To love and to hold

To love and to hold

In my mind this painting of hands is a portrait, so I am putting it up with a “portrait” tag. Hands are often as expressive as faces, and sometimes even more so. While working on this painting I realized that I love painting hands and will be doing more of that.

For people who are interested in technique, this is done in glazing method and limited palette, although I used a different palette for each of the hands. As I was planning the painting and making color swatches, I couldn’t come up with a set of primary pigments that would give me the tones on both hands. Of course I ran to my teacher with my difficulty, and she pointed out that the hands have a different color temperature in the reference – one is cool and one is warm. And suddenly it made perfect sense: I used a warm primaries for the top hand and cool primaries for the bottom one. And in the end I married the two by bringing the warms to the cool hand and cools to the warm one, but in small areas, to unify them.

6.5″ x 8.5″ (16 x 22 cm) watercolor on paper


41 thoughts on “To love and to hold

  1. This is a painting? WOW! I am very impressed with the speed in which you have learned realism. I agree with you, Alex. I also consider hand studies a portrait. I can recognize my children by their hands as well as their faces. Very nicely done. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dear Leslie, you are so sweet! Thank you! I don’t think I’ve my realism yet, there is so much to learn, and still ways to go to reach the point I aim for. I hope I am on the way though.

      I remember reading about a life of painter, an old master, I think it was Goya, not sure though as it was long time ago. He painted royal families and court. He charged per number of faces and hands. And there were negotiations as to how many hands to paint because they were as expensive as faces. So the royalty got to have hands, their children sometimes, people lower in standing had their hands obscured by clothing or positions. Hands are fascinating!

  2. When I first clicked on your site I thought that was a photograph.

    You’ve managed to do a wonderful “portrait” of hands in a very realistic style keeping the warmth of the subjects without getting too clinical.

    It’s really impressing!!!!

    • Thank you, Carol! I loved painting this one. The intricacies of human hands are fascinating! I see a lot of paintings of hands in my future :D. I didn’t get the age right though, these are older hands in the painting as far as I can see, but not as old as in my reference. They were even younger when I first thought the painting complete, so I aged them, but can see now that I didn’t age them enough.

    • Thank you, Linda! You are making an interesting reference to photorealism in your comment. I can see on my screen here how the painting seems to look closer to a photo in its digital form. I think this is because it is reduced in size for the web. The real painting on paper is a little more painterly while is still realistic. I am so pleased you like it!

  3. i like this a lot. it blows my mind that you did this with such a limited palette. i cant express how good this is. i love you.

    • Thank you, Shelly! Remember how you were saying “they don’t look like hands…” in the beginning? And they didn’t! They looked flat and see-through. It takes a long time to develop with glazes. They came out in the end :D! I am happy you like it!

    • Good to see you, Raji! Thank you for your comment! As long as my wash as very diluted I can control it. I am having trouble controlling a more saturated wash though, for some reason it ends up streaking in wrong places. I haven’t figured that out yet :oops:.

  4. AWESOME. I cannot for the life of me see how you got it this detailed at that size. I’ve learned that it’s not so hard to do it with graphite, but this is watercolor!

    Back in high school Spanish class, a we always got to self-grade our papers, so my friend and I always we just wrote “100% A” at the top and passed notes til the teacher took the work up.

    Write a big, “100% A” on the back of that, it genuinely deserves it. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Aw, thank you! You are so generous with your praise! I will put a virtual “100% A” on the back 8)! Your comment made me think that perhaps I need to sign this work. Up until now it wasn’t relevant for me to sign as my little paintings were just exercises, student quality, who cares… But this one seemed to reach some threshold, everybody likes it, so perhaps it is worthwhile to sign it. Do you sign your watercolors? If so, what do you use to make a light signature on dark?

      • Yep, I sign everything, usually in the top-right corner. Bottom-right seems more popular from what I’ve seen, but then again, I also carry my wallet in my left pocket.

        I’ve noticed that about art. You’ll be working along, doing things, all similar quality, then all of a sudden, one will just come out that sets itself apart. It’s like the whole time you’ve been building steps to climb up on a higher ledge.

        I usually leave a little bit of white space in the corner and sign it very faintly with light paint. A little white gauche, white charcoal, or pastel pencil is handy for signing over paint. Sometimes I just sign the back with a pencil.

        • Thanks for the suggestions, Sam! I only have white gouache from your list of signature supplies, but my hand is not steady enough to write with a brush. I am experimenting with a white gel pen, which looks pretty good on a piece of scrap paper. Will try that!

  5. Alex, I love being able to see the progression of the technical skill you have been mastering! I saw some work at the Flat Iron Building last night that made me think of our hands conversation. The artists name is Laura Peterson.

    • Hi, Michelle! How good of you to stop by and comment! I’ve been thinking of you and the question you asked me the other day at Her Group – “Where are you going with this?” I didn’t have the answer at the time, but I wondered about this. In my painting studio class we discussed WHY we are doing art, and I have an answer to that for myself. I am concentrating on the HOW of the art at this time, and it is going well. The WHERE question puzzled me, but I think I got the answer after a while. We are not talking about choosing a profession or my level of dedication, we are talking about where I am going artistically – my voice, my style, my subject matter, my story. I believe my work will tell me WHERE I am going with it, and it will probably take me there. Does it make sense?

    • Thank you, Ryan! Hands are awesome, I really like how older hands look, they tell a story much better than faces sometimes. One can change a facial expression, act out something that is not so, pretend. Not hands. They cannot pretend. I was curious about your writing about hand and searched your blog for it, without success. Could you help me with a link?

  6. Just posted the drawing of hands that I had drawn. The original post has been deleted, but I reposted the drawing. My original post was about how hands can say so much about a person and how they have lived. Although rough, broken and arthritic, they are still so beautiful. I hope you like it.

    • Awww, Pete, thank you! Yes, I heard that hands are hard, I even agree – when I try hands in small size, like half an inch as a part of a figure sketch – I make a terrible mess of them. These are big however, larger than life size. I think the large size was the reason they were not that difficult to draw, it was just shapes, lines and angles as usual. Besides I had a very good reference, very detailed. If you have an interest in hands, perhaps starting large would make it more manageable. Just an idea. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment!

  7. You have done a great job,dear friend!
    I like your new painting!
    I think that you have right with the portrait and the hands ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Thank you for share it with us!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Enjoy your week-end!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Good to see you again visiting my blog, Alonso! Thank you for your kind words about my work! I am honored to be nominated for Jingle’s award. Unfortunately my time is very tight at the moment, and as I replied to Ji I will not be able to forward the award to more people. But I love it that you thought of me – much appreciated!

  8. Hey, Alex. Thanks for your nice comment on my blog. I wanted to stop by to see what you are up to (lovely works and very productive) and to encourage you to try the atelier system. Saves time in the long run as you are immersed in drawing and painting, and usually end up developing your talents quite quickly. Best to you.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Candace! Your work is exquisite! I have an Atelier style school here in Chicago and am planning to check it out. Have a little concern though: the school started only a couple of years ago and the faculty is extremely young. I think I’ll go and talk to them. Thank you for the endorsement!

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