Processing Faces

Face drawing process

I’m going to open this by repeating the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and then pump the breaks. I pause because I cannot remember if the number was a thousand or ten thousand words now. I get confused as I say it. I do understand the meaning behind it and how the phrase blew up in the 1920’s. Wait was it the 1914 and was it “a look?” My mind said to me once “A look” referred to real estate advertisement or was an ancient Chinese or Japanese proverb. Fred Bernard pops into my mind as I wonder what his face looked like as well as the faces of the proverb writers. Due to the proud fact that I have never written a ten thousand, a thousand, or even five hundred words about a picture that I was fond of I have issues relating. What did their faces look like? 

Fully confused by the connect the dots picture gone wrong now in my mind, I would like to add a new phrase into this world of knowledge. 

I would like to add a “A look,” wait scratch that, “The face is worth ten thousand written pages of a false history if one cannot remember the face that represents its culture”. 

drawing in progress

“Your welcome and if someone has already stated my quote then that means they were at least as smart as me,” is how I would follow my new phrase. This, to you that do not know me well, is how my brain thinks. Always rapid and most of the time lots of imaginary nonsense  presented as fact to myself. Yes but how does this fit in with the body of work Weighting to Rise your asking yourself?  Creating the faces fell into a couple of categories in my mind. 

For starters the look of Weighting to Rise in Kate’s mind and in my mind had to be set. Yes our work would respond to each other’s and physically change a little but the basic structure was hashed out before I ever started a face for the show. The faces to me are just as important as the vessels or the wall hanging that they are mounted on. The feeling of the cultural belonging is more important than the individual always runs through my mind as I am painting or drawing a face.

clay painting process

 Secondly, the faces should not dominate the space that surround it. A little bit of emotion in the face is ok but the eyes can not reveal to much. I need the work to feel coveted to the point that if you were to polish it one more time the face will be lost forever. The faces have rules just like every other artistic project I work on. The ideas of loss is not only in the content but also in the firing proses. When drawing onto green ware or bisque with my underglaze pencil I always expect to loose atleast %30 of the rich black. I have a couple secrets about that pencil and that’s why the loss is only %30. Sadly, muhahaha, I will not speak of such secrets. When it come to loss of the underglaze pencil work when the low fire glaze is happening, the ideas of predicting what I will get out is very bothersome.

finished wall hanging

    Then Gwaby, then with tears running down his cheeks into his beard, put his hands into the air and shook them passionately while shouting, “why glaze, why must you eat all of my work!!!” The glaze bucket, in response then said to Gwaby, “wow… tantrum much? Dude your the one who made me.”

Gwaby taken back by this experience wiped his tears and said back to the glaze bucket, “word.”

Underglaze- and mason stains

clay painting process

Thirdly the face needs to be a basic face. Let’s say you did know the person whose face is depicted. You  could write ten thousand pages about that persons face and in the end it could be summarized and he or she had a very average face. I find it very difficult to create this work. Fighting the impulses to make each face as tricky and visually dynamic as possible is so hard. Working in slips and mason stains is an art and props to he artist of the world that can do it perfectly. One of the way i can work through compulsive perfectionist issues has been to do a three step deconstructive process. I work on paper as loose as I can let my self. I’ll render a face in my favorite lighting, hair styles, and value changes. From there I will make a reverse transfer that will go onto the clay. This transfer is a very stripped back version of the drawing. This process helps me to to get to just the basics of a face versus sitting down with a brush and a slab and going nuts with it by doing all the detail I could possibly think up. I put myself in the head space of and artisan of their time. The essence needs to be captured and nothing more. 

transfer process

In my mind Weighting to Rise deals with the passing of life and how Kate and I choose to depict an imaginary version to be. The faces are a way for those people to simply remember their dead. The face, to them, implies that the after life journey is not done yet for them.  If these people could not remember the faces then some how the culture and history would be lost. 

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