Getting a stick figure to move
This column-writing business brings me in contact with interesting people — people who do interesting things in interesting places in interesting ways — even during these challenging times.
One of the most interesting of those interesting people is the second-grade artist Isabella Nielson. Isabella’s drawing appeared as the weather art drawing in the Feb. 19 edition of The News.
Today’s column is, in part, an appreciation of Isabella’s art.
But the fact is that about anything Isabella did or said day to day would be of interest to me. You see, there is a substantial age difference between her and me.
Though I have learned much during the time interval that stretches between us, there is much I left behind — and much I never learned, but should have.
Before that gap widens any further (these gaps can broaden quickly), I thought it best I go back to the second grade and touch base — if only for a moment — with the preciousness of innocence in the information to be found there.
Here, I’ll try to share what I learned, for I suspect you, too, value an occasional sprinkling of stardust.
The thing that caught my eye about Isabella’s art — actually, it caught my wife’s eye, who then pointed it out to me — was that, though Isabella’s drawing incorporated stick figures, those stick figures moved — all three of them: the dad, the girl, and the boy!
How do you get stick figures to impart movement? That’s what I wanted to know, for, though I have drawn many a stick man and woman, stick boy and stick girl, not a one of them ever moved — never ever.
Could Isabella’s art represent a talent I never acquired, or was it one of those things I had learned but left behind?
I wanted to find out. So I contacted Isabella’s school’s principal, Ms. Fredlund, who contacted Isabella’s teacher, Ms. Oswald, who contacted Isabella’s parents, Chris and Stacie Neilson, who graciously granted permission for me to speak with Isabella. Recently, I had that pleasure.
The meeting with her took place at Ella White School. Her teacher and her parents were there, as well. We talked about stick men and stick women, stick boys and stick girls. We wore masks and maintained distances.
Here’s the deal.
Drawing stick people who impart the impression of movement was not a skill I had acquired then left behind — no potential returned to me. It was evident I’d never learned — an omission that fit a pattern I have followed on many occasions.
But, Isabella, as is common with those her age, was willing to share her knowledge. She gave me some tips.
First, you have to look. It’s the second caution in “Stop, Look, and Listen.” But it’s first up in stick figure art. You can’t draw what you don’t see or otherwise perceive.
Smiles make a difference — the bigger, the better. People who smile are often on the move, doing something or other.
Be aware of the width of lines, their slopes, and angles.
Isabella remarked that color is nice, but doesn’t necessarily help impart movement. We both agreed, however, that using color was better.
Good hair and a good hat help — bad hair and bad hats tend to slow things down.
It was a most pleasant and informative meeting.
Afterward, I went home and practiced. My latest stick figure drawing is shown above.
I’m happy with my newly acquired stick figure drawing skills. I believe I’ve captured a sensation of movement, even though I have portrayed an action in which I can no longer engage — but yet experience.
What do you think?
Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.