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.
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.
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.
4. Now I lightly start to create a sense of dimension with a blue purple. I am identifying the lights and darks of the hands. You do not see the grid lines because I have removed them with a damp cloth.
5. Next, the bones of the skeletal hand is painted in with a pail purple paint and the left hand starts to evolve as I apply different orange tones for the skin colors. TIP: I use the combination of purple and orange for most of the hands I paint because these two secondary colors create a brown tone. In this situation the oranges are layered on top of the purple. This combination of colors makes the hands look much more alive.
Unfortunately many artists use blue instead of a purple color. The result is dull and gray.
6. The hands are further developed as well as the hand skeleton. In this painting “Healing Hands,” I want to convey the complexity of the hand with the bones along with showing how they are very much alive. We often take our bones for granted because they are so well protected and not visible. How many bones are in the hand?
I continue to apply layers of paint to show the strength of the hand. I am not sure about the background at this stage. Some texture is created with my palette knife and I spend time staring at the painting to determine what direction I want to go with the background. I know that it will be abstract. At the same time I want to make sure that the hands pop.
7. “Healing Hands,” 16x20x1.5 oil is complete. You can see that I have changed my mind about the background in the lower left. I saw the light stripes in the upper left and decided to create that pattern across the top of the page. The colorful squares echo my color palette, as well as anchor the horizontal design. The light cast shadow does the same and adds more depth and mystery.
Then I had to decide where to insert the glass marble. Every painting in “Your Inner Core,” includes this surprise element. Why?
What does the painting remind you of? Where does it take your imagination? Do the hands look strong yet gentle enough to heal?
Please share this post with others who may be interested. Your questions, comments and input are always welcome!