Taking a Trend to Task: Part 1

I don't think there any denying that drawing and/or painting faces is a hot trend right now.  That's good because it means lots of people are pushing outside their artistic comfort zone.  There are more than a few artists making their bread & butter off of art that features female faces paired with a pithy or poignant phrase.  But there are trends within this trend that are driving me absolutely bonkers and that's the subject of my next two posts.

Many (dare I say the majority) of the "art faces" I see have a noncommittal stare.  I think this generic face is supposed to stand in for contentment, commitment, or (stretching the logic a bit farther), blissfulness.

Now don't get me wrong; I draw my fair share of faces with this blank expression, especially when I'm first developing a character.  But consider this: unlike other parts of the human body, facial expressions happen mostly because of muscle movement instead of joint movement.  There is just one joint in the human head (the skull and jawbone.)  Otherwise, everything is set in motion by anywhere from 30 to 40 muscles.  It is a very complex, intertwining system and long story short, when one part moves, it draws other parts with it.  The human face is in reality, very rarely, a unmoving, blank mask.

I've been teaching traditional cartooning (not anime) for over six years now and in cartooning, the face and its myraid of possible expressions is the ultimate key to telling a story in a short amount of time.  I am constantly pushing my students to move beyond the still face and to get it in motion!  It takes practice, no doubt about that, but the results set your illustrations apart from others and uniqueness is a good thing!  The sameness of all those faces out there makes me gloss over them as a whole; there's nothing different and quirky to grab my attention, to tell me a story, or to spark an emotion.

So by all means, practice those faces but as you advance, don't get in a rut! 

In Part Two of this mini soapbox, I'll address another trend within the face trend:  Why does everyone have to be female, young, white, pretty, forward-facing, and tilty-headed?


Numinosity said…
Oh, you said it! You have voiced what I didn't dare to and put a most positive slant to it. That's why I'm such a fan of Lynne Hoppe's work. Those faces have personality. Sometimes just a few well placed lines can give a face or eyes do much more of an intriguing look, not that I'm any expert on drawing faces myself.
Thanks for addressing this.
xoxo Kim
PoetC7 said…
This is my first time here and, dare I say it ... someone posted your blog on Pinterest. Now that I'm here, I must say I am quite impressed. Your "bio" was a fun read! And the "face trend" is all new to me, but, you know what? I'm going to my sketch book and draw some faces, try my hand at emoting! I'll be back! Meanwhile, THANKS!
Vanessa said…
Ah! SO TRUE! that trend is getting annoying. Love your virtual soapbox/rant. Can't wait for part 2!
Shelley Malone said…
I agree with everything you said. I wish I had something eloquent to add but alas, I don't. I just know that all these artworks with the blank tilted faces will probably not become the beloved treasures that people hold on to - they'll likely end up in thrift shops in droves as the sheeple move on to the next trend.
estonia said…
Love this! I'm even sick of my own blank faces and very frustrated that they always end up with the same expression despite my best efforts to the contrary.

By the way, if you don't want to be pinned on Pinterest, there is code you can add to your website to prevent pinning. See their site (http://support.pinterest.com/entries/21101932-what-if-i-don-t-want-images-from-my-site-to-be-pinned) for details.