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Characterisation

The Art Of Painting - Characterisation - 2, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
 
 
It is a revelation to such, when looking in the glass at the same time as another person, to see how dreadfully distorted the apparently regular face of that other becomes in the reflection ; and by glass I don't mean a concave or convex looking-glass, but a perfectly level and true one. The fact is, we see that face in a new and unaccustomed aspect, reversed as it is in the mirror, which at the first blush makes it seem to be a caricature, but which in reality is not at all a caricature but the well-defined characteristics of that face.
It is well-nigh impossible, unaided by the glass, to discern, or reproduce, with any pretence at fidelity, the subtleties of a form which we wish to realise. Reference to the hand-glass through which the model and the drawing can be seen at the same glance cannot be made too frequently, and we must make certain that the characteristics of the one tally with those of the other.
There are portrait-painters who flatter their sitters by endeavouring to regularise their irregular features. Are those painters sufficiently conscious of the existing characteristics ? For they certainly do not seem conscious of what might well be taken as an axiom, that in proportion as we depart from Nature we court a weakening of results.
A serious artist is not affected by a demand for the pretty-pretty.
Proportion is the chief factor in the making of individuality, and this is clearly seen in those large photographic groups of schools and crowded collections of people where the individual heads are sometimes not larger than a small pea and are still easily identified. Subtleties of drawing or light and shade can hardly affect the heads so reduced, so that obviously the individuality of each head is almost entirely due to the relative proportions of the features.



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