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18 September 2023

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This is the second part of an article about drawing human brushes. In it, we collected references that demonstrate the accuracy and selectivity in depicting hands and the expression of emotion through them.

Just a reminder that Skills Up School has a class
a course devoted entirely to brush painting
. Since this is one of the most difficult topics in the study of the human figure, you need to have basic pencil drawing skills when you enroll. If in doubt, send us your portfolio and we’ll tell you which courses are right for you.

Artist and Skills Up School curator Anna Pacha shared her references and comments on them

Accuracy and selectivity

A graphic artist you can study to understand brushwork is Hendrik Goltzius. Pay attention to the competent distribution of details: it seems that every joint and vein is drawn, but it is done with different degrees of contrast, generalizations.

Because of the rather complex stroke, his works are difficult to copy – you can either verbally analyze them or try to simplify the stroke system.


The graphic artist and painter Nikolai Feshin – we know him mainly for his portraits and complex compositions. He has both individual sketches and exploratory brush sketches on the same sheet as the heads.

Feshin used a sidewall of soft material to generalize form and express volume. The tone in his depiction of the hands thickens in the area of the joints and becomes softer in the area of the muscles, finger pads and disappears altogether in the far background. Line works around the edge of the mold and emphasizes the design through folds, the shape of the nails. The line breaks in some places, dynamically changes its thickness and, just like the tone, dissolves into the background.

The artist is nuanced in his use of chalk to make sure that the viewer begins to view the work from exactly the right point.


Emotional expression

In brush painting, in addition to construction and anatomy, liveliness is important: hands can convey emotion even more actively than facial expressions.

In Denis Sarazhin’s works, the hands and feet often express the main emotion of the work and are drawn with special attention. The brushes are anatomically worked out, complex rhythms of arrangement of individual details and large spots to each other are found – both the rhythm of the fingers, and the rhythm of the joints, and even the rhythm of individual strokes make up a harmony, disturbing and attractive.

Sarajin’s work is painterly, with a vast array of hues. The multicolor color is selective, organized by light and shade relations, generalizations, warm-coldness of the work, at the same time – a lot of graphic moves (line, blind monochrome fills).


Adaptation for your own purposes

When analyzing the works of the masters and copy practice, look not only at individual sketches, but also at the whole painting – this task is more difficult, as everything that fills the painting can distract from the brushes. But it is important to understand the importance of the image of brushes in the work, whether they are the center of the composition or support the main motif – the degree of expressiveness, the degree of elaboration depend on it.

Albert Dorn’s work with brush sketches collects brushes performing everyday actions. Through expressive silhouette, generalizations, nuances, these sketches look convincing. There is a sense of tension in the broken pencil fragment, the nuanced textures add materiality and character.


To find out more about the Human Brushes course – its program, cost and the nearest start date – please visit the course page. Sign up to learn how to draw colorful, dynamic hands in a variety of poses.

First part of the article

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