Some visitors to the Art Room find my collection of faces strange and creepy. I have even been asked many times if I ever feel like I am being watched! Nobody likes that eerie feeling of being watched. I prefer to think of it as all those faces are cheering me on while I’m creating my art or at least watching out for me.
Since I was a child I have always loved faces. I often received nasty looks from someone when they would catch me staring. I meant no disrespect! Usually I was just checking out an unusual facial feature of some kind – a cleft or dimple in the chin, a receding hair line that looked like a the edge of a state on a map, or more freckles on one area of the cheek. I always admired and was completely jealous of an artist who could capture the likeness of a person. If “a face was known to launch a thousand ships”, then a painting of a face can launch a thousand questions. A still life or landscape painting are grand, but to me, a painting of a face begs us to ask those questions and to wonder at each persons story.
I have been building my Artsy Fartsy Faces collection for many years by finding interesting faces at thrift or antique shops. Some are cartoon figures and some are more realistic busts, some are famous paintings, and some are self-portraits. Each are chosen specifically for their unique features.
Creating funny face sketches is one of the first sketching exercises that I do with my students. It helps them get used to holding their pencils differently and helps them loosen up while sketching.
We learn how to move around the drawing, adding bits here and there, always sketching lightly and freely, trying to avoid the temptation of using the eraser, and just sketching what ever pops into our mind. Because we are sketching a crazy face, there are no rules. This is one of the precursors to learning to look at an object, person, or reference, and being comfortable with sketching it. The more I can encourage a student to practice this type of exercise, the smoother the transition to sketching what they see becomes. When a person is first learning to draw, they need to be able to practice their sketching skills with out the pressure to get it right or worrying that they messed up,
Never fear the blank paper! You’ve just got to take a deep breath and dive off into that blankness with with one bold stoke. Start with one eye, any shape. Alright, now lets make one more to match that one, sketching lightly with our trusty H pencil. Now let’s sketch a fat bulging nose that looks like a baboon snout. Wow! Awesome! Now lets get crazy with Mr. Potato head Magoo. I think he needs some Dumbo ears and a big cowlick in his hair.
Once we get the face lightly sketched, we can pull out the big gun. The super soakers of the graphite world, the B Pencils. Just when you thought we couldn’t go any darker we can enter the sanctuary of the father of all the B pencils, the water cannon of our graphite arsenal, the Ebony Pencil! (We fondly refer to him as Mr. Eboneeser.)
To keep the students comfortable with drawing and sculpting the face and not getting too intimidated by its complexities, we start with the simplified cartoon type faces and work our way towards the more realistic. Often we will study a chosen face from the collection and talk about that particular face’s unique features such as the distance between the eyes, how wide is the mouth compared to the nose, which direction are the eyes looking, why can’t we see all of the eyeball, etc.
We use the Artsy Fartsy Face collection to help with many art projects and exercises. It is amazing how each face that we see in real life or in the Art Room are all unique and each tell their own story.
These faces gaze out daily to witness many young artist grow in their artistic abilities! They watch over Miss. Lizzie’s Art Room and are always willing to lend a hand, I mean a face, to any artist who enters in.