Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Let's face it-- artists love to draw faces. Penetrating eyes, distinctive noses, expressive mouths-- these are often an artist's richest lode.

But when that face turns away and the artist no longer has facial features with all their emotion and meaning-- what does that leave? Just the simple line of a human cheek. What can an artist possibly make of that?

Well, my friends, that depends on the artist.

Look at the knowledge that Alex Raymond conveys with this sensitive drawing. This cheek demonstrates more wisdom than most artists could convey drawing a full face.

Next, Austin Briggs applies a cruder tool and a simpler approach to the same subject, yet still manages to convey just as much information. As I said in an earlier post, I think this is a thrilling piece of draughtsmanship.

In the following detail from an illustration by Robert Fawcett, the person drawn from behind was obviously a much tougher artistic challenge than the full faces drawn from the front.

Finally, the great Mort Drucker infuses personality and vitality into a face that is not only viewed from behind, but is also obscured by layers of scuba gear.

Despite the obvious drama of the human face, it can be a far greater challenge to draw the head using just the subtle contour of a cheek. Experienced artists recognize that it is difficult to draw the head from that perspective. For many, the result ends up looking like a blob of pastry dough.

Sometimes it pays to look for artistic greatness in the simplest places. The philosopher Santayana wrote,

Miracles are so-called because they excite wonder.

In unphilosophical minds, rare or unexpected things excite wonder, while in philosophical minds the familiar excites wonder also.

Lots of artists can dazzle you with flashing eyes or a dramatic expression. But the artist who can find the miraculous potential in the humble curve of a cheek and can convey that miracle to you-- that is an artist worth watching.