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Painting a Picture with Words

Updated on November 8, 2011
The poet
The poet

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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  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

    It so interesting and I throughly enjoyed reading about it.

  • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

    Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

    I enjoyed the model's portrait. Your poetry gave me an impression of a photo shoot.