Grabby or Helping Hand?


I used to go to some of the parties that Mike’s group home would arrange (see Halloween Party, Christmas Party). Mike is my older brother, who is autistic, very low functioning and nonverbal.  They were experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I had more than a few surprises at these events. For instance, I saw Mike dancing with one of the staff members at one party. I’m sure the staffer was leading, but it never crossed my mind that Mike would dance.

Today’s study

Today’s sketch is from a photo I took at one of Mike’s parties. I’m not sure if it can be characterized as a gesture study, but I am sure that the configuration of hands is what prompted me to snap the shutter.

Gesture study - Mike reaching into a bag of chips with someone else helping

Helping Hand
10:x7″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

At first glance, there is nothing extraordinary about the hands. Some person is reaching into a bag and another person is holding or reaching for the back at the bottom.

Visual and emotional impact

This composition is in portrait format: the long dimension vertical and the short dimension horizontal. There is a strong diagonal component, from lower left to upper right. I would say that the strongest visual element is the left hand of the person reaching into the bag. It is the least obstructed form. The three hands are the vertices of a triangle. Other triangular forms are present in the shaded areas. The hand at the bottom, barely in the frame, is critical for making sense of the image.

Emotionally, this is almost a neutral scene until one realizes that the hand at the bottom is not reaching for the bag, but supporting the bag. In fact, the hand at the bottom is the only support for the bag. The mate for the hand reaching into the bag is not in contact with the bag at all.

What do viewers first see when looking at this study? Does one see the bottom hand as grabbing or supporting? If a first glance notices a grabbing hand, the emotional impact will be different than if it sees a helping hand. If the former case is true, hopefully, closer inspection will allow the viewer to notice the third hand as support for the hand reaching into the bag, and experience a positive emotion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: