Posts Tagged ‘expressiveness’


I brought in photos of soldiers taken before, during and after their tour of duty in Afghanistan and suggested that the face studies be drawn on one page. The emphasis was not to be on realism, but to allow the drawing process to get messy so that accidental marks and smears would possibly bring out greater expressiveness. Messy is difficult, believe it or not. Students most often want to produce neat drawings that will please others.

Here were faces of men in anguish and doubt. They could, of course, be drawn academically as a study in how features change over time and in different 14Soldier4Facemoods. But the photos invited an approach that in itself carried the expression of their torment. I gave a demo(right, click to enlarge), using the Stabilo pencil on gloss paper.
Though the photos came in sets of three, I suggested that there be four faces drawn on one page, with a fourth being synthesized by the artist.
This assignment came the week after our trip to the Wilmette Library to draw Michelangelo’s David. The David is idealized, he’s beautiful, perfect and worth studying. But perfection is not expressive. Perfection is momentarily satisfying and restful, but, as you can see from the David example, perfection Soldier3Faceinvites parody. Perfection, really, is a lie. To approach a feeling of truthfulness, you have to allow yourself get gritty.

(Drawings by Gabrielle Edgerton, Katherine Hilden and Barbara Heaton)
For more photos of soldiers to work from, see http://news.yahoo.com/photos/soldiers-portraits-before-and-after-war-1368743423-slideshow/
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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I promise, we’ll move on to other topics besides cropping, but the power of cropping cannot be underestimated.

This face was one of four studies on the same page. The model was a magazine add with strong shadows, selling jewelry of all things. In setting up the exercise, I stressed that we were not after a likeness of this beautiful woman, but were using her as a point of departure for expressive studies of the face.  We already know that beauty and expressiveness are incompatible, a major thread in these conversations.

1304AlejandraFaceThe page as a whole did not work because the faces were too similarly drawn and were all the same size.  What to do?  CROP!  You can see the edges of the strips of paper we used in cropping.  The result is an expressive face.

But wait, there’s more.  What if we crop even more radically!  What if we slice the image through the eye on the right edge.  That’s the image at the top of this post.  It’s far removed from literalness, from illustration. Now we have a provocative image. It’s truly an image, in the sense that it is more than what it represents.

Let me point out just three things that make this image so rich.

1304AlejandraFaceCropLines*The left half of the page is all texture.

 *The contour of the face is varied, so that as we trace it we travel over three different “landscapes.”

 * One eye is in the middle of the page. Uncanny! There’s a study of this phenomenon (I can’t remember the author’s name now) that shows that portrait artists will compose their subject in such a way that one eye of the sitter is in the middle of the canvas.

 —————————————————————— Velazquez(1599-1663), Portrait of Juan de Pareja

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




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