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Learn to Draw > Drawing hand positionsOur constricted position for the writing hand permits several kinds of drawing strokes, but a flowing, broad drawing demands several other hand positions, which permit greater freedom of movement and free the hand from the drawing surface so that it is easier to see what it is doing. A child who has had no instruction in drawing will always squeeze his fingers around the point of the pencil and bend the first finger. When he draws, in little jerks, he can see nothing of what he is doing, and, as inspiration grows, misfortune soon comes: the point breaks and tears of frustration follow. The first rule then for all drawing is to watch the intended path of the line.
This rule cqn be obeyed only if the drawing instrument is held as far away from its point as possible, and if the hand is held free. This makes it possible to obey the second rule as well, which is to draw lightly. If the pencil is held at the far end it is almost impossible to press hard and rigidly. A drawing should always be begun with light strokes, whether one starts with outlining surfaces or building structures. The first lines are a tentative groping towards the final ones.
The beginner is often not so careful. To give himself confidence, or to look confident to others, he haphazardly sets down a thick line, corrects it with an eraser, and as likely as not continues this alternation with growing discouragement. He is likely to enjoy his work more if he dispenses entirely with the eraser. Then every line he draws must be left; consequently, they must be laid like a breath, like gossamer, onto the paper. Once a few correct lines have been strengthened, the others do not matter. They are hardly noticeable, and do no more than make an attractive fine texture on the white emptiness of the paper.
Competent draftsmen use the eraser sometimes to remove guiding lines if they are going to work later in another material - for instance, using watercolor or ink over a pencil sketch. Any other use of the eraser destroys the directness of the stroke. It is just this spontaneity which charms the beholder and arouses his imagination-not corrected, though absolutely "correct," lines.
There are two hand positions suitable for a light sketching stroke. With the first, the end of the pencil or brush points into the palm of the hand; with the second, the handle points past the edge of the hand while it is held by the tips of all the fingers. The latter is the typical grip for charcoal and bare chalks. The hand can use them on their sides, flat, without a change of grip, for putting in a surface in one stroke. The area covered depends on how steeply the pencil is held to the paper.
A stroke of stronger and more certain effect is obtained by holding the pencil closer to the point, either with the writing grip or the one described above for charcoal. The pencil must never be held so short that it obstructs sight of the line. A loose, long line is drawn from the shoulder and elbow, almost entirely without wrist movement. Strong and very sure strokes need a support for the forearm, wrist, or even the edge of the hand. Then the wrist can make the movement for the stroke. Very short strokes are made by the fingers alone. In this way one can draw with heavy pressure, as far as the firmness of the paper and the strength of the leads allow.
Next: Charcoal and pen hand positions
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