A Bird On the Hand

Talk about getting your hands dirty. Guido Daniele does it—in the most awe-inspiring way—by painting hands to showcase stunning animals. To date, he’s done more than 75, with a third of them birds. Next up, Daniele hopes to create a common loon and an Arctic duck. We spoke with the Italian painter about the artwork, his family, and the message he wants his animals to communicate.

Two-handed bald eagle, by Guido Daniele

Why hand art?
It is one question everybody asks me. It was a kind of challenge. In 2000, a director [I was working with], he asked me if it was possible to paint one hand like an animal without using Photoshop. The first time I tried to do that, I was surprised by the result. First was the cheetah, then the elephant, then the eagle and the dog. (Click here to see all 77 animals. The cheetah is #13, the elephants are #23-28.)

You’ve done at least two-dozen birds. What inspires you?
When I have the chance, I go where the animals are. I really don’t like zoos, to see all the fantastic animals closed in prison. It’s very painful. But it some ways, it’s the only chance to see them close. Like eagles, [in nature] you see them like a point in the sky.

You say you love all of your hand art. But if you had to select a favorite bird, which would it be?
The bald eagle. It is so beautiful to see. The mandarin duck was the most complicated to realize; I needed six different hands.

Mandarin duck, by Guido Daniele

Speaking of hands, whose do you use?
Usually I ask my son and daughter to be my models, and we sit together. If I paint my daughter’s hands, my son takes the [pictures]. He’s studying photography. If I paint the hand of my son, my daughter helps me. She’s my assistant. She’s a painter, too. It’s a kind of family meeting for me, when I paint new animals.

How do you envision each animal?
I look at my hands. I try to find the position, the angle, maybe in front of a mirror. I imagine in my mind how many hands I need and which is the best angle.

What message do you want the hand art to convey?
If we don’t respect the water, if we dirty the water of the rivers, of the sea, if we make dirty the air we are breathing, everybody will die, the vegetables, the animals, the humans. The animals are more beautiful to see, but life is in the stone, in the ground, in the earth, in the water. If we destroy nature, everybody will die, not only the animals. The animals are a part of the chain of life. We must respect our house.

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