it’ll cost you an arm and a leg…


20/12/2010 by Sarah Ritchie

Lighthouse in a Storm Martha Mitchell

"Lighthouse in a Storm", Martha Mitchell

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 website [here]. I am Martha’s newest fan!


3 thoughts on “it’ll cost you an arm and a leg…

  1. says:

    Sarah, I feel so honoured by the what you have said about my art. You are an amzing person to give such wonderful words of encouragement. I really appreciate it! I look forward to seeing your progress through this project and wish you every success!

  2. Sarah Ritchie says:

    You are most welcome Martha, and thank YOU for inspiring ME. Your talent is amazing and the subject matter so profound and palpable. If you have a website (or blog), please let me know!

  3. […] and/or evokes emotion and contemplation. You can see one of Martha’s earlier works (“Lighthouse in a Storm“) on a previous blog post. You can also check out her website for some more visual […]

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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
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© Sarah Ritchie 2014

Please do not use copies of my original artwork for profit, however you are welcome to share my artwork images as much as you like!

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