They Can’t All Be Winners

I must say at the outset, I am not pleased with the sketches I present today.  I really like my photograph, from which the gestures were excerpted, but perhaps it is not transferrable to watercolor.

Note: This is another in a continuing series of hand gestures I have been sketching in watercolor (Holding Hand, Hands Full, About to Hold Hands, Playing Hands, Grabby or Helping Hand, Unrequited Pet, Resting Position, Resting Hands Revisited). I am exploring the emotional content of gestures. Part of the reason for doing this stems from frustrating interactions with my non communicative older brother. Mike is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. I have made peace with the notion that I will never be able to communicate with him. So I am not looking for any hidden messages in gestures, merely emotions that they unleash in me, and perhaps in you, the reader.

I re-publish the original photograph below and encourage you to look at it after you have had a chance to look at the both of today’s watercolor sketches.

Today’s experiment

Working with a larger format in the first study, I thought I would add context to the hand gestures. My mother has her hand between Mike’s hand and his chest. Mike had a habit of hitting his chest with his hand. Mom’s hand is in motion. The blurring of her hand in the photograph confirms this.

Mike and Mom's Hands 1

Pair of Hands 1
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

The messiness an confusion in the above study prompted me to quickly sketch a simpler version. In this study below, I took the hands totally out of context. It doesn’t convey as much information. I’m not sure it conveys enough to be interesting.

Mike and Mom's Hands

Pair of Hands 2
5″x7″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block


Study 1

The portrayal of the hands is messy. I tried to show motion in the hand underneath by smearing the color from the fingers. This didn’t work. Even with the pen-and-ink outline of the top hand, there is little distinction between the hands.  The background behind the hands is confusing as well.

I modified the image to show a black shirt sleeve as a continuation of black cuff around the wrist of the hand in the foreground. This was not in the original photo and I don’t think it works in the sketch.

The hand in the foreground looks more than awkward; it looks broken, even though this is the way my brother frequently holds his hand. Perhaps it is my failure to portray the foreshortening in the third dimension.

Study 2

While the second study is simpler, as I mentioned above, lack of context means lack of information. The awkwardness of the top hand implies that something is unusual about its owner. The hand underneath is not in motion, so it is difficult to tell what is actually happening. Although it may be possible to imagine some degree of gentleness and caring in this study, other interpretations are also possible.

In both sketches, I made my best guess about the hand underneath. The original photograph is virtually uninterpretable in that area. I can’t figure out what is going on.

Original photo

autism mom sibling

Even though the photograph speaks volumes more than either of the two watercolor sketches, there is much emotion in the hands that could be captured in a drawing. How does one capture tentativeness, which is what I seen in Mike’s hand; or the gentleness of my mother’s hand on his chest?

At this point, I don’t know.

2 thoughts on “They Can’t All Be Winners

  1. I love that mirroring of hands in the photograph! Extraordinary moment to have captured. I like your sketches but I don’t think I really believed the image until I saw the photograph.


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