Archive for January 3rd, 2011


Blame it on Lincoln’s beard.

Just five weeks ago, on November 24 to be exact, I was reading the NYtimes online in my usual sloppy, skimming, let’s-get-this-over-with way.    I’ve never liked reading the paper, this or any other.  I’ve always known that you’re supposed to keep up with the news, but there was always something more interesting to read, or rather more thoughtful, or more personal, or…I don’t know what…maybe less upsetting.  I would prefer reading Huizinga on the waning of the middle ages to reading about the shenanigans of the lobbyists on K Street.   But that Wednesday before Thanksgiving, as I was looking at the front page of the Times, something new happened to me.

There, in the Times, is something about Lincoln growing his beard in a style that was his own.  I read it in my usual skimming way and I look at the picture and think, so, what’s so new about that beard, we’ve seen it a hundred times. I decide to investigate this phenomenon visually.  I pull out a piece of paper and draw Lincoln from that photo on my 20” computer screen.  I’ve drawn Lincoln before, more than once, most recently from the famous Gardner photo for my work at the Chicago History Museum. In that drawing he came out distant and gloomy.  But now, from this new-beard photo, I’m bringing out the skeptic in Lincoln, the oh-really-you-don’t-say wise guy who put up with so much foolishness in his life.  After I’ve drawn Lincoln, I look at some other articles in the Times and I draw eight more people who are involved in the news that day.  Eight.  One after the other.

The next day I drew five.

Reading the news immediately became a new experience.  I would read an article, find the newsmaker on You Tube and draw the face. Every day.  Eureka! I’ve found a way to get me interested in current events.  After three weeks I looked at my pile of drawings and realized that I had acquired a new habit.  My enthusiasm wasn’t letting up.  What to do with all these drawings?  I did what any of us would do.  I started a blog. http://facefame.wordpress.com

With the exception of Lincoln, all faces in the Facefame blog will be drawn from moving images, from video clips or from movies.  It’s important for me to see the face in motion to get a feeling for the character behind it.  I draw fast.  I work in a waxy pencil (China marker) on glossy paper and rarely do more than one study.  The drawings, therefore, have a rough, even coarse, look.  In some cases I’ve made more refined drawings in clean, brush-like lines, such as for Ayaan Hirsi Ali (http://facefame.wordpress.com, 12.19.10) and Tadao Ando (drawn 11.24.10, yet to be posted).  I may again be moved to take a drawing out of the rough into a more lyrical state, but we’ll see.  No promises.  It’s uncharted territory.  Up for grabs. Just like the daily news.




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