Thursday, May 2, 2019

So I'm working on the second Goddess design for the adult coloring book downloads collection at It's a depiction of Macha, Celtic Goddess of War and Fertility, as she uses the pin of her cloak brooch to inscribe a line representing the outer boundary of a fort to be built on a hill top. I've had a very hard time finding pictures to use as a model for her pose. Thought of photographing myself leaning over to scratch on the floor but that just didn't work out. Drawing a picture of Macha is proving to be much more challenging than the Aphrodite project was.

But I did find a photo in my old artists' model photos book (published circa 1950) of a young woman leaning down with her arm extended so her hand is about 5 inches above the floor. One leg is very gracefully bent just a little while the other one is nearly straight. Obviously she was able to keep her balance in that pose while the photographer took her picture from 8 different angles. So using my handy Photoshop Bezier tool in conjunction with the transform tool I bent her torso over a little further so her hand would reach the floor. (Which will become the ground in the finished design.) Now the problem becomes one of physics; can a human being simultaneously bend both legs adequately to get her hand to touch the ground, without pitching forward on to her head? And of course my problem as an artist is how do I get it to look like she's doing that?

In art school I learned that a standing human figure must have its chin above the heel of the "engaged" leg (the leg bearing most of the weight) in order to look convincingly upright and balanced. Artists and especially sculptors speak of "contraposto": an Italian term meaning "counterbalance" to describe how the torso twists and turns to distribute itself over a free and an engaged leg. For an illustration of this principle, refer to Michelangelo's David or nearly any standing Renaissance statue. I have to figure out how far to bend her over and how far out from her torso her arm would be, for her to maintain her balance.

As I was working with the photograph and the Photoshop tools I suddenly remembered Jean Francois Millet's painting "The Gleaners." This 19th-century work shows three women in a field gleaning the wheat left after the harvest. Two of the women are bent over from the waist as my goddess must be. They're at a different angle from the one I'm depicting Macha at, plus they're fully dressed, but using them as an example helps me determine exactly how far I need to have the goddess bend over. Pretty far, basically.

Here's a copy of the new drawing with the photograph under the line work, and a link to Millet's painting.


  1. Not being a scholar of the arts, but often an observer of yoga, I always assumed "contraposto" is less a universal norm and more about the individual person's capacity to find and hold a balance-point. Some people just seem to float, perhaps your goddess will too! Best of luck as you construct her images!


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