If you’re an artist, or have ever tried to become one, you know that the part of the human body hardest to draw is the hand. You can always spot an artist-wannabe when they present “finished art” wherein the hands of the people are hidden in some way—either in pockets, behind backs, under the table, etc., etc. A confident artist, on the other hand (sorry, couldn’t resist it), doesn’t hide hands because he or she has, to at least some degree, mastered their depiction. Actually, the skillful artist loves to draw hands because they know that after the human face, hands are the most expressive parts of the body, especially when it comes to gestures. On the other other hand, some newbie artists give up the game in frustration once they discover the difficulty of drawing hands. Many of those creative folks become photographers instead—as did Yours Truly, at least for a time. Or they try their own hands at cartooning (ditto), where the graphic standards are much lower, especially these days. (See my own limited efforts on this blog, and the many crudely drawn “Post Modern” gag examples in the New Yorker. BTW, the term “Post Modern,” as I understand how it applies to cartooning, means crudely drawn on purpose. The idea is to make an up to date graphic statement “against” professional slickness. Meanwhile, I’ve spent many years trying to become professionally slick. It’s all very confusing.)

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.

4 Responses to Hands

  1. swanie says:

    absolutely … although I rank hair right up there with hands …

    we say much with our hands and facial expressions … sometimes the expression of hands and face can alter the meaning of what someone is saying …

    Simple example:

    [angry eyes, frown on face, fists]: “where’s my son?!”

    [frightened eyes, open mouth, open hands in the air]: “where’s my son?!”

    although, in defense of gag cartoonists … hands can still have an important role … even in simple cartoons … where, to your point, accurate representation may not be so important, but form is.

  2. Jim says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Swanie. Your mention of hair reminds me that when I taught a cartoon class for 6 to 12 year-olds at regional libraries and schools, which I did for 15 years, I’d tell the kids that cartoonist’s love to draw hair because there’s so many different types of the stuff; style, color, texture, etc., and it never failed to get a lot of laughs when I demonstrated. It was one of the high points of the interactive program.

  3. Angela says:

    I tend to be empathic, sensing the moods and feelings of people without them saying a word. What a person does with their hands generally confirms my feelings and encourages me to dig deeper. The toughest part is when the hands do not support the feelings I am getting. It makes sense that the human hands are one of the toughest parts of a person to draw; there is so much they can say.

  4. Jim says:

    Thank you for the comment, Angela, which gives me the opportunity to expand a bit on my thoughts about the visual complexity of hands. On a purely physical level, the thing that makes hands hard to draw is the fact that there are so many finger and thumb joints, plus the relative scale of those parts, plus the movement of the wrists; all of it complex, visually interesting and capable of many combinations. And, as you cleverly point out, hand gestures enhance the potential for communicating important emotional signals.

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