As in many forms of work, the act of drawing can be a deeply personal way of expressing an artist’s mood. We tend to draw that which makes us feel or identify with the characters in our heads and what we think is going on underneath. And for adults, that can be a pretty scary looking pig.
Drawing can convey a lot of emotion, even if you don’t want to draw it.
One of my favorite examples is Robert Mapplethorpe in the short story “The House of Masks”: A man has just come to this house for the weekend and has to find a way to keep himself entertained. He’s not particularly bright and he doesn’t exactly know how to use the TV remote, but he comes across a man dressed up like a pig. The man offers to give the pig a massage, but the pig refuses. So, the man says, let’s just draw my face on it.
And as soon as he does, he is suddenly very calm, very introspective, and has a very clear picture of who this person really is. It’s really a simple gesture of empathy and a profound expression of how much the character really means to him. He feels completely at home in there.
It just does that in my opinion. It’s completely different from your normal facial expression. It’s very expressive, and it conveys a lot of emotion. This guy’s just so deep inside.
A couple things to make clear here: the drawing is intended to have any form of emotion. It’s not a cartoon or a sculpture – it looks and feels natural. And most importantly it does not appear to be doing a caricature of the person – because that’s not what the person is doing.
But drawing the face to have the depth is very different than drawing something that’s just a photo or a drawing of a human face – just something that does the same thing as we see when we look with our peripheral vision.
Here’s my favorite example of this. The photo below was taken of myself, from the first time I visited a Chinese shop.
This is from a little bit before I visited the Chinese shop. From there I visited quite a few other shops and I drew several animals. A few of them are from the book. Then I moved to Japan.
Again, drawing the face to have the depth of expression means getting closer to people and seeing what they look like (and how they look).
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