Painting a Picture with Words
Painting a Picture with Words
Thumb and forefinger form a backwards C
The other fingers fall out of sight
One hand rests on the black of a glittering red chair
She is seated in profile
Atop a powerful motorcycle
She faces the chair, feet propped up on the seat
Elegant but strong
The top of one ankle high boot on the upper of her two crossed feet
Feet only inches from her body
The curve of her body mirrors the C of her fingers
We repeat ourselves indefinitely
The arm attached to the hand on the chair is taut
A vein leads all the way to her shoulder
Her knees splay apart slightly but not inappropriately
Her boot tops sit approximately the same height though one is atop the other
The heel of the left sits on top of the right
Her left elbow digs deep into the top of her left thigh
Her arm at an angle finishes in a hand that holds a set of oversized tarot cards
Four fingers splay against the bottom of the cards
A miniature fan against a larger fan against her face
Her thumb hides on the underside of the cards, near her chin
Only her eyes are revealed and it is only one eye because she stands in profile
Somehow she manages to still convey emotion in her gaze
Defining the emotion poses difficulty
A headband further hides her bangs
Four straps of a tight ruffled dress cut geometric shapes across her shoulders
The curve of her back ends in the straightness of her leg
She repeats herself in mirror image
Is this a self-portrait?
About this poem
In this poem I have tried to convey the experience of trying to paint a picture of a life model. When you paint from life, you try to take in the whole image but then you have to break it down piece by piece. Line by line, I have tried to show what that process would look like.
One of the things I’ve noticed when trying to paint or draw from life is that it is crucial to identify basic shapes and the ways in which those shapes repeat themselves throughout the piece. I have tried to represent that here by noting the curvy C shape that a body forms again and again.
I have also noticed that a painter typically jumps back and forth between areas when painting from a live model. He’ll work on the hand until it’s basically right, move to the foot, and then go back to the hand to get it more complete and perfect. That’s why I described the hands and feet at different points here instead of doing only one then the other.
The final line of the poem is meant to represent that every time we paint something, we insert a little bit of ourselves into it. We may be painting from life but we are infusing our own touch through the choices that we make in what we depict and how we depict it. In that way, the painting process reveals something about the self.
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