Boldly striding, leading with the right leg and a protruding belly, my sketched figure seems muscular and strong, forging ahead. However, at the same time, her right arm covers her chest as if protecting the heart, while her head swivels to peer over the left shoulder; these gestures contradict the advancing thrust.
While observing a model, I drew this quick five-minute study, any paradoxes purely unconscious. Now, as I ponder their meaning, I discover that I love the contrary directions of the forward movement with the backwards look. Often, people prove to be complex and contradictory, myself included. The sketch captures this essential contrariness. It reminds me of myself when I’m in complicated relationships. With a new partner, I’m usually optimistic and pursue closeness, charging forth. At the same time, I slowly become aware of problems such as the person sneaking off to indulge in an addiction. I look around, reflecting on the possible ramifications of my partner’s odd behavior and symbolically covering tender feelings with my clasped arms. Sometimes I literally look away, refusing to see what is before my eyes. My legs race forward into the relationship regardless.
Most of all, I relish the figure’s vigorous march toward whatever lies before her. It’s my nature to strive with the ambition I learned from both parents. A therapist tells me my “strive-ability” quotient is off the charts, which shocks me. The joy of accelerating motion and the thrilling inner gumption accompanying it seems normal to me.
However, in the past, by pushing myself too hard, I’ve exhausted my body and soul through hasty compulsiveness. In my twenties, I realized that, for good health, each day, I need to balance the quick tempo I prefer with meditation and conscious pauses to relax. Perhaps that’s why the sketched figure looks back, to remind herself it’s time to slow down.
I love the angles in the sketch’s composition. Diagonals in a design convey maximum vitality. The directional line of the right leg intersects with an opposing track created by the left leg as it visually extends into the torso. These two lines intersect at the hip, creating a focal point. The opposing bend of the upper back stretching with the head in a contrary path echoes the right leg’s line. This creates a pleasing repetition that causes the viewer’s eye to wander up to the head, pausing at another meeting point in the stomach.
All of these subtleties in composition and emotion happened in five minutes while I stared at the model. I mentally absorbed her presence and stance and allowed the charcoal in my hand to intuitively respond. For me, this wondrous drawing emerged from unknown depths, fresh and delicious as water from a deep mountain spring.
2023 July 27-30
Seattle Art Fair
Kaethe Kauffman’s 2022 piece, The Rain Tree will be on exhibit at the Seattle Art Fair,
July 27-30 in the Walter Wickiser Gallery, New York section. More Info