Dear Journal: Stick Figures

stickfigureDear Journal,

I used to draw these stick figures, you know the kind, with the huge heads and tiny bodies. They looked like they would tip over more often than not if they were 3-dimensional. I always drew the bodies first too, so they looked like Jack Pumpkinhead when his pumpkin head got knocked off in Return to Oz. Sometimes I would leave them like that because either I wasn’t in the mood to try and draw a perfect circle or it just looked cool or something, like an infant tree that had lost its way.

Eventually, though, more often than not, I would draw that circle to top off the piece, and most times it wasn’t symmetrical, but I figured that was okay. People’s faces aren’t symmetrical, and if they were then they wouldn’t be true to life. In fact, they would probably be a bit creepy. That’s what I told myself anyway. Then, once I was as satisfied as I was going to be with the circle I would start adding features. An eye here, then erase it, and put it higher. A nose there, but it’s too bulbous so erase it and replace it. That was my favorite part of the process: erase it and replace it.

The mouth was always a dilemma because when I draw open mouths it always looks like they’re Dracula without fangs, they’re always open just a bit too wide. And don’t get me started on lips. I tried the thin-lipped look but that only works on models, not on stick figures who are fighting hard not to gag at their own appearance as it is. But big lips just make the whole thing appear clown-like, and I can’t have that. So no lips, and an O of a mouth that looks more like surprise than anything else. I find that a closed-mouth line just shows disdain for the whole process.

Then to add hair or not to add hair, that is the question. The bald-headed stick figure has an element of the classy, devil-may-care attitude, but it also shows off the lazyness of the artist. The “big hair” look just evokes the 80s, and not the “good” 80s but the “bad” 80s and everything that entails. Flat hair that comes down just seems limp and also lazy. So usually I just went for the cool guy/girl look with spiky hair that went off in every direction. Yeah, that showed I wasn’t lazy, that I put thought into the personality of the stick figure. Which is important.

Last but not least, I had to draw a caption for the piece, which generally involved my stick figure saying something demeaning about himself/herself, something like “At least my head is buoyant,” or “Turn me sideways and watch my head float in midair.” Yes, most of what I came up with was derogatory, and usually about the size and misshapen aspect of the head, but it was all I had to work with. It wasn’t quite New Yorker quality cartoons, and that was okay. It was a stick figure.

And I was okay with that.

Sam

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