Monday, October 11, 2010


I started making a drawing today for a piece I intend to make for another invitational show. There is a figure in the drawing and a hand. Do you know how difficult hands are to draw? Very. And the hand must look right for the piece to work. That is not to say that every detail must be there, but the gesture must be right. How many works of art are ruined by an awkward hand? One that looks like a claw or an assortment of sausages. I gave up for today and will get back to it tomorrow. I think even the best draftsmen have trouble with hands.

I look at my hands today—that is one of them holding a needle in the photo—and I see my mother's hands. My hands are beginning to show their age. I now have one of those brown spots on one hand and I can no longer wear my engagement and wedding rings, so I wear a silver ring bought in Mexico until I can decide what I want to do with my rings. Have them enlarged? Redesigned?

I stopped wearing nail polish quite a few years ago when I determined that rather than protecting my dry and splitting nails as I had hoped, it was making them worse. They are much healthier and stronger as a result. (My secret for keeping my nails strong and pliable is a slather of vaseline before I go to bed.) I have friends who wear acrylic nails, which they lavish a lot of time and money on. The thought of gluing plastic covers to my nails gives me a small shiver of claustrophobia. Besides I'm sure I would ruin them immediately with glue or paint or pop one off using it as a screwdriver. My hands are my main tools. One hand has a smooth, pale scar that is the result of a glob of misplaced hot glue. Not once, but twice, I have sewn through my left index finger with my sewing machine. OK, sorry. You probably didn't need that grisly bit of information.

Today my hands made bread and typed a gagillion words for the Columbia Fiberarts Guild newsletter and pinned Sofia's mermaid costume to her to see how it was fitting and, like I said, tried drawing another hand. When I ran in to get Sofia I stopped to lay my hand on my baby grandson's downy, sleeping head—irresistible—and startled him awake because it was cold. I felt bad about that, but then had the pleasant task of picking him up and soothing him back to sleep.

I like when my hands smell like onions, from chopping them. I always remember my Mom's hands smelling like that. I bought some of that soap, once, that is supposed to neutralize the smell of onions on one's hands. I just thought it made them smell like lemon—and onions.

If I ever get that hand drawn correctly I'll show it to you. If I don't you'll know I gave up and came up with a whole different idea for the artwork.


  1. I completely understand your comment about your mother's hands. A year or so after my mom died, I was sewing and kept seeing my mom's hands guiding the fabric. It became almost unnerving, as it happened repeatedly, then I realized it was her birthday. Quite often during my high school years, when I was sewing clothes, I would wake up to find she had inset the sleeves or top stitched a pocket onto a shirt, tasks I hated to do.

    And my hands still smell like onions, even though I have washed them several times since dinner. ;-)

  2. I love to observe hands in artwork! Often they are sensitively drawn/sculpted in relation to the rest of the piece, almost as though we artists pay homage to them subconsciously.

    Have you ever done the exercise in Betty Edward's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain? The one where you place your paper under the table and draw your hand without seeing how your pencil is moving or the marks it's making? I find those drawings incredibly sensitive and remarkable in their accuracy. Dare I say that I can achieve a better result that way!!

  3. When I was teaching hand applique, the first exercise was a tracing of our hand made into an applique. I was always amazed at the emotional connection the students had to their work. and how wonderful the pieces looked.

    I wash my oniony hands with soap and then run them over the stainless surface of my sink and faucet. No smell remains. A mystery on how it works.

    I have my grandmother's hands and hold them exactly as she does in old photographs. I loved her dearly and love that I share the same hands with her.

  4. Anonymous7:09 AM

    What lovely sentiment you shared today. thank you. Lizzie

  5. My daughter has an assignment for her 8th grade art class to draw the entire sign language alphabet. She thinks hands are hard to draw, too. But she will get lots of practice.

    My hands, and even fingernails, are my tools and I never do anything with my nails. I can't see how a creative type would be able to work with fake fingernails.

  6. I was once told I had "practical hands" -- not pretty hands, but hands that could accomplish things. I'm OK with that.

    I recently did a thread sketched artwork with hands and so I know exactly how you feel about getting them just right.

  7. Hands are hard to draw, however feet are almost impossible.
    Just this week I've been copying some hands I drew in the early
    1970s. I thought they looked pretty good, but today I saw that one hand had only four fingers. I never noticed that in all these years.

  8. Lovely post. I once married an artist who tried to teach me, among other things, how to draw. One thing I remember distinctly was his instructing me to draw the space behind the hand rather than the hand. That was fun, even tho I still didn't draw a realistic-looking hand. Thanks for triggering the memory.

  9. Terry. If you have large joints that don't allow your rings to be removed there are solutions that really help. A jeweler can make a "hinge" on the ring that totally opens up so you can take your rings off easily. With the "hinge" in place it cannot be removed. You would never know that it opens up and looks like a normal ring.