by Charles Dana Gibson if we look at the women’s heads,
but he’s orchestrating a very complicated scene.
At some point I’ll do a lesson on how to arrange figures in a composition, a live action
composition, and then we have scenes that involved multiple figures, not a happy time.
He was employed by a couple of journals in London, one of them called the Sphere and
they published, they hired him as a war correspondent, but he wasn’t to write
he was to draw and so he spent four years near or on the battlefield.
I don’t think there really has been up until now such a book on Matania’s work and so
he’s really semi-forgotten, but not while he was alive, and probably not after this either.
So, you know, he needs to know how to draw figures in any position, action, lying prone,
all kinds of different angles.
This book is enormous and it represents only a fraction of what he did.
You can see here he’s great at telling stories with a pencil or a brush, look at this one.
You can notice, you know, the draftsmanship on every figure.
The complete control of edges, also the staging so the figure that he wants to be shown is
staged against a dark background.
These are not arbitrary choices although after a time they do become somewhat second nature.
Now coming in on this one, here Queen Zenobia, the ruler of Palmyra, is fending off the Romans.
Pelmira rebelled against the Romans in the 3rd Century A.D. yeah and it’s the city
in Syria today that’s being, unfortunately, destroyed and dismantled in the conflict there.
Again, another masterful example of figure draftsmanship.
I like this one because if you zoom in here we see multiple figures in a setting, in a
crowd setting and what I like especially is the different angles on the heads, you know.
There is no angle that he’s not a master of and if you look at this arm you notice
how subtle the half tones are, but they’re poised against a very dark shadow pattern.
So I really recommend looking at his work, as for single individuals let’s just look
at one or two of those and then we’ll move on.
He had to be able to fill out his compositions also with figures that were invented from
Let’s see, he’s got some portraits I want to show you.
Here we go, and so we have some of the generals on the, of the triple on taunt and that would
be England, the United States and Italy.
So they had General Patau here and then we have, taking off my glasses so I’m not sure,
and then we have General Pershing.
Notice the forms from the abstraction that I just reviewed with you; the three parts
of the nose, here the muzzle overlapping the masseter in the jaw.
So we use that all the time, good.
It doesn’t matter what angle, but I’ll turn it like this 90 degrees.
Okay, these hands are from the same pose that I’ve been drawing the head from and so before
I get started let me just, this is the pose from which we’re taking the hands and the
hands are really important for the whole gesture.
Just imagine if he had his hands and fists or if he had his hands in a passive pose you
would think well that’s still not the pose, it wouldn’t really affect, but it would
just as the expression on a person’s head does.
So what we’re going to do is follow the same light and dark pattern, of course, and
that comes here from the upper right.
So that the palm of the hand at the base turns into shadow and the sides of the fingers at
least on his right hand turn into shadow too.
Let’s just go over the hand a little bit.
The hand involves understanding the forearm so here at the thumb side we have the radius
bone and outside and lower we have the ulna, and the ulna rests just beneath the pisiform
bone, which is a wrist bone at the base or the heel of the hand on the little finger side.
It’s the smallest wrist bone, but it’s quite prominent and superficial.
Here the radius joins to the carpal bones, which are eight in number and two rows and
at the base here we have the styloid process, this eminence right there on the bone.
Then we get the metacarpal bones that come up from the wrist bones and here you can see
the tendons that come down along the back of the upper, the lower arm along the extensor
muscles, basically three important extensor muscles.
That’s this one, the extensor digitorum communis, which means the muscle that extends
the digits and in common so it has a tendon that breaks off into four separate tendons.
At the side we have here the extensor carpi ulnaris, which means it extends the wrist
like this on the side of the ulnar, of the ulna, and then here; so that comes up, that
comes down to this point.
Then on the inside we have the extensor carpi radialis, which means it’s just an extensor
of the fingers, of the wrist at the radial side here.
Okay, coming off of these we have the five metacarpal bones, which means beyond the carpus
or wrist and they extend in turn from this one, the first to the second, third, fourth
and fifth digits.
The thumb is made up of only two phalanges, each section of bone on digit is called a
phalanx so we have three of them on the four, on the four fingers and two of them, just
like the big toe, on the thumb.
The first one is called the proximal phalanx, meaning proximal, meaning close.
The last ones are called the distal phalanges and those are the ones are farthest from the
metacarpals, distal; and in between we have the medial phalanges, meaning in the middle.
In the palm we have a similar arrangement except here we have palmaris longus, which
is the muscle, the tendon that comes down the forearm and extends to all the fingers
except the thumb.
Then we have flexor, digitorum, radialis, which again is easy to understand, it’s
named for its position and its purpose.
The muscle when contracted will flex the hand.
So that’s the flexor, digitorum, I’m sorry; the flexor carpi radialis, and then here we
have the flexor carpi ulnaris so it’s easy to remember.
Now there are other muscles of the forearm and several muscles that run to the thumb,
but right now I want to keep it simple.
The palm from the base to the base of the middle finger is the same height as the head,
from top to bottom from hairline to the chin.
Okay, the fingers are about the same width as the nasal bone.
We have three eminences that are really important in constructing the hand.
This is known as the thenar eminence, it’s kind of shaped like an egg, it’s made up
of several muscles and that we find at the base of the thumb.
Here we have the hypothenar eminence meaning opposite and this is more elongated eminence
and that goes from the heel of the hand up toward the base of the thumb, towards to the
base of the little finger.
Here we have the knuckle pads arranged in an arc like this.
Okay, the fingers are shorter seeing from the palm then they are from the back view
because the knuckle for the first phalanx is here, but there is tissue beyond that overlapping
the base of the finger and that would be here.
Notice the fingers angle back to the middle finger, see that, and there are arced like
a ribbing on a ship.
They also turn slightly upward in the last phalanx of each one of the fingers.
So those are some of the things I look for when I’m drawing the hand and I key off
of the middle finger usually, it’s the longest finger and as we see here it carries the line
of the entire forearm up through the hand and finger.
Alright, so those are some of the points to think about when we design the hands.
Scale of the hands, I mentioned that a little earlier.
That also depends on your design, your characterization of the model.
If you look at Rodaun male sculptures, often the hands are much larger than they would
normally be and the feet, but its consistent with the impact and power that he wants to
impart to the pose and subject.
The hands also describe some of the other things about a model.
We get, tend to get more tapered and gracile fingers for, let’s say a piano player and
we tend to get thicker, more muscular hands, wider at the palm for let’s say a dock worker
or somebody who works with heavy materials in their job.
So, you know, it’s, you have to think about that just as much as you have to think about
how you’re going to characterize people’s facial features in describing what they are,
what they do and so on.
So with that let’s go ahead and start sketching in this hand.
It’s usually best, here let’s try the angle of the back forearm.
The base of the palm, angle of the thumb, it’s usually held about 30 degrees off the
angle of the rest of the hand.
There’s the shadow turning on the thenar eminence, there’s the muscle between the
index and the thumb.
It’s called the interosseous muscle, which just means it’s between the bones, interosseous.
Here’s the overlapping thenar eminence in front of the wrist.
Notice I’m drawing in everything in about the same light value that I’ve demonstrated
on the figure or the head.
Be careful in judging your angles.
A lot of it is just about that and that takes practice.
You can gain that practice by drawing still life it doesn’t matter, whatever will cause
you to develop a good consistent understanding of how to place forms at the proper angles.
Here’s the knuckle pad of the index finger, then we continue it all the way in the direction
of the little finger.
You know, remember that second to the head
is the hand in conveying expression.
So I’ve mentioned before what a negative effect it can be if you draw an effective
figure but the head is poorly drawn.
We can say that of the hands too.
So the fingers are about the same length as is the palm of the hand.
There is the styloid process of the radius bone, these are the flexor muscles located
on the forearm.
There’s the tendon of palmaris longus.
There’s the index finger of the right hand.
Just keep looking back to the other hand so you don’t develop a scale problem, you want
them to scale the same.
You can see if I take this hand and compare it to this hand I could probably go a little
bit bigger on the right hand.
There’s the interosseous muscle I mentioned.
We’ll take about the venous structure a little bit later, but right there we pick
up a vein overlapping the wrist.
Here’s the tendon from extensor digitorum communis overlapping the first knuckle of
the middle finger.
There’s the width at the joint and that’s the same as situation with a knee, it becomes
a little wider because you have condyles at the end of each phalanx, that’s the area
where the bones articulate and widen out.
sets of construction lines.
So you’ll notice it was very important to get the arc of all the fingers before drawing
each individual finger.
You can almost think of it as like a webbing rather than individual fingers and so that
arc unifies the whole network.
Alright, now we’re going to go back in and refine and design.
We’ve already done the spacing and placing so here we’re going to be super careful
in the correct position placement of the forms and the light and dark pattern.
At this stage I’m not very concerned about the wrinkles and creases at the various points
where the knuckles join.
Just like in drapery I’m not concerned about creases until I have the fold pattern itself
and that’s the same kind of thinking here.
This is just a half-tone to separate the thenar eminence from the valley at the center of the palm.
If it weren’t structurally so important I actually might skip it, but a half-tone
there is important in telling the story of the form of the hand.
Make sure that these tendons lead to their proper destination, if this angle went off
like that or like that it would not, it would not ring true, obviously.
When you’re constructing the fingers don’t do it by phalanx by phalanx, knuckle by knuckle,
you should always start with a simplification of the finger into a straight or a C-curve
or even an S-curve, then you can break it down after that.
In other words, once again you’re drawing the relationships between things as opposed
to things themselves.
Putting the half tone along the silhouette, remember in three-dimensional subject matter
your lightest light must not be at the silhouette, but it’s just a half-tone, it’s not a shadow.
I guess I’m really trying to chisel the forms of the hand and fingers.
You know, we generally call this tonal drawing but an equally good description of the subject
would be drawing in planes.
Naturally, you see as I did you can start off in very light lines,
but it goes to drawing in planes.
Because the finger is extended we get these tension planes at the inside of the knuckle pad.
If you’re spacing and placing is pretty much accurate then you don’t have to worry
too much about anything except drawing the overlaps and assigning values to your shadows
versus values you assign to your half tones.
And that means that you can actually draw something that has a certain crispness or
freshness to it so it doesn’t look overworked.
Keep the silhouette of each finger quite simple and any modeling or changing of plane that
you want to describe try to do that within the silhouette.
I know that the last phalanx of this little finger is bent in fact, more than we usually
find on the distal phalanx of any finger.
The main change of plane on a finger is between the proximal and here the medial phalanx.
It’s very hard to hold these two in the same plane and then bend just the distal phalanx
of a finger, it’s very unnatural.
So you can really pretty much get things across just by the way you describe the change of
direction at proximal, medial intersection.
Usually, the distal phalanx is a continuation of the movement of the medial phalanx here.
I think a couple of the best books on drawing hands would include Burne Hogarth’s Drawing
Dynamic Hands, I think it can really lead to a good solid understanding of that appendage
and I don’t know if it’s in print now or not, but Joe Henninger, I think it’s
H-e-n-i-n-g-e-r, could be leaving out an N, I’m not sure or maybe adding an extra one.
He put out a book on drawing the hands a number of decades ago and I still think it’s one
of the best ones that you can possibly find.
I’m not going to see any detail in the shadow, we have plenty of detail in here so if anything
this area is a nice, simple field of relief for the eye.
We have complexity and we have it staged against simplicity.
So you have the overarching issue of the figure, but you need to learn how to support that
with the drawing of the head, the hands, the hair and drapery.
Stick to the core principles that I’ve described for you from the first lesson up until now
and beyond, I’ll always use those, about edges, values, shapes.
Okay, so that’s pretty good for today’s lesson, the lay-in of a hand.
Next week I’ll work some more on the hand and we’ll begin our study of a female nude
back view, but just remember everything that applies to the figure, same principles that
apply to drawing a chair or a hand or a drapery, at least we have that as a constant.
So we don’t have to worry about that changing all the time.
Alright, good, I hope you get a chance to practice drawing hands this week or any of
the other material we’ve gone over and so have a happy week
and thanks for joining the class today.