For me, its all about the hands

Polymer tutorials are all over the interwebs now.  You can’t throw a digital stone without hitting one.  I’m always checking out as many as I can to look for trends in definitions (for instance, “clear fast-drying glue” is a nice generic for glue.  Do you “sheet the clay through the pasta machine or roll it through the pasta machine?)

I also check out the photos.  I personally, like to see the artists hands in the photos. I know the biggest argument is “Oh, my hands are so ugly!”  We are not hand models, we are artists.  WE KNOW THAT. I  love to see a photo posted that someone is so excited about what they have made that they don’t care if their hands are ink stained, paint stained, clay stained, bad nail polish, etc.  I actually posted a photo of my dirty hands with the comment “great day at the clay table” and got a huge response.

You see, I feel that our hands have the most intimate relationship with our precious clay.  You may not realize it, but the way that you hold your clay and you position your hands have a real effect on the outcome of the process you are attempting to describe.  Years ago I had an issue with fingerprinting the clay.  I don’t anymore.  Granted, I’m older and my skin is much thinner, but I believe that I’m somehow holding and handling the clay in a different manner than I did 20 years ago when I started.  I also think that is one of the reasons that I enjoy taking polymer classes.  I enjoy watching the relationship that the teacher has with the clay when they handle the clay.  Bonnie Bishoff handling her sheets of clay at Malta and practically whispering to it.  Maggie Maggio using her hands in the air to describe how to coax the rose petal with gentle pinches.

So anyway, off that soapbox and back to hands.  I do include my hands in tutorial photos a lot.  One thing about hands though is that they tend to create large dark shadows and we always want our shots to reflect the beautiful sunlit clean open space that is all our studios.  We don’t want it to look like the dark garage (my garage is called my Deluxe Designer Studio). So there is a simple trick that can be done in post-production to the photos to help this.  Almost any photo software will have a method to correct either the “levels” or the software might actually separate out the highlights, midtones and shadows controls.  Even generic photo editor on my phone has this.  If you bring the mid tone up in value, the dark looming mass of the hand looks much more elegant and less frightening, while not wiping out the fragile highlights.  Let’s take a look at a before and after:
hand 1Big dark shadows around the hand draw the eye from the actual clay event I am describing.

When I open my Levels in my Adobe hand 2software I can see the shadow carrot on the left, the highlight carrot on the right and the midtone in the middle.  If I drag that mid-tone carrot to the right towards the highlight, these shadows will open up, my skintone will look elegant and there will still be detail in the paper and the cotton ball.


Here is the final photo with about a 15 second post production Level correction:

hand 4


My workspace looks clean and bright (not at all like a garage).  There is detail in my hand and the cotton ball, the clay looks normal.

ALSO, you may notice that my thumb is cleaned up from the original image too.  If you have ever tried to retouch the fingers and nails, you know that it’s very difficult.  It isn’t difficult if you set the opacity of your clone tool (usually looks like a rubber stamp) to about 25-33%.  Then you can quickly clean up the skin, cuticles and even nail polish in just a couple of seconds.  One you select the tool, look at the top border bar for the opacity field. It is default set to 100%, so change it to somewhere in the range above and do your cleanup!

What do you think?  Do you prefer the more sterile look of just the tabletop with no hands? Are you aware that you are looking at how the hands are holding the clay or the tools?

Do you enjoy watching the relationship a person has with their clay more than just reading a tutorial how-to instruction?


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