Essay / Avant-Garde

Present Accounted For

Got me a toy soldier A little drawing of a boy getting a nutcracker toy soldier for Christmas, you say? Carried out with characteristic verve, but in the unpromising medium of #2 pencil and crumpled yellow legal pad? No, no, no, there is much more going on here.

Attend to the actual placement of the image on the page. The top blue line and the left red lines define the active picture plane. “Boy” (let’s call him “Boy”) may be contained by the blue college-ruled lines, but the top of his impressive head juts into the open space above. So does the crest atop the head of “Soldier” (let’s call him “Soldier”). “Soldier” is also connected to “Boy” by a remarkably affectionate gaze. “Boy” is either striding forward assertively or has legs of different sizes. (The kids at school, by the way, call himTangent-Neck.)

To the left of the double-red line is the tell-tale wrapping paper that lets you know “Soldier” is new. As for what “Boy” is holding in his other hand, your guess is as good as mine: Those are either his fingers or a smaller toy. Either way, he’s not putting them down anytime this season.

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