Playing Hands

Mike’s toy

Mike’s favorite toy was a slinky. I took a photograph of him playing with it on one of my first visits to his Day Program. Mike is my older brother. He is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. After living in a large institution for a good portion of his life, Mike was placed in a group home. I used to visit him there and at his Day Program, where the staff provided activities for all their clients.

Since the point of this recent series of posts is gesture, I do not republish the photograph here. But I encourage you to see the post in which it was originally published. I am very proud of that picture.

Today’s study

Hand Gestures - Mike's hands playing with a slinky toy

Playing with Slinky
7″x10″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

The emphasis of the original photograph is not on Mike’s hands per se. I want to concentrate on the emotional content of the gestures instead of dwelling on hand position and what it means about Mike, except to say that I can identify Mike by the characteristic way he holds his right hand.

The right hand and the left hand are held differently. The right hand seems to be holding slinky very delicately, while the left hand is almost clumsy in its grasp of the slinky; the slinky just seems to be held by accident. How are these two gestures related? Do they set up an emotional tension? Visually they are almost equivalent. They have the same tonal values and weight on the page. One must look carefully at each gesture to make any sense out of it.

Since the above study is a sketch, I will be thinking of possible ways to unify the visual elements. Perhaps doing this will set up a visual tension to match the different gestures of each hand.

Note: I may be running out of gestures from my photo library, but I will try my best to keep this series going.

Thank you all for reading.

7 thoughts on “Playing Hands

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  2. Dylan’s favourite toy is slinky too. They quickly get kinked out of shape so badly they no longer slink. Not that Dylan makes them slink – he likes to fiddle with them. He doesn’t like it when they get their coils twisted but I have to limit replacing them a bit – I can’t spend all my money on slinkies. I’ve never really watched the relationship between Dylan’s hands when he plays with them but I will watch differently now I’ve read your post. Thank you.


      • Dylan uses the metal ones 😦 The rainbow plastic would be so much safer but he doesn’t seem to get the same pleasure from them. I’ve never really figured out the attraction. I thought it was fiddling so have bought D various ‘executive toys’ over the years but none have captured his heart like slinky 😉


  3. The photograph does capture Mike’s element of play with the slinky. I’ve noticed that your interpretation of the expressive icons of hands, is helping me in my macro compositions of flowers. Where the natural arrangement of flower petals similarly adjacent taken on human-centric gestures. — THGg


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