There are a lot of things. It’s a very unique face shape. When I was doing my first drawings for The Catcher in the Rye I didn’t have a dog face, I didn’t have a cat face. It wasn’t until later — and I don’t know if this is a blessing and a curse — but the more I drew cat faces, the more I came to appreciate how unique they actually are: how unique they are to the individual artist. So it’s a challenge to try to create something that’s really unique to your subject in the way the eyes look.
Can you draw both eyes at the same time? Or more than one at the same time? I mean it’s difficult.
It’s very difficult. It’s difficult because as a photographer you can be so precise and so exact at certain things like how big an eyeshadow shadow should be. And if I move up on that line then I’ll have to have my left eye or my right eye moved to fill the space and I’m shooting them from quite a different angle. If I try and do something too large I’ll have to take the whole picture out and zoom it in. So it’s just a very, very, very complex process to be able to draw it and it’s also very time consuming. And I have very few hours of spare time, but that’s the challenge.
And the hardest part of drawing cat faces is, I do all my pictures on easels and I move them around on my computer. I’m trying everything to get as close to a cat face as possible. It’s a very, very difficult technique. And it’s also very hard to put a face to. The cat face is very abstract like, no lines, no detail, no shadow — really just a big flat black thing with a huge mouth. I want to do something that’s completely abstract and yet still has form. I can’t use every brush stroke in the book except a little bit there. I need to use as few as I possibly can. And I have to be extremely precise in every drawing because if I leave anything out at all I run the risk. If I use too little shadow or something like that, everything else in the eyes disappears and it becomes very indistinct.
A photo from a book by Stephen Dunn (courtesy of Stephen Dunn)
Was there any part of drawing the cat faces that you didn’t like?
They were my first images and they were rough
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