Drawing Feet for an Exercise
Drawing 100 Feet
After spending 100 days drawing hands and really loving the challenge, I decided to spend the next 100 days drawing feet. Although they are not quite as difficult as hands, there is a similarity to hands in bone structure and digit dynamics that creates some challenges. I found this so empowering and enlightening that already I am contemplating what to spend the next 100 days concentrating on. Should it be faces? Noses? Ears? Who knows. For now I am still concentrating on the feet.
One really interesting thing I have learned right off is that the feet age just like the face and hands. There are wrinkles and banyans, puffy swelling and arthritis that takes its tole on elderly feet. Men’s feet are more than just larger; they are more muscular, angular and the veins are nearer the surface than women’s feet. Children’s feet and baby’s feet seem to be rounder and the toes more sausage like than their adult counterparts. Also no matter where the shadows fall the bottoms of the feet appear a little darker than the sides even on African people, who typically have lighter colored palms of their hands than the back of the hands.
“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along, you’ll start happening too?”
— Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go?
Anyone can draw
The idea that people cannot learn to draw is ludicrous. I have to say that. Just the idea that you aren’t talented enough to learn creates a mental block that will prevent you from learning. Talent is not some aristocracy that you are born into, or if you are not you are doomed to mediocrity. If that were so all my children would be artists, or perhaps I would not. I am the only artist among my siblings and my step-children (not of my blood) are artists where my biological children are not. That proves to me that it is more nurture than nature. Just like learning the piano, languages or mathematics, drawing can be taught and learned. It is time and practice that makes all the difference.
How do you feel about making a challenge for yourself for growth or personal edification?
In an era of digital manipulation and awesome photography why would anyone want to go through the slow process of drawing? I know people ask that all the time. Sure the Renaissance artists drew but they didn’t have cameras, right? Drawing helps us to analyze and solve problems. It causes us to face taking risks. Your first lines in a drawing aren’t going to be perfect. That’s why we artists usually put them down lightly, knowing we will change them with several more lines that are more accurate. In my case, I like to use vine charcoal first so that I can wipe away any unwanted unnecessary lines in favor of more accurate ones later. We are visually tapping into imagination and problem solving design elements that all people have inside them. If you can doodle, you can draw.
“A man throws himself out of the fourth-floor window; if you can’t make a sketch of him before he gets to the ground, you will never do anything big.”
— Eugene Delacroix
Drawing is fundamental to the seeing process. It is an “active way of engaging reality, to observe, analyze, and record it with the possibility of reimagining it.” (Eviston, web) What we artists are doing is learning to see and then translating that into lines that allow the viewer to see like we do or what we do. We do more than cameras can do (merely capture the image). If done well, we artists capture the feeling, the soul of the person, the soul of the foot (pun intended) or whatever object.
Eviston, Brent. How Learning to Draw Had Taught Me to Live, Artists Network, web, 13 May 2016.
I got photos from various places, online, stock photo sites, family photos and family events where I got my family to posed for me. After a while I could see the advantage of two feet together and sometimes interacting hands with feet. I was tempted to count them as two instead of one drawing when I had two feet together. That way my 100 days of feet would go faster. But then I decided that I needed the practice more even with two feet in one drawing. I’m glad I did this because two feet interacting together or working together became a favorite subject for me. I loved working on dancer’s feet especially. It seems dancers can make their feet do things the rest of us cannot.
I did all these drawings on toned paper using black charcoal and white charcoal pencils. After the first 50 drawings I started to see that they were easier, took less time to draw and I could see the details easier without straining and I didn’t have to keep measuring the proportions each time. I found that drawing in the shadows under the feet helped them look more anchored even though I wanted to concentrate on the structure of the foot more than the shadows under them. After the 65 mark I started to get tired of the whole exercised and wanted it to end but I was so determined to make it to 100, that I refused to quit. Some were sloppy, some were less than perfect, some were terrible and some were terrific. In the end I was so proud of my accomplishment that it felt good.
“Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.”
— Paul Klee
Drawing with Charcoal
I sketched in the shape and gesture with the soft vine charcoal so that I could wipe away any mistakes or misplaced lines. Then I went over those with the charcoal pencil #4 or #6, going very lightly at first and building up the shadows and values slowly. Next I used the kneaded gum eraser to pull up any areas I wanted to remain light because you can’t put the white charcoal over the black. It looks terrible. After pulling up any black where I wanted highlights, I put on the white charcoal only in the highest highlight parts, leaving the toned paper clean to be the light parts of the foot. I found that even feet have knuckles and that the toes are not sausage-like, unless you are eating very lumpy, bumpy sausages. Feet are very interesting.
“The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.”
— Wassily Kandinsky
Goals are important to set for yourself. One of my favorite mottos is that the only person I have to be better than is the person I was yesterday. To do that I much keep practicing everyday. No holidays, no weekends, no days off. However, it’s art. Why would I want a day off from something so fun and so enriching? I don’t.
Posting on social media
After posting my drawings on social media, some of my friends and family were impressed as well. One friend was inspired by my 100 hands and asked if we could draw 100 days of something together next during the following 3 months. So I was very happy to take her up on her offer and we will be drawing 100 faces together for the next 3 months and posting them to compare. I always size my photos down to about 9 inches on the longest side and 72 dpi for posting on the web.
I learned the names of the bones in the hand, the bones in the feet and the musculature, how the veins go near the surface and the tendons that show up during tension and movement. This was not necessary but helpful and I feel I am empowered by the knowledge.
Some things I learned
I learned many things about the toes. One thing is that they are rarely round. They really are rather squared, especially the middle three. The little toe always seems to lay sideways, is usually turned inward and somewhat tapered compared to the rest of the toes. Another interesting thing that I didn’t notice before is the ankle. You have two ankles above each foot, right? Yes, but did you know that the inside ankle is always slightly higher on the leg than the outside ankle. I never noticed before.
I learned that on the average, the feet are twice as long as they are wide. There are exceptions, of course, like with babies feet. I noticed that the toes are never perfectly straight; instead they seem to come out from the foot, turn downward, and sometimes out again. I learned that most people cannot wiggle their little toe independent from the others, just like most people cannot wiggle their ears.
“You can never do too much drawing.”
Do you have areas where you feel your drawing are less than perfect? Want to get better at lips or ears or hands? Do what I did and schedule one drawing per day for 100 days. It doesn’t take that long for just one drawing and you will be amazed at the skill and confidence that comes from the exercise. It is very galvanizing. Your drawings will never be the same.