Seven-Step Progression of Painting Hands

Painting hands has historically been a challenge for most artists. I happened upon painting hands in the 1990′s when I created a large body of work entitled “No Time for Idle Hands,” commemorating the women of the 1800′s. The hand was used to visually tell their stories.

Currently I have embarked in a news series “Your Inner Core,” where the hand(s) has re-appeared.

1. Before I begin painting, I have taken a number of different photographs of the visual concept I want to convey. I then sketch my idea and often on tracing paper. You will notice grid lines that I have drawn. These are on the back side of the tracing paper. The dimensions correspond with the 16×20 panel I will be using.

drawing painting hands

2. For the next step, I decide upon the color palette. Often my hand paintings are created using a triad color palette of: green, orange and purple. The paint is applied quickly and with a large brush. You can see that the directions of the brush strokes relate to the sketch above.

After this layer dries, I then lightly draw in the grid lines using a watercolor crayon. From there I can follow my preliminary drawing to draw in my hands.

paint hands

3.  I own the skeleton of the hand/arm. Here you can see that I have positioned it according to my concept. A sketch of the bones is drawn directly onto the panel. My apologies for not having a photograph of this stage.

drawing painting hands [Read more...]

Art is a Speculative Business | Are We Gold Diggers?

Because we artists operate a speculative business, I thought I would ask, “Are we gold diggers?” digging

During the past few years, I have been struggling with the correct words to describe to non-artists how our business of making art is different from the model of most small businesses. Most people do not understand that our ‘product’ is one-of-kind, sometimes successful, a process, it changes/evolves constantly and that it is a deeply emotional and intellectual expression and interpretation of a concept. It also takes years to learn the technical skills to offer these expressions and interpretations – our products – to the world.

Finally, the word speculation surfaced and I realized that we operate speculative businesses. I wondered, “How could I learn from this insight?” I started to do some research.

What does speculation mean in the the business world. Here are a few definitions:

  1. Investment decisions based on the hope and expectation there will be a profit, but no firm evidence that this will be the case. As a general rule, the more speculative the venture, the greater the reward should be, commensurate with the risk taken.
  2. A company with a large number of assets tied up in projects with uncertain returns.
  3. The taking of above-average risks to achieve above-average returns, generally during a relatively short period of time. Speculation involves buying something on the basis of its potential selling price rather than on the basis of its actual value.  ©Wallstreet
  4. The term speculation implies that a business or investment risk can be analyzed and measured, and its distinction from the term investment is one of degree of risk. It differs from gambling, which is based on random outcomes.

As you can read in these definitions, there isn’t complete agreement in the definition of speculation. While I was researching the concept, I noticed that sometimes speculators are considered gamblers whereas some believe a speculative business can be analyzed and measured.

Let’s look at the first definition of speculation as it relates to an art business.

We artists invest our time, energy and money “based on the hope and expectation there will be profit, but no firm evidence that this will be the case.” (I know that not all artists have this aspiration. In this post I am referring to those of us that do.) Essentially, we expend our blood sweat and tears in the hope that others will want to purchase our ‘products.’

We offer the world the opportunity to view the world from different perspectives. Often we bring humor, beauty, color, distaste and intellectual challenges for viewers to consider and experience. Personally, I strive to create visual experiences that can impact how people see themselves and the world. carol mcintyre speculative business

My main question is writing about speculation and how it relates to fine art businesses, is: Could we not benefit from the business knowledge of other speculative businesses in being more effective in operating our businesses? Are there MBA’s out there who could share their expertise?

Examples of Speculative Businesses:

  • Oil companies are an example of a speculative company, since they are continuously committing a large number of assets to exploration projects. These companies often experience many failures before a project succeeds. However, should they find oil, potential returns are huge.
  • Building contractors who build spec homes. The home is built as an investment with the intention of being purchased upon its completion.

In definition #4 above, a speculative business can be analyzed and measured. I would like to learn how that could be done for my art business.

Let’s extend an invitation to owners of speculative businesses to offer their valuable experiences to artists. How could we artists connect with these people?

Are we gold diggers? Perhaps at some level we are. I believe that our work is worth the risk and brings great value to the world.speculative business

Do you not think these business experts could be of assistance? I would love to hear your thoughts and input.

Please share and comment. Thank you!

The Challenges of Painting Bones | The Pelvis

Have you ever tried painting bones? It may have been something you did in art school or in studying the human form. Bones are not a typical subject because of they can carry emotional content, which can be different for everyone.

Painting bones the pelvisHaving created a large body of work entitled, “No Time for Idle Hands,” that featured the hand as the subject to communicate my visual message, I drew and studied the hand/arm bones many times. This was necessary for me to learn how to ultimately paint the hand correctly and with feeling. I created this series of paintings from 1994-2000.

Recently, I have decided to return to the subject of bones but with a twist. This series is entitled “Your Inner Core.” My focus for this body of work is on the important role our skeletal system plays in our lives, despite our tendency to forget them because they are difficult to see and feel. We often do not give them the attention we should until something breaks or we are in pain.

Where and how did I begin to learn about painting bones that I had not drawn, painted or studied previously?

First, I did some preliminary research on the internet, which is full of images of bones. Photos of bones taken be other people does not tell the story. I needed the real thing – a life-sized human skeleton. Hence, I began calling the offices of my doctors, asked anyone I knew and even posted a request on Facebook. Through a circuitous route I was able to have access to a skeleton that was in a local biology classroom. After several hours of sketching and many photographs, I had my first group of resources. I was jazzed!

Next I had to tackle the artistic problems and my goals in painting bones. They are listed below. [Read more...]

5 Mistakes Artists Make Painting & Drawing Hands

Historically, many artists have had difficulty painting and drawing hands. Edgar Degas often obscured the hands of his ballerinas or painted them incorrectly, whereas Mary Cassatt knew the hand well and never shied away from them.

Why are hands a challenge to paint and draw? In this post, I will outline the top 5 common mistakes artists make. These mistakes will point out the difficulties in drawing hands while explaining how they can be drawn correctly. Hands are known as the most difficult subject to draw. Interestingly, even non-artists know this.

drawing handsSeveral years ago I painted a large body of work (26 pieces) where I featured the hand as the subject to tell my visual story. Through the power of hands, I commemorated the women of the 1800′s, conveying the important contributions they made to the United States. The series is entitled, “No Time for Idle Hands.” My book describing my process and experiences is titled, “An Artist’s Journey with the Women of the West.”  The watercolor painting above is “Always on the Move.”

The common 5 mistakes artists make painting and drawing hands:

1. Artists tend to rely on their visual dictionary when painting and drawing hands. It is important to let-go of this visual history and really LOOK at the hand you want to draw. Because we see our hands all day long, we have a tendency to make assumptions when drawing hands.

2. It is important to notice the negative spaces between our fingers. It is easy to get caught up in drawing the fingers and palm/back of the hand, meanwhile you loose the essence of what you want the hand is to be doing when the negative spaces are not accurately seen. For example, in “Prized Possession,” (below) you can see the various negative spaces I had to draw to convey that this woman was playing a pump organ keyboard.

drawing hands on key board [Read more...]

Five Ways to Sabotage Your Color Mixing | Color Theory Tip

Are you aware how you might be sabotaging your color mixing? Do any of these color mixing myths seem familiar? Many painters experience frustration with color without realizing they have sabotaged themselves. You…

1. Refuse to Know Your Pigments. It makes sense that anyone in the painting business should keep up with their industry, right? But many artists don’t have a true understanding and are unaware of the many ways their pigments work. Trans-W-C

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to learn about your pigments. Every manufacturer provides information about their pigments. However, you do need to learn the 5 characteristics of each of your colors and the only way to do that is spend the them getting to know them. I like to approach each tube of paint as I do each brush and palette knife I use – each one has its own personality.

The image above shows how you can assess the transparency of your pigments no matter your medium. Paint a strip of black acrylic paint, let it dry and then with one brush stroke using paint straight from the tube, paint a stripe of each pigment across the black paint. Discoveries will undoubtedly happen.

2. Insist that using and a mixing color is intuitive. Did you learn to ride by intuition? Did you just jump on it and ride off in the wind? Most likely you needed some instruction, coaching and perhaps training wheels. After several crashes, bruises and growing physically stronger, you were shouting, “Look mom, no hands!” and riding a bike became intuitive. The same principle works with using and mixing color. [Read more...]

The Hands are Back! — How My Art has Evolved

From 1995-2001, I was consumed with creating a body of work that became known as “No Time for Idle Hands.” I painted 26 watercolor pieces (and a few pencil drawings) commemorating the women of the 1800′s. It was a social political statement giving a visual voice to the women who made significant contributions to this country. These women were (and still are) depicted incorrectly – as unwilling partners or Madonnas – though most women knew exactly what they were doing and why.

No Time for Idle Hands


In my book, “Painting My Passion: An Artist’s Journey with the Women of the West,” I describe how this series changed my life and opened many doors. For example, I began creating commissions of people’s hands, mostly in pencil. I call them “handportraits,” – from musicians to a MLB baseball pitcher to young children. hands on fluteFlute player in pencil (cropped).

Then I crashed and burned. Well, not completely, but I needed a change after “No Time for Idle Hands,” took a traveling tour around the mid- and southwest. [Read more...]