20/12/2010 by Sarah Ritchie
Have you ever wondered where this popular phrase originated? One common explanation is that portrait painters – of yesteryear – charged for their services by the number of limbs that were shown in the painting. A head and shoulders portrait was the cheapest option, followed by one showing arms, then a “legs and all” painting topped the cost chart.
Not one to perpetuate a myth as fact I would hasten to say this explanation seems to be unsubstantiated (!). However, anyone who has ever tried to paint or draw hands can agree with the sentiment in this (possible) urban legend.
There are more bones in your hands and feet (and more joints that you can voluntarily control) than in any other part of your body. No wonder then that these complex mechanisms are so difficult to draw!
One artist that has mastered the art – and then some – of painting hands is South African-born Kiwi Martha Mitchell. Some of her work can be seen on the paintingsilove.com website [here]. I am Martha’s newest fan!