Photo by Barbie Porter
Carli Olson holds a ceramic cup she made in art class at Frazee High School. The young artist is considering paralegal studies or joining AmeriCorps after graduation.  

By Barbie Porter


Hands tell a lot about a person. The thickness of the skin can tell the tale of a handyman fixing things on the farm, while soft hands might suggest office duty. For Carli Olson, hands are one of the most challenging things for her to draw.

With guidance from her art teacher, the Frazee High School senior tackled an assignment that required her to draw hands utilizing sign language. The sign language shown on the hands were initials of her name.

“The hands had to have the first, middle and last initial in sign language,” she said.

After studying a picture showing how hands form letters, the teacher presented her students with latex gloves. 

“The gloves allowed us to see the shapes and crevices in our hands clearly,” Olson said. “It was more pronounced.”

Olson practiced making the letters and examined her hand. Then, she sharpened her skills by drawing rough sketches of her hand as it formed her first and then middle initial. 

“We were given the option of tracing a sketch onto the final draft,” she said. “I did that for the first two letters.”

She said when drawing a hand, the most challenging aspect for her was the pocket that forms between the thumb and finger. 

“Getting the lines right was also challenging, and finding the right size for the fingers and thumbs,” she said.

Practice built Olson’s confidence when drawing one of the  more telling, detailed parts of the human body. She decided the final hand representing the first letter of her last name would be done on the final draft.

When placing the hands on her artwork, she decided to place them vertically, with the C being at the top. Olson explained that decision was made to blend into the theme of the background. 

“At first I considered having a solar system background,” she said. “But I realized that would not be an effective use of space.”

Putting the solar system idea aside, Olson surfed the Web for inspiration. She caught the right wave while looking at untouched landscapes. Olson placed moving water with shades of blue creating dimension in the bottom half of her art piece. The top half provided hues of amber on the ground, while plateaus and pine trees soared into the sky where there was sunset made of orange and yellow. The sun draws the eye to the corner of the piece, and she purposely placed the hands as if they are balancing on one another as they reach for the sun.

“It moves from dark to light,” she said. “I wanted it to look like the hands were reaching from something brighter.”

As Olson gets closer to closing the chapter of being an adolescent, she hopes her plans bring on something brighter. After high school graduation, the daughter of Missy and Justin Olson of Frazee is heading to MState to earn a paralegal degree. She is also contemplating entering the AmeriCorps workforce.

“I work at Central Market and I saw some AmeriCorps workers come in to buy groceries,” she said. “I heard one talk about going to Alaska and all the fun opportunities that went with being part of that.”

Regardless if an indoor or outdoor classroom is in her future, Olson said she plans to continue enjoying creating art.