April 12, 2012

Golden Hands: a modern portrait

This may sound strange, but sometimes I look at my hands and nearly do a double take. My hands are becoming my mother's hands, or at least my childhood memory of them. Cutting bread into fours for Annie, pulling on the girls' hats and mitts, stirring the soup...they actually look exactly like my mom's.

Anyone else ever see startling familial resemblances in places other than the face?

Golden Hands
Oil on Canvas, 9 x 12"
Copyright 2012 Lisa Smouter

This is a portrait of my Grandma's hands. It is a fresh take on portraiture in that it doesn't include her face, and yet for those who know her it's undeniable. Without a doubt, these digits have but one sole owner! Hands can be as unique as faces, and they tell many stories. In this case we included some props to help the story along, but really you could have as powerful and interesting a portrait without the needle and thread.

As for her jewelry...this is a fantastic example of how people, ideas and memories can be included in a painting without actually being outright portrayed. I try teaching my students this concept as well, which I learned from RUC professor James Tughan years ago. It's a way to enrich a painting without unduly cluttering it up. Precious gems as message-bearers, in a way.

The little gold ring was my great grandmother's wedding band, a woman who was notorious for giving her things away. Grams had little diamonds set into it--one for each of her own children. The cameo ring is something I've never seen Grams not wearing. It carries with it a whole other story.

It has occurred to me as we approach Mother's Day how amazing hands are as an example of a mother's love. They do so much, take a lot of abuse, bear the "battle scars" of raising us, or--if that's too dramatic for you (dear Annie and Josie)--then at very least they reveal signs of keeping life clean, orderly, peaceful and content.

Mother's Day is fast approaching so I wouldn't make a deadline like that, but if you have any ideas of something you might like to have done, please email or call me to chat about it. This painting already has a happy owner, but if you would like something personal like this I'd be delighted to work with you!


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