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Posts Tagged ‘eyes’

14EmergingHead

When we talk with people we tend to look at their eyes.  Involuntary twitches often offer a clue to  deeper, unverbalized feelings .  Small wonder that when we draw faces we zoom in on the eyes and we tend overdraw them.

MedardoRossoI encourage my students, when drawing a face, to put in the pupils last.  Let the other features and the quality of the markmaking itself, carry the expression. Put in the pupils with a flick of the pencil.

This requires self-restraint and students seem to find it hard to follow this advice.

What a surprise, then, to see the above drawing in class.  I asked the class what they thought of it, at this stage, without any eyes at all.  Approval all around.  Everyone found it moving, as is. One person said, the expression was “tentative.”  A good description.

This drawing by Laurel reminded me of Medardo Rosso’s heads of children.  He often sculpted in plaster and then delicately poured wax over the plaster form.  The effect is one of extreme introversion.  In his faces he does not emphasize the eyes, in fact he often veils them in wax.  But the face does not appear “eyeless” at all.  Instead the face conveys deep feeling .  Medardo Rosso’s faces are MedardoRoss2also tentative in the sense that they appear to be quietly paying attention to everything around them.

In 1892, Rosso sculpted this head of a boy after he merely glimpsed the child, not by having him pose. Rosso described the head as “a vision of purity in a banal world.”

Medardo Rosso, 1858-1928.  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1990.304

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13LinneHeadsThreeOur habit of focusing on the eyes when we look at a face or the image of a face is so engrained that when we have an image in front of us where the eyes are missing, we still focus on the “eyes.”  In this case, blank circular spaces.  Notice, that instead of seeing the image as shallow, we actually project depth and authority into the absence of the eyes.  It’s uncanny.

13LinneHeadsTwo

Drawings by Linné Dosé, from photographs.

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If you want to learn how to draw, you have to spend time drawing.  Well, duh.

What makes the learning process tricky is that your progress will not be obvious from one week to the next.  Tricky?  How about frustrating.  You can go for weeks doing, apparently, the same thing and you just want to throw your #5 across the room and pout because you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, repeating yourself in your scratchy little pencil marks.  That’s because you can’t pick up a reading on how furiously your neurons and synapses are trying to catch up with your hand. All those weeks, when you just want to cry, your brain is working it out for you.  Then suddenly, one day–whamo!— it all comes together and you look at the drawing you just made wondering who this genius is that produced this amazing piece of work.

My drawing class is called Multi-Level Drawing because it welcomes new students who have never tried to draw before and it also challenges students who have worked with me for a few years (the self-described “lifers”).   So naturally, I present basic demos for the

newcomers, like this topic on how to think about eyes and curved shapes. (The brown paper is 3 ft high and I use markers for the demos.) The lifers have heard it all before and start drawing on their own, selecting magazine photos of faces that I have spread out on a long table.

One of the lifers suddenly decided to switch from graphite pencil to charcoal pencil, which deposits much more black stuff on the paper with much less effort. Charcoal allows for a more assertive line and more accidentals, like smudging.   The drawing (top) was unlike anything Maggy had ever done before.  It’s animated and daring in execution. And it was fast.  Then, with plenty of time left in the class, she drew another face, with equal daring.

I can’t predict how the process will work for you.  But that bit about the neurons slugging it out in your brain, that part is sure.

At right, Maggy’s drawing from just five weeks earlier.  With hindsight, we can see the potential: it’s loose and suggestive, and at the same time anatomically correct. But still, there was no gradual progression from this to the masterful drawing she produced in charcoal.

It’s not a linear process.

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

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André Carrilho, in his late 30’s, is a caricaturist of the highest order. He’s Portuguese, lives in Lisbon, where he’s a national treasure.  His work frequently appears in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.  His daring is breathtaking.  There are no clichés in his work.  Every drawing I’ve ever seen by him has made me jealous:  I wish I had done that.

His work deserves close study, his gestures, his radical departure from anatomy, his mixture of drawing techniques, his psychological insights.

For now I just want to focus on the fact that he frequently dismisses the eye as the carrier of expression.  Rudolph Giuliani, for example (above), doesn’t have any eyes, just a darkish smudge.  To pull this off, you have to be very advanced in your art.  Go to http://www.andrecarrilho.com/ and immerse yourself in this work.  But be warned, you may lose track of time, miss your train, quit your job, and neglect your household chores.

Funny thing about the eye, the “window to the soul.”  That expression probably can be traced to Moroccan bazaars, where haggling over the price of a rug was made easier if you were so close to the other guy that you could see the involuntary twitch in his pupils every time he lied to you.  In general, I think, soul-talk is obfuscation.  The “soul” in art doesn’t just have a window here and there, but is more like a drafty place, a wide open canyon.

Imagine my delight as I’m looking at store mannequins and find that they have no eyes.  Where does this come from?  What happened to “the window to the soul?”   Is Maybelline suing?  Is this inspired by André Carrilho?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  The Art of Caricature is not silly or trivial at all.  It’s the brain’s preferred way of seeing.  Simplify, simplify.

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

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