8″x8″ hot-pressed, 300gm Lanaquarelle watercolour paper. Faber-Castell Polychromos, own photo reference.
Now, the story of behind the hand…
This drawing of the hand was done specially for the DRAW Portraits in Colored Pencil. I received an email from Ann Kullberg back in August 2015 asking me whether I am interested to be one of the contributing artist for the book. I was taken aback because I am not known as a portrait artist. I have done a couple of hand portraits of my late father and my mother. And that was the specific subject I was asked to contribute. Needless to say, I was over the moon that my hands portrait were noticed and there are people who thought it was not bad.
In my opinion, hands, after the eyes, are one of the most difficult subject to tackle in any portrait drawing/painting. Especially wrinkled and weathered hands, it tells a lot of story just by itself. Since I have done a couple of hand portraits, I was quite confident in doing the assignment but to get the perfect subject for reference was not as easy as I thought. I tried using my daughter’s hands as model but her’s were far too smooth and perfect (for she is young). I was getting quite frustrated after a couple of days until one day, while I was sitting in my dining room, sweating over where I am going to find the perfect subject, I saw my neighbour’s gardener, a Chinese man in his mid 70’s, working away in the garden. He was this skinny, very tanned man and he was PERFECT!
I quickly muttered up my courage, took my mobile phone and some cash, dashed out of my house and approached him. I told him of my intention and surprisingly, he was extremely obliging. He told me to do whatever I want with his hands (now, don’t get any ideas, he is a kind and a humble man). I took his hand and tried several poses while asking him about his life. I found out that he was never married, no immediate family and has been living alone all these years in a low cost flat own by a friend, who has kindly let him live in it without any rental. He has done many hard labour job in his younger days, mainly constructions.
He is on welfare, getting about RM150 (aboutUSD37) per month. My neighbour was so kind to hire him to do some manual work in their garden. According to him, if a person is on welfare, they are not allowed to work, so this is a secret job and cannot be known to anyone he knows or he’ll risked losing his welfare money (mind boggling, isn’t it). After talking about an hour with him, I realised that he led a simple life, had a very positive outlook on life, a happy go lucky person. I gave him a small token and initially, he refused to accept it. But after much persuasion, he reluctantly took it.
I came back and immediately started to work on the drawing. Now, the hand meant even more to me. It is just not a drawing of some random hand, it has a story and that is what I love to do. It made the assignment much more meaningful. I am glad that Ann and her team gave me the opportunity, I have gained much more than publication. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and from it, I have learned much more than just finding a subject to draw, I have learned more about life from a random stranger. Now, when I recalled back what the gardener have gone through in life, going through hardship, living alone throughout his entire life. It made me realised how fortunate I am, having a family and many wonderful friends, and most of all, what an easy and comfortable life I have compared to him and many others like him. I am even more thankful for everything that I have now.
Just a small portrait of a hand and it has such an impact on me. It goes to show, as an artist, we are helping ourselves and others in many ways through art and that is what my style of art is all about. To draw/paint the subject, way beyond just a subject.
Back to the book.
This is a 200 page book of detailed step by step instructions and tips by 29 working coloured pencil artists from various countries. 11 featured portrait artists (full portrait) and 18 contributing artist working on specific parts of a portrait.
As a contributing artist, I have to show 3 progression of the drawing down to the specific colour pencils, tools that I am using. Every technique, step, wrinkle, pores and hair were listed down to the ‘T”. Not easy to write instructions, it was really tough. I take drawing any day than writing.
I can tell that through experience of looking for the perfect instruction book on portrait, this is the best! WHY? because every artist has a different style of doing a portrait, one will find one that suit their style of artwork in this wonderful book. And I am extremely humbled to be a part of this.