Has anyone ever stopped to think how strange it is that the word “handsome” has nothing to do with hands?  The same goes for the antiquated word, “toothsome” which also, curiously, means good-looking.

What is it about modern American English that we feel the need to say “pretty” in so many different ways that we just start re-purposing random body parts like teeth and hands?

How else could this technique be applied? Could we coin even more words like . . .

  • Navelsome
  • Heelsome
  • Lashsome

. . . And what would they mean? Attractive again, or something else.

Anyhow, I’m bucking the trend in this post and using the word “Hand-some” in reference to some actual hands.  Or at least one actual hand.

This one:

There were some challenges in working on this piece.  The first had to do with the set-up.

As usual, it’s tricky to hold a pose like this while also trying to execute the picture.  It’s surprising the extent to which I found myself needing my subordinate left hand to do things, even though I’m right handed… and you’d think that it only takes one hand to paint.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.  The big problem was the lighting.  I used natural light from the studio windows for this piece.  Will I never learn?

The first session was begun in the afternoon, but when I came back to work on the picture the next Saturday morning… you guessed it: the lights and shadows were changed.  And not only was the lighting different; it was almost completely reversed!  Rather than struggle against the situation too much, it became a lesson in loosening up and trusting the ol’ instincts.

In other words, I winged it.

[ Strange sidebar:  the mascot for my high school in lovely Red Wing, MN looked like an eagle, but it was called a “Winger”.  What the hell is a winger?  One must suppose that it’s someone who “wings”. That seems like a poor strategy for a school to endorse, anyhow. ]

The primary light source was assumed to be coming from the upper left, with a strong reflected light evidently coming from the other right.    However, the pinkie finger doesn’t really match this scheme.  If it was done consistently with the rest of the piece, then the inside surface would not be such a deep pink, but have some much lighter highlights.  But how many of you would have noticed had it not been pointed out?

More troubling were the smudges and splatters that appeared in the light blue background area to the left.  This was just due to sloppiness, but was exacerbated by  the lightness of the background.  When I tried to lift out a particularly egregious spatter mark it only spread… and it really shows up against that thin layer of robin’s egg color.

The final challenge was the tendency to overwork paintings.   I was trying to reach a richness of color, primarily in the shadows, and it just wasn’t happening.  Fortunately, I finally broke down and bought artist-quality watercolors.  What a difference.

With the new, quality pigments, creating a rich dark purple for the shadow wasn’t nearly so tough, and the picture came together pretty quickly after that.

The last step was laying in some highlights using (supposedly) opaque gouache.  That was applied to the thumb knuckle & nail, the ring on my ring finger, and the ridge on the right side of my palm.  It had been applied a couple of other places, but the result looked too artificial… too ‘forced’.  Luckily, this stuff was fairly easy to lift off with a damp cloth.

Overall, I am very pleased with this piece.  There’s a loose deliberateness to the lines int he hand, and things look appropriately three dimensional.  The feel of the reflected light is kind of nice.  Plus, I’ve always liked paintings which feature other paintings in them.  This one features a repeat of itself in addition to another recent illustration.  Can you find it in a prior posting on this site?

This entry was published on September 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm. It’s filed under Self Portraits, The Artistic Process, Watercolors and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

11 thoughts on “Handsome

  1. no comment this time, I just like it.

  2. What a great piece! Your depth of shadow is quite impressive. Hands are harder to execute than we think they ought to be. But because we look at our hands all the time, we notice when proportions are off right away. That is what I noticed immediately, that you’ve managed to create a very realistic looking hand– impressive! I especially enjoy the highlights and lines in the palm. Congrats!

    • Thanks, Jason. I was quite please with the subtle foreshortening on the pinkie. The wrinkles were the first things I sketched in and the last part that I got right in paint. In between , they sort of got lost. Glad they turned out well in the end.

  3. This is palmsome.

    • Thanks, Oyia, for reblogging my post on your Daily Joke Alert site. I hope you and your readers find something to chuckle about on the pages of Gabriel Garbow | Artworks frequently enough. I certainly enjoyed perusing your site.

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