Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Fascinated By Faces.

Michael Whynot. Facial Study, 2012. Red chalk.

Leonardo Da Vinci. Head of a Girl, c. 1483.

Rembrandt van Rijn. Self-portrait in a cap, with eyes wide open, c. 1630.

Pietro Annigoni. Mr. Rydy. Oil, 1949.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Innocent X

The aim of the artist is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. (Aristotle)

A face is not well done, unless it shows a state of mind. (Leonardo Da Vinci)

To be fascinated by the form of the human face is to be fascinated by emotion - for it is through the attitude of its anatomy that emotion is conveyed more readily than through any other part of the body (see my post on hands and feet).

The face is a complex form, made more so by the extensive variety of expressions produced by the facial muscles, and may take the artist years to master.

Structure and likeness are the two aspects of the face most easily studied. Likeness is all about comparative measurement, one feature against another, and, as such, can be distilled down to a mechanical process. And structure is built upon the skull - the boney foundation of the face - and lends itself to anatomical study.

But careful measuring and understanding of the form, while producing an accurate rendering, is not enough. The result may prove unsatisfying if the artist ignores the, less tangible, aspect of emotion; state of mind; expression. The artist must endeavour to understand the state of mind of the subject if they are to produce a work that is more than run of the mill.

And here is where many of us falter, since rendering a state of mind has no easily studied rules and does not lend itself to learning or teaching.

But, having said that, I believe that a fundamental interest in human nature is a fine jumping off point from which to embark. Also, time spent watching the sitter (no measuring allowed) will prove beneficial. A final tool (which you may or may not be able to cultivate) is a sensitive temperament, a trait I believe can be nurtured only by studying yourself, not the sitter. But, when taken seriously, the rewards may be manyfold.

A great work of art is universal, for in it, sitter, artist and viewer each glimpse themselves.

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