Atlas was a Titan who held up the sky and planets which led to his association with astronomy and navigation – as well as lending his name to a book of maps due to a muddle with people thinking it was the earth he was holding up.
Atlas was given his exhausting job as a punishment. Atlas was one of a brood of very naughty boys. One of his brothers was Prometheus, who famously suffered a grotesque punishment for stealing fire from the gods and gifting it to humans. Brother Epimetheus was tarnished by association with his wife, Pandora of Box fame. Another brother was Menoetius and together he and Atlas fought with the Titans against the gods. When defeated, Menoetius was killed by Zeus with one of his lightning bolts and then banished to Tartarus – the maximum security zone of the Underworld – while Atlas was forced to hold up the heavens to prevent him from getting into any further trouble.
Atlas features in the Twelve Labours of Heracles. Heracles was tasked with obtaining some golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides. Since the Hesperides were Atlas’ daughters, Heracles asked Atlas to go fetch them in exchange for holding up the heavens for the duration of Atlas’ errand. Of course, upon return with the apples, Atlas was not overly keen on resuming his job. Heracles pretended to agree but asked that Atlas just hold them up for a wee minute so he could get a bit comfier. Atlas – clearly not the sharpest – took up the burden again while Heracles duly scarpered, golden apples and all.
I very much struggled with my composition for Atlas. I had to work out a pose that would place the figure in an appropriate position for carrying a sphere and I had to imply the massive weight of that sphere, make it seem like a burden, like a struggle to hold it up. It was a punishment after all. It’s moments like that where I realize how much I miss life drawing. Life drawing not only hones skills of observation and drawing but also aids an understanding of how all the components of the human body work in unison. Home alone – and probably not having any willing models even if my husband and kids were home – I had to figure it out. I thought about the statues of Atlas I had seen and I put myself in variations of the position to gain a sense of how limbs and feet should be positioned. Ultimately I think I may have placed Atlas into too much of a squat and should have placed his feet further apart but I think I at least conveyed the sense of strain.
I think this was definitely the most challenging drawing of the challenge. So far.