In praise of stick men

Foto de Larry
Foto de Larry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lots of people think that they aren’t creative. I used to think this myself, despite having worked in a number of jobs that require some degree of creativity, including working as a film editor, writer and teacher. Nevertheless it took me quite a long while to realise that when I said I wasn’t creative, I really meant that I couldn’t draw.

Whilst I would love to be able to draw, I have come to understand that if you are trying to explain something complex, stick men are not only perfectly adequate, they are actually preferable. Stick men, which even I can draw reasonably well, can convey information very clearly because they don’t come with the visual distractions that accompany a photo or a drawing of a real person. When we look at photos our brains are distracted by the extra information that we are asked to process. How old is that woman, what colour are her eyes, is she happy or sad, does she look like someone I know? These are only a few of the thoughts and ideas that flow through minds in the first few milliseconds when we see an image. The same goes for an illustration, especially if it’s well executed and life-like.

Not only do we get the message really quickly from a stick man (or a stick woman for that matter), a stick man can also convey movement (for example running) with little of no effort on our part.

So don’t fret if you can’t draw. You only need the most basic skills to depict relationships, instructions and behaviours. Go ahead and practice your stick men. Your audience will understand that you are merely illustrating a concept, and not trying to be an artist. And if you figure out a way to draw a stick woman (without be rude), let me know.

3 thoughts on “In praise of stick men

  1. I just draw a triangle below the waist to indicate a skirt and a little hair if I want to indicate a female… thanks for this Margaret – I use stick men to illustrate yoga postures and find that everyone can relate to them well.

    1. Hi Margaret Jane
      Thanks for that excellent suggestion. I am going to try my hand at drawing a few stick women. I like the idea of adding a little triangle.
      Stick people are very appealing don’t you think? Maybe this is because they can convey so much with just a few lines or perhaps because they are simple folk with no grand ideas about themselves.
      If anyone else has any thoughts on this, I’d be interested to hear.

  2. Without obvious drawn genitalia are they not a “stick person” and therefore have no need for gender basis.

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