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Drawing Feet for an Exercise

Updated on July 7, 2016
Foot Exercise #33
Foot Exercise #33 | Source

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.

Foot Exercise #20
Foot Exercise #20 | Source

Aging 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?
Foot Exercise #10
Foot Exercise #10 | Source
Foot Exercise #24
Foot Exercise #24 | Source

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.

Foot Exercise #28
Foot Exercise #28 | Source

How do you feel about making a challenge for yourself for growth or personal edification?

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Why draw?

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
Foot Exercise #38
Foot Exercise #38 | Source


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.

Baby feet.  Foot Exercise #39
Baby feet. Foot Exercise #39 | Source
Foot Exercise #27
Foot Exercise #27 | Source

My process

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.

Foot Exercise #2
Foot Exercise #2 | Source
Foot Exercise #14
Foot Exercise #14 | Source

Toned Paper

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.

Dancers.  Foot Exercise #21
Dancers. Foot Exercise #21 | Source

“Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.”

— Paul Klee
Foot Exercise #13
Foot Exercise #13 | Source

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
Sharpening my charcoal pencils with sand paper.
Sharpening my charcoal pencils with sand paper. | Source

My goals

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.

Foot Exercise #9
Foot Exercise #9 | Source
Foot Exercise #8
Foot Exercise #8 | Source

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.

Foot Exercise #7
Foot Exercise #7 | Source
Bones of the feet.  Foot Exercise #12
Bones of the feet. Foot Exercise #12 | Source


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.

Feet are flexible.  Foot Exercise #4
Feet are flexible. Foot Exercise #4 | Source

“You can never do too much drawing.”

— Tontoretto
Foot Exercise #26
Foot Exercise #26 | Source

Challenge Yourself

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.


Creative Comments Desired

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Glenis Rix,

      I agree. I do the same thing. All time and space mean nothing while drawing and that has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for blood pressure and stress levels. I think everyone should draw if for nothing more than the medical benefits. Thanks for commenting.



    • Glenis Rix profile image

      GlenR 20 months ago from UK

      Amazing perseverance.And great results. I must practice more! I find that a side benefit of drawing and painting as a pastime is that it relaxes the mind. It's so absorbing that I switch off all other thoughts.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA


      How profound, Lawrence. Thanks for noticing. I guess you are right, that's what we artists do. We want people to see the little things just the way we see them. Thanks for commenting.



    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      It's probably been said already but I'll say it again, this reminds me how important even the little things at the end of our legs that we take for granted really are!

      Helping us to 'see' those things we take for granted is what the artist (whatever their art) really does.


    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA


      What a sweet encourager you are. I hope you do surprise yourself one day and take up the challenge. It actually is quite stretching and growth is good. Thank you for commenting.



    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 21 months ago from The Caribbean

      Super interesting and motivating, and yes: I feel challenged by your example. One day I may surprise myself.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA


      It does take persistence and a tenacity to just not give up. Feet are funny-looking. I have found the exercise to be very interesting though. Thanks for commenting.



    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

      You certainly have patience and persistence. I read an article recently that featured famous artists who were terrible at drawing feet. Some of their examples were funny.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA


      Oh that is so sweet to say. I love talking about art... so much so that my family can't get away from me fast enough. LOL So to have a few who enjoy the same thing is really nice. Thanks so much for following me.



    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 21 months ago

      I love those little baby feet drawings! You certainly can draw and I have learned plenty since I've started reading your posts.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA

      Surabhi Kaura,

      I love art too. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for commenting.



    • profile image

      Surabhi Kaura 21 months ago

      I love this! I love art :)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA

      Gee, thank you hari. I really appreciate the pat on the back. Some days I feel like I am affirmed as an artist because of the nice comments.



    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 21 months ago from Bangalore



    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA

      Larry Rankin,

      Thanks for commenting, Larry. I really appreciate it.



    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Interesting ideas.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA


      So happy you feel the challenge. I talk to artists all the time. I belong to an artist's society here locally, and I can't believe how many have a very casual attitude toward art, like they don't do it every day sometimes not even once a week. It's like art is a hobby and not the air we breathe. I guess they haven't gotten the disease like you and I have. They only have the symptoms but have been inoculated against the full disease of art for life! Thanks for commenting.



    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 21 months ago from Cork, Ireland

      Great article and tutorial, Denise. I have never tried charcoal and now you challenged me to do something with such pencils. Also agree with you that there are no weekends, holidays and rest for people like us. Yes, it's art. :)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA


      Thank you, I agree. Creating is my life-blood and the air I breathe. A day without it means I'm really sick or dying. Thanks for commenting.



    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 21 months ago from Fresno CA

      Reynold Jay,

      I am awed by your adoration. Thank you. You are too kind. I want to get better at what I do so I push myself constantly. Thanks for commenting.



    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love the section "my goals." Very similar to mine. Any day I can write is a good day as far as I'm concerned. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 21 months ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      100 days drawing hands and now this...OMG...Denise. You are a trouper artist that would give Da Vinci a run for his money! I think he did sketches along this line too. When I see this I can only think of you as the lady Da Vinci of our time. Hey--your sketches are as good as anything he did. I bow to the master!