sleepy hands

it was almost 3 o’clock in the morning, and i was drawing to keep myself awake. it’s a trick of which i made frequent use in both high school and college classes, and it never once worked, so why i thought it would be any more effective on the 7 train is not entirely clear. but i had just completed a 12-hour day and didn’t want to miss my stop and figured i had to try something.

i started out attempting likenesses of my fellow passengers, but quickly realized that sketchy bastards were more than adequately represented in our subway car without me joining their leering ranks. and so i settled for the one subject that’s always handy, pun inevitable.

bone by jeff smithany ninth-grade art student can tell you that hands are, as a subject matter, obvious, clichéd, and boring, by which he will mean hard. they can, i think, pose a particular problem for cartoonists, especially those who cultivate extremely minimal styles. bold visual reductions can often feel ill-equipped to represent so complex an appendage. and yet there is no shortage of brilliant cartoonists who manage to create lovely, expressive digits without getting fussy or otherwise undermining their visual dialect.

[ case in point: jeff smith‘s bone, pictured at right. ]

girlcate says you can take the measure of a chef, no matter how elite, by watching him prepare a simple egg dish, and i sometimes wonder if hands aren’t the visual artist’s eggs. the ninth-graders may be right, after all, about hands and blahness; they are probably more compelling when used as a basic component of a larger and more complex dish. in isolation, they may also tell you more about their chef then he wants you to know; perhaps more than he wishes to know himself.

but i, for one, don’t mind being reminded, every so often, of how much is left to learn.

foot in hand

foot in hand

foot in hand


  1. Boots says:

    Were you fondling your naked foot on the subway? You sketchy bastard!

    • kenan says:

      hah! i wish i were sufficiently apathetic to the scorn of others to do such a thing. i already get more unimpressed glares than i should like just for riding the subways in flip-flops.

      also, i wish my feet were that dainty: the top sketch, which happened after i got home that night, is actually girlcate fondling her own naked foot on the big gay purple futon. crazy how quickly a drawing can go from sketchy to kind of exciting, right?

  2. Tanveer says:

    That’s funny what Cate said. To this day, I feel my best dish is still an egg omelet, even if I have learned to make more complicated, and perhaps more crowd-pleasing dishes and curries. It’s not even about what I put in the omelet, it’s more about the way of preparing it — heating up the oil just right, getting it a little burnt and crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside. (also, secret ingredient = cilantro!). I’m always disappointed if one of those elements didn’t come out right even if the ingredients were delicious.

    I suppose the same principle can be applied to drawing a pair of hands. Nice post!

    • boy blue says:

      if i’m not mistaken, tanveer, there is a certain longing buried beneath your nimble prose and extended metaphor: the longing to demonstrate your culinary prowess to me with a perfectly prepared cilantro omelet. no problem, buddy, i’d be happy to help out in any way i can.

      • emiliejolie says:

        I agree from the other side: I would love to be able to master an omelet, but have never taken the time to perfect it. They really are impressive!

        So Tanveer, just how many omelets did you make with that barn-sized bunch of cilantro I sent home after NB3? It probably could have sustained an NB3 brunch, there was so much of it!