Skip to Content
Search Icon
Issue 10 – Easter 2022


Eight-Legged Stick Figure

On drawing.


Once, on an evening that has since passed into convent lore, the sisters decided to play a game together. It goes like this, and if you’re a schoolteacher or work with children, you’ll probably know the gist already. The players sit in a circle, and the first person draws a cartoon on a piece of paper before handing it to the second person. The second captions the cartoon, then folds over the paper so that just the caption is visible, before handing it to the third person. The third draws a new cartoon for the caption. The game continues until the paper is filled, at which point it is unfolded and passed around the circle. Everybody is amused by the discrepancy between the first picture and the last. All is lightness and whimsy, and the sisters go forth to Adoration and Compline in a spirit of communal cheer.

 In theory, at least. What actually happened was that the whole enterprise descended into chaos within minutes. As a British person I have an entrenched cultural bias against the idea that some things are too embarrassing to be funny, but that evening was certainly a contender. Most of the drawings that the sisters produced were simply incomprehensible. I feared that one sister—who at the time held two master’s degrees and a theological license—was going to have a panic attack. “I can only do stick people,” she said. “Is that okay? Can I just do stick people?” Others agonized over their drawings, offering apology after apology for their poor drawing skills, before finally committing to a few hesitant, wobbly lines. One sister who had only drawn for leisure once or twice before in her life (she grew up in the midst of a civil war where carving out time for play was, for obvious reasons, not a priority) was helped along by another sister, who explained to her that a drawn image is normally intended to correspond to a recognizable feature of reality, and that is why you should draw heads at the tops of bodies, arms somewhere in the middle, and legs coming out of the opposite end. The sister in question smiled and nodded patiently, as one would if humoring a small child or a raving drunk, before adding a fourth set of legs to her stick person.

You must or subscribe to read the rest of the article.