I love drawing faces.
I know I might not have some of that finely refined art skills and precision other possess since I’ve never been professionally trained, but passion drives me. What I really love is bringing life to a piece of paper.
It all starts with the eyes. The smooth curvature of the lid and the faint sliver of the lower eye, both converging with a strong, bold crease, a geometrically-flattering creation of nature. The best kind of eyes are those that end with a faint tail to that convergence: the laugh lines, created through years of smiling with crinkled eyes.
Then comes my favorite part: the pupil. This inner circle holds both the simplest and most complex expression of emotion. A perfect circle, dark in the center, tinged with flecks of light that add shine to the face. Simplicity takes shape in this dark, mysterious blackness; a black so precise that it puts all other color to shame. The darkness holds the answers, a stability in its aesthetic. The pencil tip starts with an outline of this circle, true freedom of expression, when I press down as hard as I can and draw the boldest color it can emit. It circles around itself, over and over, ending at a singular point, at which the pencil presses down the hardest and then comes up, relieved, done debuting its potential.
Next, complexity takes on a new definition when a ring of color sweeps around this circle, gathering like the blaze of emotion, an outlet for the devil and angel, fire and water, battling to consume the eyeball as the darkness drifts in from the outer circumference. Emotions sear through the eyes within this intense, ever-changing war between the ring of color and its black outline. The beauty of drawing is capturing this moment on paper, the moment at which either the dark or the light is winning, the happy or sad, the fight or flight. The eyes convey the portrait’s audacity, the artist’s burgeoning spirit. I can try as I might, but the eyes will never be done, my pencil reluctant to move on. I linger to add traces of light within the rest of the eye, to concentrate on the shading between the eyes and the eyebrow.
I save the cathartic release of my graphite for last: the eyelashes. On some people, eyelashes are hard to miss, curving perfectly upward and visible. On others, eyelashes are straight, protruding resolutely forward. Either way, the eyelashes are there: the challenge is making them show. The pencil starts out strong at the lid, pressing down firmly. It follow upward for a fraction of a second, when the hand lets it follow through in freefall.
After the eyelashes, there is nothing left to bother, no curve to tweak, no emotion to cloud through excess marking in the pupil. I look nostalgically at the eye once more, trying to enhance its beauty, configure its identity.
But the real secret is knowing when its done, the point at which adding one more stroke detracts from looking natural and delves into perfection. The point at which we cross the faint line between looking perfectly imperfect or imperfectly perfect.
It is finally time to move on.