Sunday, November 22, 2009

The strength of her hands

I like strong hands, especially on a woman.  I'm not one for dainty, perfectly manicured hands. Give me strong work-worn hands with a firm grip over pale wimpy ones any day.

When I was traveling in India and Bangladesh last year, I often found myself captivated by women's hands.  As in most developing countries, the women tend to do the lion's share of the work, especially on the farm.  I've seen women maneuver plows, haul boats ashore, hand-wash their laundry on rocks by the river, cook meals over small household fire pits, carry water in large earthenware jugs, weave baskets, care for children, the sick, and the elderly, pound wheat into flour, carry home the firewood, dig up fresh potatoes, and build their homes out of twigs and mud.  Such strong hands I have seen in so many places!

This weekend I tried to capture some of that strength in my painting.  I haven't done watercolour in a few months, so it was lovely to have some time on Friday to get lost in the paints again.

It turns out hands are really hard to paint. Almost as hard as faces. My first attempts kept looking more like claws than hands.  In the end I was more satisfied with the hands in the bottom two frames than the face in the top.  (The face gave me no end of trouble because I was trying to capture the shadows that were cast on that really sunny day when we met Mina Baidya, the woman with the water jug. It's close, but not quite right.)  I find it interesting that even though these photos were taken in 3 different regions (2 in India and one in Bangladesh), all of the women were wearing the same bracelets.  And all three were wearing beautiful, brilliantly coloured saris even thought it was just an ordinary work day for them.

Note: it's not the best photo of it, since I had to take it inside with the flash. Plus it wasn't on a flat surface, so the top looks a little warped.  If you're interested in seeing the original photos, look here, here, and here


Jackie said...

WOW!HEATHER, you are a woman of many facets:) I love this painting. You know, I always remember a person's hands. I wish I lived closer to you I know you would make a wonderful Playmate;)

darrah said...

Your painting and the photos are amazing! You definitely captured the strength and beauty of these women. And what a cool way to spend a weekend - painting hands!

I think we're told from early on that hands are hard to draw. I know I psyche myself out every time I have to do it. But when I forget that it's supposed to be hard, I enjoy the process more and am usually surprised with the end product.

Well done, Heather!

Anvilcloud said...

I like the hand paintings better than the actual photographs. They're just more arty and evocative.

Chris Zydel said...

Hands are incredibly hard to render accurately, but you have done a beautiful job. They are so strong and full of feeling. And I love what you said in your post about honoring all the work that women do in the world.

Thank you!

Leah Virsik said...

What a great story to read leading up to your artwork. I also really enjoyed how you arranged your three pieces. Nice work on the hands and in watercolor too. That seems to me even harder.

bev said...

I like the hands you've drawn, especially the one pulling the rope. And I like the intricacy of the basket-weaving hands. I suspect this painting "play" felt more like work sometimes, but must have been richly satisfying.

Julie Jordan Scott said...

HANDS! So many of us, deeply enamored with hands! In today's posting, I write of comparing my worker hands to my daughter's graceful hands in our hand-art collaboration.

Your hand obviously carries a gifted skill set!

Thank you for sharing on AEDM!

Expressive Hart said...

I'm so impressed that you attempted to capture "hands" in a painting and that you were inspired to capture the memory and inspiration of your experiences of women from your travels.

shannon said...

you did a beautiful job with this! i love that idea of women having "strong hands". i was always fascinated by my grandparents hands. one set of grandparents had such strong, hard-working, farm hands. my other grandma had the most beautiful soft skin and always had manicured nails with this silver nail polish. i was so amazed by this because she was the mother of ten children and she was so hard working. i think for her, it became her one symbol of self-care and indulgence. thanks for sharing!

Pamela said...

You did fantastic. I haven't painted in over a year. I'm not sure what isn't happening.

I love the colors. Great choices.