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Musical instruments

I took a lot of photos of hands playing various instruments at my Taikoz Intensive. This is (hopefully) the beginning of a huge collection of drawings and it will show why I find hands so fascinating.

These first two are holding baci (long drumsticks used for playing Japanese taiko or drums). They were drawn as the hand rises up to strike the taiko, what we call the upstroke. There shouldn’t be any tension in the hand or arm during this action. It’s probably a bit more convincing in the second drawing. The baci is also a very light timber and very even in weight.

I forgot to use my negative space to get the fingers on the baci in the correct position. My lighting was also very subtle, making it difficult to create strong definition in the drawing, particularly when you are drawing in black & white from a colour photo. As a result I was losing a lot of shape and tone, especially around the baci.

I also found this exercise a little difficult to draw. As I am a student of Taiko I know what the hand gestures and strokes should look and feel like. It was hard NOT to draw from my collective memory. I also decided to draw a little of the forearm to capture the elegance of the gesture, otherwise it would have just looked clumsy.

Below we have the shinobue. Whenever I draw or paint I like to challenge myself, and this did the trick. My first issue was a technical fault – I was having problems with my nib. The one I’m using for this series is a lot smaller and finer, and I couldn’t get the ink to flow. I realised it was me and that I was drawing too fast. So I slowed down and it was a lot more fluid. Once I got into a rhythm, the nature of this finer nib forced me to cross-hatch with more care and control. It reminded me of the past century’s engravers and etchers and how detailed their work was. In fact I bought two Gustave Dore books recently – Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Divine Comedy – amazing!


Next we have the shakuhachi. Because of this baby nib slowing me down it also gave me a lot more time to look at my reference material. I haven’t decided if this is an advantage or not, as I started to see more tones than the standard light, mid and dark tones. Therefore my drawing was getting a little “muddy” in areas because I could see too much – if that makes any sense. So I had to make my dark tones very obvious to give the whole picture some contrast.


This may be a no-brainer comment for some, but I realised how much more effective cross-hatching in the direction of the shape you’re depicting is.

If you look at the index finger of the top hand – my cross-hatching is terrible, especially before the first knuckle. That’s because I’ve shaded in at a 45˚ angle, when I should have curved my lines to match the plane or surface area of the finger. See my example below.

I have always known that, but I guess I was being lazy and didn’t want to dust off that piece of knowledge from the top shelf in my brain and apply it. Wish I had tho, as it would have been a much more dynamic drawing. And I probably wouldn’t of had to work so hard to make this picture whole.

I also shouldn’t have finished this picture over 2 separate days. You can see the bottom half isn’t as light and careful as the top. I stuffed up my original nib so my new nib was a little different. In fact my whole headspace was different too when I completed it.

Maybe delicate isn’t my thing…

Crosshatching example

Cross hatching: Rather than keeping to a 45˚angle, you can see how cross-hatching along the shape of the finger enhances the volume and shape. Cross-hatching should not only be used to add shade to a drawing, but to help accentuate the form too.

Singing Copper Bowls

Here are two examples of hands playing Singing Copper Bowls. A general method of creating sound with these instrumets is by slowly moving the cylindrical mallet  around the inner rim of the bowl. Similar to running a finger along the rim of a crystal wine glass. It has a resonating deep sound that kind of floats through the air. With the first drawing I tried very hard to keep it simple by only applying tone in three separate stages. That way I wouldn’t get bogged down with tonal detail that may or may not exist. Below the finished drawing I have added the real photo and the progress of the drawing. Unfortunately I was really lazy when photographing my drawing, so they are not the best or accurate.

Singing Bowl 1

Singing Bowl 1 - Stages

The next Singing Bowl image I feel I like I may have drawn it too small, ie in terms of the hands. I wanted tocapture the subtlety of that third finger that sits behind the mallet, but it gets lost in the shading. Compared to the other fingers it has a nice feel to it. It’s not so much about holding the mallet, but cushioning it to keep it straight and stable. I do like my hand holding the bowl. You can feel the weight of the bowl resting on it, and its very still and restful.

Singing Bowl 2

Singing Bowl 2 Stages





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