The Artist’s Hand

Susan Leopold



1. Research is essential. The hand is universal and especially relevant to the visual arts. Gathering reference materials such as historical anatomical references, dolls, acupuncture models, plaster and gauze fabric a process which often leads to quite unexpected and marvellous discoveries.


2. This is the concept rough. A hand (as cocoon) releases a butterfly (the creative spirit). The very act of drawing led me to the idea of mummy wrappings and the use of very old, quill pen scripted correspondence and Buddhist rubbingsto form the shroud. Cool. Let’s start the realization of this piece.



1. I decided to “cocoon” the hand itself in handmade paper. To accomplish this a pulp was made in a blender using chopped bits of cotton in water...then dyed the entire mass a vibrant yellow. I also used and alternate greeny grey cotton pulp soaked and merged to create a double sided support.


2. Utilizing a section of fluorescent lighting grid (for support and drainage), a wool blanket (for absorbtion) and a J-cloth (to prevent sticking) makes for ease of handling and speeds drying. Pressing and shaping with a sponge results in a broad, flat, sensuous and highly workable support.


3. Once dry enough to hold together (24 hours) the papersheet was carefully removed from the cloth.


4. The damp sheet is now bonded yet flexible enough to remove from the J-cloth. I wanted to flip the sheet over to expose the pure yellow side.


5. Yellow side now up...I begin to form the “native cradle- board” form into which the yet to be created hand will be carried.


6. An old piece of cardboard functions as a pattern for shaping the support. It will be removed later.


7. The handmade paper is folded and begins to resemble it’s final form. This is set aside to dry. I’m keen to get started on the hand.



1. We practice safe, in preparation, a rubber glove is pulled over a vintage glove form making it easier to release the final “Artist’s” hand.


2. cradle-board. The still damp paper is ready for final fitting. The blue fabric ribbon is tested but later discarded. Too dark. The original concept sketch was then this is now. Hands-on improve. Fun.


5. The vintage correspondence has been cut into strips of varying widths. Here, I experiment with the wrapping method and envisage the final look of the hand.


6. Having decided to use varied colour and values of paper in order to create a visually varied rhythym of tone...I am just now finishing the time-consumming and finicky process of mummifying with words. Acrylic medium is the bonding agent (hence the rubber glove).


7 .Lamination with multiple layers of medium build strength and moisture resistance. The warming effect of the medium is imparting a “chrysylis” translucency. I like this.

8. A peek behind the scenes illustrates the hollow, bas relief structure of “The Artist’s Hand”.


9. The “emerging” butterfly is created out of the same papers as it’s host hand. The head, thorax and abdomen have already been formed of red waxed linen. Here I am hand colouring.


10. Ready to take wing.


11. This depiction of metamorphosis has such universal appeal and meaning I chose to make the rubbing (seen at upper left) from an old wood block with ideograms which refer to ancient Buddhist texts. This completes the East meets West typographic componet of the “Hand”.


12. The rubbing and a few other side bits are coated in encaustic wax. Formed into shape while still warm the wax contributes another surface texture and colour to the cradle- board, much as Egyptian mummification often concluded with the insertion of Fayum encaustic portraits of the deceased.


13. Just as the Eqyptians honored their sculpted depictions with the application of embellishing pigments here I, well, honor my Hand with Caran Dache watercolour crayons.


14. Final sewing. Components are stitched together with various colors of waxed lined thread. Sometimes dental floss. Archival methodology and materials are used wherever possible in my work, protecting the investment of my collectors and allowing me to sleep at night...dreaming up yet more meaningful projects.