Man’s Reach Exceeds His Grasp


The Painting

The painting is called “Man’s Reach Exceeds His Grasp”. I’ve always wanted to try painting and thought I had a pretty good idea, so after much thought and a couple drawings, I attempted to paint it. I got it framed at Michaels. Many thanks to my good friend Laura for the opportunity to do this!


The Meaning

The meaning is quite straightforward. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the moment the water reaches his hand, it turns into sand and is taken by the slight breeze. The title is a quote from Andrea del Sarto, a poem by Robert Browning. It is also said by Nikola Tesla’s character in my favourite movie, The Prestige.

“I, painting from myself and to myself,
Know what I do, am unmoved by men’s blame
Or their praise either. Somebody remarks
Morello’s outline there is wrongly traced,
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else,
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”
– Robert Browning from Andrea del Sarto



I used the fact that acrylics dry very fast to my advantage. I started with the background, trying to make it blurry and out of focus, and slowly progressed to the foreground. The hands were drawn in pencil and then painted in. It was quite difficult to get the blending and shadows perfect, but luckily I had my artistic friend, Laura, to tell me when things didn’t look right. Without her the painting wouldn’t exist. Below I am trying to figure out what a hand looks like in a mirror.