Tuesday, 6 November 2007


Hands are such incredibly beautiful things -- at all stages of life. I love trying to draw them even though they are without doubt one of the most difficult parts of the human body to capture -- in my opinion.

I have always loved to watch the hands of the elderly as they pray the Rosary -- the beads silently slipping through their often twisted fingers. Of course, it dawned on me a few years ago that my hands are looking more and more elderly with their arthritic lumps and bumps and age spots of varying shades and sizes. This realization came as something of a shock for me, but now I think I am getting used to the idea!

Of course, speaking of hands would be incomplete without referring to Rodin and his famous sculpture entitled (in English) The Cathedral (see below). Knowing how difficult it is to draw or paint the human hand, I always marvel at his ability to perfectly sculpt it.

That said, let me talk a bit about my experience of drawing hands and show some of art work and related photographs.

First, I would like to show you the drawing I have been working on for the past week or so. It is still not completely finished, but this seemed a good time to show you what I have accomplished so far -- especially as I wanted to show you the hands I have drawn.

This icon is called Our Lady (or Mother) of Perpetual Help and has been famous for many centuries -- especially in the western church where the Wednesday novenas are still huge gatherings in many countries.

I am drawing this copy as part of a commission. Someone who really likes the style of my work wanted this particular icon, as well as one of Christ called The Pantocrator, as 8 x 10 wall plaques. Anyway, in this icon, the hand of Our Lady being held by the Christ Child is at the heart of the painting. The child has just seen the angels holding the instruments of his crucifixion and death and has run to his Mother's arms so quickly that one of his sandals is about to fall off.

In this next drawing, entitled "A Redemptoristine at Prayer", you may notice a small icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the upper right corner. This is because the Redemptorist priests and brothers were placed in charge of the care of the original icon in Rome many years ago and now they as well as the Redemptoristine nuns have a very special devotion to Our Lady under this title.

However, the reason for including this drawing was not to show you the icon but to point out the hands. The drawing of the nun is loosely based on a photo I have of myself as a novice in a white veil, but the model for the hands was a photo of the former superior of the community who is now deceased. She was a truly holy woman and I was proud to be able to consider her a friend -- this was my way of making a memorial.

Of course, the hands of children and babies can be so beautiful as they reach out to explore the world around them. How very, very sad it is when adults involve those hands in unnecessary pain and suffering.

From what I know of this little girl, she is greatly loved and cared for. I tried to capture that in the drawing, especially in her lovely hands so gracefully folded in front of her.

Such a young child yet already you can see the gentle woman she will undoubtedly become. This drawing, by the way, is entitled "Anaka".

Here is a newspaper photo of a mother holding onto her little boy's hands. I actually did a drawing of the little boy
which I showed you in an earlier

Although I knew I wasn't likely to draw just the hands, I scanned that part of the photo as well simply because I like hands so much.

You can draw all sorts of conclusions about the mother and the child just from looking at the hands, but the only one you can be certain of is that they love each other very much.

Here, then, is a view of Rodin's famous sculpture -- bringing us full circle -- and also providing me with an opening to share with you a poem I found when I went searching after last night's posting. It was written in 1995 during a trip to the U.S.

The Rodin Exhibition
The sculptures were all magnificent
of course
when I stood before the one entitled
The Cathedral
(two right hands touching at the fingertips)
I almost wept at the sheer beauty before me.

As I fought back these tears of joy,
I thought immediately of you
of how often we touch right hands
in greeting, in reassuring, in parting
and I could not help but become aware
of how holy an action that is between
close friends.

Rodin also called this work
The Alliance
a word rich in meaning
(especially in French)
a word which also made me think of you
For how often our hearts meet
in agreement,
affirming one another
How often we are allied against all things
in our lives that would cause us suffering
Supporting, strengthening, shielding.

Truly, the "cathedral" formed by two right
hands touching in love is a sacred place
where the divine is always present.


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