giacometti said that hands were easy to draw. "they are just circles," he said, "with lines sticking out of them." i keep the idea in mind because i enjoy how dismissive it is. "who cares," it says to me, "if you draw kids with broccoli arms or if you draw every wrinkle on your grandfather's palm? they're only hands."

the truth, of course, is that hands can say just as much about people as faces can. at a show last week, i met a mechanic. his fingers were huge and flat. i wondered out loud if they were always like that or did they change shape after years of hard work. my own fingers are tapered. the knuckles are wrinkly and big. i could draw them from memory i've drawn them so often. they are familiar to me like my face.

i like this drawing because of the hands. i was hired by the pasadena weekly to illustrate the questionability of the CAL/GANG database. it's a list of criminals, gang members, and potential terrorists. the art director suggested a picture of uncle sam creating the list. after several sketches, i realized that it was harder to capture the character of uncle sam's hands than it was to capture his face. the face is basically a fancy hat and beard. the hands are knobby and world weary and strong.

© 2003 rama hughes