It is a pity there should be such a meagre representation of this interesting and important feature. It has been shown that not only can people, birds, and animals be built up with the seven little pieces, but the same may be done so cleverly as to portray their characteristics and emotions. In the same way we can construct heads and faces, and, by a little artistic ability in the finishing touches, make the features and expressions readily recognizable.
The imagination may be strained pretty close to the snapping point to see some of these things, for they have been hastily and not too cleverly thrown together. There is room for improvement in every figure shown in this book, so it is safe to say there will be some wonderful pictures contributed after our young folks become experts, and I hope to see some great cartoonists and artists develop from our Tangram class.
The following scene represents some Chinese maidens playing foot-ball, which is closely akin to basket-ball, in that the aim is to place the ball upon the pedestal. They simply "punt," as "hacking" is not permitted. The only method of obstruction being to butt in a decorous manner, as shown in the sketch, where two girls are seen in a head-on collision, while the victor is supposed to be placing the ball upon the square pedestal:
Pictures in silhouette leave so much for the imagination that it is safe to say that no two persons ever get the same impressions from a Tangram sketch. They are given bold outlines in black and white of a subject which they are to complete according to their artistic ability or poetical inspiration.
Anyone who could look at groups of romping children without seeing in the mind's eye graceful curves and smiling faces is like that soul devoid of music, "fit for treason, stratagem, and spoils." Such as can only see angular shadows, or things actually shown, are so lacking in poetical imagination that they would read of "The little house where I was born" or of the Village Smithy "under a spreading chestnut-tree" with a shuddering sense of the lonesomeness of the situation. They see no groups of merry children or the panorama of busy life in all its little details, which a poet's theme inspires.
Here we have a group of marauding crows, with one or two excellent figures to support and interpret the rest. One of them was previously given without the supporting companions to see if it could be recognized when unaccompanied by explanatory description of any kind.
The imagination must be educated up to the point of seeing things which do not exist, so that our fancy fills in the lines and features necessary to complete the picture; then, after becoming expert in the handling of the Tangrams, we may essay the more difficut lines which challenge interpretation.
The latter books of Tan lead up to that phase by the ingenious and most skilfully devised grouping of subjects, so that you fail to notice how one or two good figures explain by association others which could not be guessed. This feature has been frequently introduced, but is now illustrated in a more pronounced form.
In similar vein is here presented a feline study in the shape of a pretty scene of a mother tabby and her family, to test the point as to how much poetry you have in your soul. Just observe the eyes and expressions of those mischievous kittens, and note the bristling whiskers!
Again in the following companion picture, representing a rabbit-warren, much is left to the fancy of the student. The feature of one or two happy figures introducing the others, which are not so good, is once more utilized. Bunnies are not so picturesque or graceful as kittens, so, as you will observe, I had to utilize their large eyes and soft fur in addition to the attitudes to give proper expression to rabbit emotions, which cannot be shown by the ears alone .