Thursday, February 26, 2009


A street artist known as Asbestos has painted an awesome series focused on the hands of fellow street artists. He prefers to paint on discarded surfaces such as weathered wood and tin that he finds on the streets. These hands are so expressive. They touch my heart.

"The hands have been a revelation to paint. They're the tools that seperate us from the animals. They can create and they can destroy and that's why they're so fascinating to paint. Each pair has it's own grain that highlights the personality of the owner." - Asbestos

See the rest of the series here.

After discovering the art of Asbestos at Wooster Collective, beautiful hands seemed to pop up everywhere.

Nickie Owens has painted a hand series which you can see here.

"As a budding artist I was told by my Mum that one of the great painters (I can’t remember who) always struggled with hands and would have an understudy finish his work.
So began my obsession. I thought if I could draw / paint hands I would be great... I just became great at hands!"

The beautifully stitched and collaged hands of Karin Bartimole. You need to visit her blog, Beyond Words, and enlarge her amazing journal pages to see all the details.

SantaCruz-CuevaManos, Argentina. Photo from Wikipedia

Photographs of hands in cave paintings have fascinated me since I was a little girl. They were painted 9,300 to 13,000 years ago. The hand was held against the cave wall and paint was sprayed through a hollow bone pipe to colour the area around the hand.

This photograph was taken by Pim at the Wat Rong Khun temple in Thailand. Donations are thrown into the pot surrounded by grasping hands. You can see Pim's photostream at Flickr.

Etching by Vladimir Gazovic

Drawing Hands by M C Escher


  1. I must share this post with my daughter. She loves hands and has a large collection of ceramic glove forms. Interesting post, as always, Robyn!

  2. What strange and interesting hands! Asbestos's hands are very beautiful, Nickie Owens's are incredible, the cave-wall handprints are amazing! Thanks for such a great post!

    (funny; we both did posts on hands the same day)


  3. Hands are so very difficult to do well, but WOW, I'm enthralled by "Asbestos'" work! I love that he uses discarded material for his canvas. And I love his ode to hands, too. So true. All these hands are great, Robyn. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hands are so very difficult to do well, but WOW, I'm enthralled by "Asbestos'" work! I love that he uses discarded material for his canvas. And I love his ode to hands, too. So true. All these hands are great, Robyn. Thanks for sharing.

  5. oh my... i love all of these hands, robyn, but especially the top four. i LOVE hands. and the wooster collective is something, isn't it?

    thank you... xo

  6. Willow, i like the sound of your daughter's collection.

    Queeny, we must be in sync posting about hands on the same day.

    Katie, Asbestos finds his "canvas" in the streets, paints on it and then returns it to the street again. I would worry about the elements ruining it.

    Lynne, yes Wooster certainly showcases some amazing art.

  7. Asbestos' hands are so realistic! Hands have personality just like faces do. I wonder what our hands say about us.

    I'm off to look at all the links you posted.

  8. Asbestos' art is amazing - another insightful post where I come away filled up! thanks Robyn

  9. Hi Robyn, it's an honor to have my hands included in this amazing collection! Asbestos's hands just amaze me. The materials, technique, and imagery really intrigues me! Thanks so much, Karin

  10. A hand is beautiful symbol of the human race. This post is a beauty parade. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Fascinating post. How interesting to see so many interpretations together like that. I shall pay more attention to hands when I look at works in future.

  12. Wow!
    I have always struggled with hands in my paintings. These are wonderful. I will have to study these amazing paintings.
    I love the quote from Asbestos.

  13. Asbestos' work is textural...amazing colors...and the stitched work...well I'm off to investigate it now...

  14. I love the collage. Wasn't it Dickens that said something about the hands, not the eyes being the window to the soul?

  15. robyn, i have been trying to click on the links that you have given to these wonderful artists. some of them don't work, like vladimir gasovic and nicky owens, two of the artists i liked a lot. would it be possible for you to post those link again? maybe in the comment section?
    this is a rivetting collection of artists as always.

  16. Fascinating. I have always noticed people's hands. Vanessa Redgrave has an amazing pair. Large,expressive and beautiful.

    The cave paintings seem to speak, don't they?

  17. thanks so much robyn. what you have shown in this post is like an appetizer. going into the links and looking at the paintings is the full meal. hugely satisfying.

    actually after seeing gazovic's drawings and owen's hands, i'm freaked out. they are so amazing!

  18. Stevie, when I'm working on my totems I always have rust on my fingers which makes me look like a smoker.....but I've never smoked a cigaret in my life. They say long fingers for artists.

    Jeane, these pieces all moved me in some way too.

    Karin, I'm so grateful to have your hands in my "gallery". They speak to me. I also pay the price when doing too much carving. Bouts of RSI and ganglia pop up in my wrists.

    B&W, glad you enjoyed them. I was reading somewhere that hand imagery depicts the power to direct events, protect, harm or heal and also nurturing, charity, faith and prayer.....and many other meanings I'm sure.

    Weaver, I seem to be doing the same.... Paying attention to hands.

    Leanne, after the 100 bottles you might draw 100 hands like Nickie Owens did. I really ought to be doing that myself.

    Chrisy, Karin's stitched hands are wonderful aren't they? The red stitching is perfect.

    Shayla....somewhere in Bleak House I think. Can't remember the exact wording.

    Priya, sorry about the links. How frustrating! They are working now.

    Pamela, the cave paintings are so full of mystery too.....if walls could speak...

  19. I love the murals!
    Inspiring discoveries as usual Robyn.
    Have a lovely weekend!

  20. Thanks for this collection of hands. The variety is fascinating.

  21. I love the etching by Vladimir Gazovic, so cool!
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Thinker, Seth, Azirca...glad you like the collection. They all inspire me.

  23. What a beautiful post, I especially love the hands by Asbestos. I need to research his work... they are very moving to me as well. have a lovely Saturday! Roxanne

  24. Very thought provoking post. Reminds us of what power we hold.
    Amazing work by Asbestos, and I checked out Beyond Words. Fabulous works by all.
    Thanks again, Robin. You're a fabulous art sleuth and curator !!

  25. those paintings are wonderful.
    a student at our local high school made a fantastic work simply by photographing 100 sets of hands, choosing people who fit the ages 1 - 100
    the lovely thing as that she took the trouble to find these people in the district in the course of making the work - as well as creating a connection during the photography session.
    the hands were collaged together to make one big piece that read like a patchwork quilt...but exhibited with a key to which hands were whose together with a story about each person

  26. As ever an interesting post and the Escher picture is totally facinating for me.

  27. Thanks Roxanne, there are many more beautiful hands on A's site.

    Shelly, sleuthing is something I get a lot of joy out of, especially when I find awesome images.

    India, what a mammoth (but wonderful) undertaking. It must have been so interesting reading about each one especially knowing a few of the people photographed.

  28. Fascinating! Thanks for pointing these out. I so much wanted to visit Cueva de las Manos in Argentina, but it wasn't close to the places where we went. There was a replica near El Calafate, but even that visit didn't work out. The Escher one is one of my favourites.

  29. So expressive.... I particularly love the work of Asbestos.
    Fantastic post and thanks for the links. I'm off to check out more Robyn.

  30. Robyn : Astonishing series. WOW its incredible how you manage to put together series like these one after the other.

    Like I keep saying in my comments, you indeed are the Indiana Jones of the online community...Thomas

  31. What a great post, Robyn. I've missed visiting your blog! How fun to see all of those hands. My sketchbook is filled with drawings of my hands. Asbestos ROCKS! Very cool.

  32. Oh Robyn.. Love this!!! Hey I been drawing hands the last few days.. I love Hands.. they tell so much about the owner... and the MC Escher you posted brings back to memory, a carving that my woodcarving instructor did years ago.. High relief.. It was fantastic.. Thanks!!!

  33. What a beautiful collection of hands, I feel so connected to these hands...easy to just keep looking at all the movement and gesture. Thank you

  34. I so identified with this post. I have what I consider very big, ugly hands for a woman, but I am thankful for them every day because they remind me that it's not their own beauty but what they can create that makes them special.

  35. Blu, I could spend too long studying Escher masterpieces. They are mind boggling.

    Bindu, I did wonder if you had seen the cave paintings. Maybe next time.

    Jacky....enjoy the links!

    Thomas, Thanks for the compliment :-)

    Karine, it would be a treat to page through your sketch books.

    Gwen, the woodcarving sounds fantastic!

    Mary Ann, all artist's wonder you feel connected.

    Kerri, I feel the same way about my hands. Carving is not kind to them and I'm ever grateful that they keep on working for me.

  36. An amazing selection of hands Robyn. You do find incredible art and craft work. I have always been fascinated by hands and it is the thing I have most difficulty drawing sadly. I love the Escher hands especially. What a brilliant mind he had.

  37. I love Escher, and as usual your inspiring Internet searches.

  38. i've always admired escher's work and this one of the hands is definitely one of my favorites.

  39. Hands on, hands off, the hands have it.

    What a wonderful visual you've presented, and the Asbestos pieces are truly inspiring. Thanks for another great post.

  40. Hi Robyn...a truly wonderful post.
    I used to love decorating hands with henna (mehndi), I used to do it for a living.
    I love the collage hands...thanks for Karins link...Jo xx

  41. I have been taking photos of hands. Mine are beginning to look like my Mother’s hands. My Dad’s hands look like his Mother’s. I cherish the opportunity to photograph my Dad’s hands. It’s too late for photos of the hands of my Mom and Gram. It is really another way to take a portrait.

  42. Thanks for these, Robyn. I particularly liked the street artist's work and an Escher is always a treat.

  43. i love this, that we all appreciate the power of a hand... that's where i get my silly blog name... to use the hands gently...

    love's flower...the hand in all things it speaks.
    like you and love bug. they don't lie the things the hand makes.

  44. I am reminded of one of my fave artists Nina Bagley at She always has hands in her work too. Such powerful things our hands. I love all these explorations you take us on. Um, just wondering if you manage to get anything else done ... you know doll, the mundane stuff like cooking and cleaning. No? Me either.

  45. PS. All your collections make me sigh and wanna cry "gimme gimme gimme". i love ur site for all the I-Candy. 'I' stands for inspiration of course.