Archive for April 8th, 2010

The human face is not symmetrical.  Don’t believe this.  Test it out.  Take a straight on front shot of yourself, cut it in half vertically, and flip one half over so that one side is the mirror image of the other. (This can be done in Photoshop or using a Xerox machine.)  The resulting face will be recognizable, but just barely.  It will look, maybe not quite dead, but it will not look alive. That’s because you’re an adult and you’re intelligent. (You’ve chosen to read this, that’s how I know.) The complexity of your mind is mirrored in the asymmetry  of your face.

Look at Yousuf Karsh’s photographs of 20th century world leaders, writers and  artists.  For example, John Kennedy and Winston Churchill.  These are not symmetrical faces.  Even John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), who became rich painting portraits of the rich, even he gives these pampered faces the intelligence that comes from asymmetry. Look at Lady Agnew’s eyebrows:

And Cindy Crawford, no dummy, has a one-sided grin, with a mole on the other corner of the mouth.

Earlier this week I started a new drawing project. For the next eight weeks, I’ll draw junior high kids who are in an after school program at my local Y.  Initially I had mixed feelings about this, to tell the truth, because while I wanted to draw them, I also thought the faces would be too symmetrical since the kids are so young.  You know, it’s great to be wrong.  Wakes you up, makes you learn stuff.  This 6th grader, Jamie S., sits down to be drawn and I notice right away that her face has character.  It’s not symmetrical. Her left eyebrow is pulled a little higher than the right.  I start drawing. We chat. Her face comes alive.  She is intelligent.  I notice that her smile tends to be asymmetrical and her left eyebrow goes up even more. I encourage her to hold that a bit.  I produced four drawings in an hour. In the last drawing she has a little smirk, a little thoughtful smile.  How wonderful! Let’s hear it for asymmetry!   Here’s that fourth drawing.

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