Photographs used with permission of the author
The magic of Guido Daniele's 'Handimals' series is obvious at first glance. Daniele's specialty is painting hands, and his first Handimals collection came out in 2000.
The myriad stripes of this zebra mirror the multiple talents of the artist, both as a painter and a photographer.
Born in 1950, he started body painting as late as 1990, but quickly discovered his niche. His preferred models are his two children, 17 and 24, as they are familiar to him.
A stunning angelfish depicted swimming in the ocean gives an indication of the amount of work this kind of art demands.
As Daniele says: "If you're spending hours on end holding someone's hand, I'd rather it be the hand of someone I love. There's nothing worse than working with a nervous, unfamiliar model whose hands are shaking." Let's take a look at some of these amazing pieces of body art.
Polly want a cracker? This representation of a parrot with bright plumage looks so real you could almost feed it! In fact, the artist's ability to make each creature so lifelike is based on in-depth research into how best to transfer its characteristics to the hand.
Man's best friend captured in an amazingly realistic way. Results like these are clearly spectacular – but the artistic process is never easy. The hardest aspect for Daniele is watching his work literally go down the drain at the end of the day, but as he points out, he also always gets a fresh canvas the next morning!
In this painting of an elephant, Daniele has managed to show the timeless wisdom of the creature – in its eye and in its expression.
This beautiful giraffe is so lifelike it looks like it belongs on the savannah!
As well as being aware of aesthetics surrounding his subject matter, Daniele is also very conscious of the conservation needs of animals.
A leopard painted in profile with exquisite detail right down to the tiny spots on its muzzle.
The artist says: "Every day there are species disappearing that serve the global balance. Forests are being destroyed by indiscriminate felling of trees, which then take dozens of years to regrow."
Dumbo here not only has big ears but a big long trunk, too!
"We are witnessing an impoverishment of the heritage of the Earth, a phenomenon of self-destruction of the planet by man which is really crazy. And I, in my small way, I try to bring public attention to these issues," Daniele continues.
A bald eagle in all its glory, complete with hooked beak and raptor's scowl.
Each Handimal takes between 3-10 hours to complete. The patterns Daniele paints are only part of the effect; the different parts of the hand themselves become features of the animal portrayed.
A crocodile comes alive in Guido's hands... and his model's!
In the words of the artist: "There are millions of people every day looking at these images who become sensitized to animals."
This trompe l'oeil clownfish is another star of the show!
He continues: "They identify themselves in this art form because it is painted on the hand, the most creative part of the human body. It is the hand that creates, but unfortunately also the hand that destroys."
A snake rears its head; enough to give anyone frightened of these creatures the shivers!
You can really see Daniele's mastery of photography as well as painting in this image of a dolphin.
Glowing eyes shine brightly above the mouth of this stunning black panther, and we recall the connection we make with animals when we see them as depicted in Daniele's art.
The splendor of this loggerhead turtle (a threatened species) is hard to beat, yet the cheetah (first image) Daniele painted first is his favorite.
As he explains: "It turned out perfectly the first time and gave me the courage to complete the rest of the set." Lucky for us!
This tropical toucan underlines how well fingers and thumbs lend themselves to becoming animals' beaks and noses.
The crossed fingers in this piece help to perfectly capture the appearance of a turkey.
A majestic swan peers knowingly at us, such that we almost forget we're actually looking at a hand.
Guido Daniele began his career as a hyper-realistic illustrator in advertising, and indeed his hand art was born out of work on an ad campaign.
The smallest of the swans, the coscoroba, comes to life in this image.
Today, Daniele is internationally renowned. His work has been picked up for campaigns by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), while TV network Animal Planet made him their 2007 Hero of the Year. To see more of Guido Daniele's stunning hand art, visit his website.