Capturing “the essence”
I feel that the most important thing when capturing a person’s facial likeness isn’t 1:1 proportional accuracy. A skilled caricaturist (which I am not) can distort and exaggerate the face without losing that likeness.
I can’t capture a person’s likeness if they’re not reacting to ANYTHING at all. For instance, when I go life drawing, I can’t capture a live model’s likeness because the model has to hold that pose for a long time and you can forget about people being able to hold anything but a neutral facial expression.
Expressions are fleeting. Expressions are reactions to a change in their circumstances. Unless they’re afflicted by some sort of medical condition, people never wear seven-hour grins of ecstasy because it would mean that the situation that they were in was remarkably improving or they’d have to recount some spectacular experience over and over for the entire seven hours.
Unless ambivalence is the primary characterization feature of the person you’re trying to capture, neither the subject(the person you’re drawing) nor the artist(that’s YOU) is gonna feel much for the drawing because it’s not going to be an accurate representation of the person from the touchy-feely-mooshy-gooshy way that comes to mind when we think of what a person is like.
So when I try to capture a likeness that isn’t a complete “cartoonization” of a person, I don’t try to replicate the reference. That’s what a camera or photocopier does best and I’m not gonna try and beat machines that were responsible for replacing traditional artists in the first place.
Rage all you want, but it’s also thanks to technology that this sort of artwork will be preserved for future generations. Anyways, I’m way off-topic.
When I attempt to capture a facial likeness, I look for exertions in the face. Anywhere there’s muscular contraction tugging the visage into a shape that isn’t an ambivalent bleh face is super super important to look for. We’ve got different ways of smiling, frowning, laughing — different ways of reacting facially, and these are like facial fingerprints.
Ways in which the muscles create sneers, grimaces, clenching, you can see them — my primary goal is not in drawing every single detail I can see - it’s drawing the details that show exertion in the face. That’s why I can’t capture deadpan likenesses. Because there’s NO exertions at all, and I see nothing to draw.
You can’t capture an essence if there’s no essence to capture.