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1303MaggyFacesAquarelleThings change.  People change. Sometimes from morning to night. Your view of a person changes, perhaps even from day to day.  That’s an old idea.  In fact, pre-Socratic philosophers said so, as in Heraclitus’s “You can’t step into the same river twice.”  But then in the 4th  century BCE the Greek philosophers invented an idea called “essence.”

IngresPortraitWe’ve been wrestling with this concept ever since. For centuries, Western artists thought it was their job to get at the “essence” of a person.  You can see this ambition in the portraits of Ingres (1780-1867). Do you see “essence” here?  I don’t.  I see only theatricality.  Dress-up, veneer, pretense.

Ingres was a superb draftsman.  Maggy and I would admit that he was more accomplished than she.  But what Maggy’s page of studies gives me is more exciting than a meticulous  Ingres portrait.  I find her studies (above) engrossing and true to life.  Not in the sense of portraiture, but in the sense of liveliness and, yes, truthfulness.  This is how we experience people:  they move, they reflect, they introspect, they doubt—and all within the few minutes we have their face in front of us.

1303MaggyFacesAquarelleLinesJust to point out two techniques in this page of studies that convey the liveliness that I admire in a work of art:  1) repetition of vigorous pencil strokes (green)which don’t create the illusion of roundness and shading in the face, but exist in themselves, allowing the viewer to move through the page and interpret it as a work that emanates from the artist’s perception—not from the “essence” of the model; 2) movement of the viewer’s attention from #1 through #4, with each “take” presenting a different mood of the face, allowing us a glimpse into the complexity and intelligence of this individual.

Though it may look like scribbling, this is an advanced drawing.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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http://facefame.wordpress.com

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