I had a nice comment the other day about an approach to painting. Susie wrote that instead of “practice, practice, practice”, as I thought I should do, it would be better to “play, play, play”.  That is excellent advice. It seems to be in keeping with the efforts of some great artists who strove for simplicity in their work. Paul Klee is one such artist I’ve mentioned in recent posts. What better way to simplify than to play? After all, children play. They put colors on paper because they like the way they look. Once I tried to explain to my granddaughter that putting too many colors on the paper would make it look like mud. “But I like mud,” she said. Children are different than adults. It would be nice to reconnect with childhood… I wonder if it has to be my own childhood.

Taking Susie’s advice

It must have been around Thanksgiving in art class, sometime during my time in elementary school; we had to draw an outline of our hand and make it into a turkey. This is what came to my mind when I thought about playing. So I drew an outline of my hand to start. I know Susie was talking about playing with colors, the act of painting; disconnecting the consciousness perhaps, by adding the element of music.  Keeping Susie’s advice in mind, I couldn’t bear making my hand outline into a turkey.


During the time I took photographs of my older brother, hands seemed to be an important part of their composition. Mike seemed to have very particular hand postures. Mike is very low functioning, autistic and nonverbal. I thought that by portraying certain of his hand gestures, I could use them as elements to express my own emotions somehow.

Instead of making my hand into a turkey, I thought that a ‘portrait’ of my own hand could serve as a neutral position, a starting point, for all gestures. It would also be a good baseline for future hand portraits. I remember my father looking at his own hand and telling me, “This is the hand of an old man, but I don’t feel old.”

Today’s study

The study below is my hand portrait. Sometimes I work from photographs. I took a photograph of my own hand, so I could refer to some details as I painted. It took me a while to realize that I could just look at my hand directly and paint with the other hand. Painting a portrait of my right hand might present more of a problem, since I am right handed. I’ll either have to try painting with my left hand or resort to a photograph again.

Photograph of Left Hand

My hand portrait is semi-realistic. I call it hyporealistic as opposed to the hyperrealistic style, which if applied to my hand would require the painting of every hair, pore and wrinkle on my skin. The portrait below is about as realistic as I care to get. I also see it as the first stage in the process of abstraction, one of my goals.

Watercolor study of right hand

Hand Study
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper


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