Occasionally an admirer will mention that I don’t put faces in my art. That’s almost always true, and I used to worry about that a little.
Some of those worries concerned the sensuality that fans often sense in my creations, perhaps always? When you think about it, several of us somehow get offended by that combination . . . all those heavenly curves but with no head, or a head with no facial details. There are several art teachers that would insist that what I’m doing is a no-no. I seem to have a nose for no-no’s!
I wonder whether some people see my art as disrespectful . . . the absence of the character that can be shown in a subject’s face, and so the art becomes purely erotic? Or purely sensual? This may sound a little like a bit of a hangover from some Victorian era, and I can fully empathize with that. After all, I’m quite a fan of the show “Downton Abbey”, largely because of the old-fashioned way in which the characters act. While the sexual aspect is certainly there, romance and personality is always upper-most . . . it’s more about the conscience mind than about our more primal urges and reactions.
I also wonder whether some people think that because of the lack of those faces, perhaps the artist doesn’t have the skills to draw with such detail? That’s a valid question, and again I think it relates to a lot of our traditions. I noticed this a few years ago, while breezing through a book of paintings by Rembrandt. The paintings demonstrate amazing anatomical correctness and proper portraiture, and oddly, almost always about the men. Of course the skills are there, but I’m not really struck by the characters.
The thing is, I simply have no urge to draw in this level of detail. If I did I would do so by hand on paper. When it comes to faces, for me that is much easier done on paper than on-screen, though I’m fully aware of how for some the opposite can be true and here’s an amazing example of that.
More importantly though, I strive the expression of the ideal in my art. By that I mean the expression of something beyond the individual. When you think about it, when you are really drawn to a portrait, especially the likeness of a stranger, it is that ideal which lures you, something beyond the individual . . . something powerful and emotional.
The truth is, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for those who draw in details, very realistically so, and especially when they also capture something beyond the details. In fact I have so much respect for them that I choose not to be among them. By that I mean that there are so many artists out there like that, there is simply no need for me to add to their ranks.
Snippets From The Past
When I learned to draw it was in a very traditional way . . . the basics are wonderfully simple really, and it’s amazing how quickly a person can learn. So there were fruit baskets, windows and curtains, nude models, and then there was this mounted bird. That’s when I learned not only to draw, but also that I could draw! My teacher gave me the ultimate compliment. When she saw my work, she was speechless for a moment, almost catching her breath. She gave me this warm smile and told me about a wildlife artist named Robert Bateman. When I discovered who he is by looking in another at book, I was truly flattered. However, even back then, over 30 years ago now, I remember thinking that there is simply no need for me to draw like that . . . he’s already doing it.
Perhaps it is also because of my first degree, one in psychology, where I learned about all the biases that can go along with facial impressions. While the expressions can be wonderful, our current cultural norms of beauty seem to have distorted much of that . . . thank you Madison Avenue. It’s sad really, but what can a person do? What can I do? I really don’t know . . . I just keep doing what I do!
Finally, the number one reason for me to leave out the faces is this . . . by doing so, I don’t need to worry about someone cutting out the good parts. Let’s just call it a Polish thing . . . if you watch this video you will “catch my drift”! ha ha