IT’S A TRUISM OF 8TH GRADE ART CLASS (AND EVER SINCE) that sketching faces is the hardest. Which makes sense with the evolution of face perception—how we’re born to read people through their faces, and interpreting expressions successfully has social advantages. When a face is drawn with details awry, even a little bit, it looks instantly, appallingly wrong. You don’t just fail to recognize the likeness, it offends your understanding of people. Or of the person, if you know the face. It’s most disorienting when you’re the person drawn. Portraits have been known to hurt feelings.
This is one of my better self-portraits, and I don’t love it. I over-emphasize eyes. And put them in the wrong places. If my subjects don’t look startled or quizzical, they seem stoned or asleep.
A good time to do portraits is when people’s heads are still, like when making art or playing cards. I drew some friends the other night (all wearing mesh caps as it happened; I wore a Stetson, as seen in
Paul’s Witt’s sketch). As usj, nobody was very convinced of the likenesses, though nobody seemed offended.