Monday, February 6, 2017

A Show of Hands

I just completed a successful 2016, making tedious beaded bracelets on a daily basis since the middle of summer. After years of making only a few beaded pieces a year, in this past half-year I've turned out about a hundred, I'd say.  You can find most of my beaded work on my website,

 So at the beginning of January, it was time to set that endeavor aside and continue creating 2-dimensional artwork again.  I will still make the occasional beaded item throughout the year, and I have been taking the odd custom order now and then, but for the most part, I'm back at the drawing board.  Sometime in the late summer or early fall, I'll start beading again full time (in time to produce another quantity for Christmas sales).  But in the meantime, I have several juried shows to enter in the spring/summer, so I hope to generate an average of one quality art piece per month.  I'm resuming my drawings of hands and hand gestures, since that's my favorite subject these days.

My first effort of 2017 is this mixed-media piece titled 'Proxy', made with acrylic, graphite, watercolor, and Prisma stick.  It measures 12 by 20 inches, and has been entered into my first juried show of the year.

I posted this on Facebook, and an artist friend commented that possibly the casual viewer might regard this as two real hands, passing a piece of artwork.  That would be incorrect, however flattering, but in a sense, this is artwork within artwork.  All three hands are my creation.  The two outer hands are supposed to look realistic, and the middle one is obviously more abstracted.

I always start my pieces with a wash of watercolor.  Now, mind you, the application of watercolor is very sloppy, and looking at that stage of the work, one would question my ability to make anything decent out of that mess!  Here, you can see before any graphite has been applied. (My apologies for the poor photo quality!

And here's the other side, with just a little bit of shading started:

I initially rendered the center 'card' with graphite over the watercolor wash, but I didn't like the sour greenish-yellow color coming through after I started shading.

I  mulled over my options and decided I could make the 'card' into any kind of abstraction, or whatever medium I wanted.  In a way, it could be thought of as 'someone else's' artwork, so to speak.  That took a lot of pressure off , not having to worry about the 'card' being different than the rest of the pencil rendering. So I painted over the ugly sour color using different values of grey paint.  I had just started testing those paints on the outstretched finger (above), and decided I liked that direction.  Like I said, the pressure was off, and now my main concern was that the hands flanking it be much more realistic.

The meaning of 'Proxy' is that we have so much less face-to-face, one-on-one interaction with people these days.  Instead of giving you the human touch you're reaching out for, I'm offering you a gesture or substitute for that action.  I'm checking in, touching base, getting the latest scoop through emails, texts, phone calls, and the like.  But I'm not having to actually see you in person.  And hopefully it's obvious that I was inspired by the iconic imagery of a section of Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  I first intended to use a handshake in the composition.  That's another action that has to be done in person.  But as I deliberated, I thought of the (almost) touching fingertips between Adam and God.  That seemed very appropriate, and more ethereal of an image, something I'd rather look at for any length of time.  I didn't copy the exact hand gestures, nor did I put cracks in the wall or use any further ties to the Chapel ceiling, other than choosing a bluish color for the background.

Now I'm on to my next piece, which will be titled something like 'Exaggeration', or 'Imagination'.  The state of it in this photo doesn't allow you much information, only being the watercolor under-painting.  Remember, I said 'sloppy'!  It's a hand grasping a wasps' nest (which I found in our chicken pen).  I'll have to super-impose wasps on the nest, since there were none actually attached.  The shadow that's being cast from the nest will show the outlines of the wasps as fire-breathing dragons, though it will be quite subtle, and could get missed at first glance.  This piece should come to fruition more quickly, being only 12x12.  I used to hate showing anyone my work until it was finished, but lately, it is fun to divulge the lowly beginnings of what eventually turns into something much better.  Again, sorry for the sad photo here, but you get the gist of it.

...and after that piece, I'll draw a pair of hands (mine) holding several shells.  The oh-so-brilliant tongue-twisting title will be 'She Shows Sea Shells'  (smiley face!).  And after that, a large piece (MORE hands, of course) called 'Champagne and Sweet Tea', will show a woman and man toasting those respective drinks.  They will be holding a flute and a mason jar, so the contrast is obvious, even though we won't see their faces, or much more than their sleeves.  A city gals and her cowboy, perhaps?  NOW.... I've said it....I've made my plans known, so I HAVE to do them!  Keep me accountable.  I'll check back in when progress has been made.