Repetitive drawing of the similar faces

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  1. #1
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    Repetitive drawing of the similar faces

    Is it something to criticize if one renders the same or similar faces from picture to picture? I can think of many artists in history who are identifiable by the types of faces they drew- Rossetti did all his women with puffy, pouting lips, for example. Burne Jones did his with his low-hairlines, doe-eyes and small mouths. Waterhouse's maidens nearly all have the same nose, which is slightly up-turned at the tip, and the same pointed chin. Burne Jones and Waterhouse even repeated the same face over and over within the same picture, and with Burne Jones even the men and women have the same face!

    Repetitive drawing of the similar faces
    Repetitive drawing of the similar faces

    Repetitive drawing of the similar faces

    Repetitive drawing of the similar faces

    Repetitive drawing of the similar faces

    Burne Jones' 'Golden Stairs', and Waterhouse's 'Hylas and the Nymphs' are popular paintings. I certainly admire them, and it had never bothered me before that near identical faces appear over and over.

    Is it an artistic failing if one has a particular type of face that reoccurs, or should criticism be restricted to how well the figures are actually rendered? Thoughts?

    Last edited by dashinvaine; July 3rd, 2011 at 03:24 PM.
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  3. #2
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    Two contributing factors, that often overlap:
    1) Every artist has a "stock face" that they will tend to drift towards except in situations where they consciously work against it, and
    2) Artists who work from models (especially artists who worked from models in the days before photography) tend to use the same models over and over, and tend to choose models that correspond to their preferred "type." Waterhouse, for instance, has three recognizable female models, the dark, strong-nosed model of his early work like the Magic Circle, the fairer, oval-faced girl from the middle works like Hylas and the Nymphs, and the strong-jawed model who dominates his remaining work.


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  5. #3
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    Manet. I've always thought a lot of his faces were the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dashinvaine View Post
    Is it an artistic failing if one has a particular type of face that reoccurs, or should criticism be restricted to how well the figures are actually rendered? Thoughts?
    I think it's only a failing if an artist meant to draw a different face, and couldn't pull it off.
    In mass scenes... go out in the crowd and quickly scan over people, without focusing on their faces (just like in a picture where the face isn't meant to be a focal point). Faces will be more similar then they will be different.
    It's only when we focus on the faces more intently that we start seeing different characteristics.

    If the faces in a picture are very much alike, then I would be inclined to think that for the picture, the artist didn't mean for them to carry more significant importance. Especially in case of a master, who is expected to know how to make faces look different. If they didn't, it's likely there's a good reason for it.

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    It's only a "failing" depending on what you're doing... If you're doing some kind of narrative art like comics, then giving everyone the same face is going to be hella confusing because your readers won't be able to tell the characters apart. (Different faces help in children's books as well, for the same reason.) Or if you're doing character design, you won't get far if you only ever design the same character over and over...

    If you're doing fine art or certain types of illustration, you might be recognized for a particular "look" which may include a certain type of face, so "same-face" isn't necessarily a problem. (And yes, if you're always using the same model for everything - well, of course they'll always have the same face.)

    So, it depends what you're after. Though if you literally can't draw more than one type of face, it wouldn't hurt to learn how to diversify. It's one more tool you can use, you know? (Plus, a complete inability to draw different faces is usually a sign that you're stuck using a set of stock symbols instead of using observation and knowledge.)

    Truth be told, while I love Burne-Jones, I've always thought he would be way more interesting if he gave people different faces (or at least different expressions, I mean, come on! Must everyone be vapid!) Ditto Maxfield Parrish, I mean, okay, he had his favorite model and used her for everything, fine, but when he does a big group where everyone is the exact same person, it gets a little... weird.

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    If the face you paint is going to be as beautiful as the ones used by Burne-Jones or Waterhouse, you have my permission to paint it over and over. ;-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    Manet. I've always thought a lot of his faces were the same.
    That's because a lot of them were painted from Victorine Meurent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    If you're doing some kind of narrative art like comics, then giving everyone the same face is going to be hella confusing because your readers won't be able to tell the characters apart.
    Actually, comics is an area where this is most common. In both manga and American superhero comics, except for a few characters with distinctive facial features, most faces are generic, and character distinctions are made with hairstyles etc.


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    As Elwell stated, comics are almost always "guilty" of this "failure." Speed is a major factor in comic production, so the artist almost always works from memory, so a type is drawn. The artist then uses tricks to differentiate the characters--a scarf, a certain consistent hair ornament, bangs/no bangs, pony tails, extreme height differences, minor but obvious body exaggerations like sizes of boobs, eyebrows, or "faddy" or extreme clothing/ornament styles.

    There ARE comics artists who have a special knack for facial subtlety-- Takahashi Tsutomu (Sidooh) and Boichi (Sun-Ken Rock) for example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    most faces are generic, and character distinctions are made with hairstyles etc.
    And you'd think that they'd at least made their main characters different enough, but noooo...
    Six main characters of their series, drawn by different people and all of them look like god damn Bruce Wayne.
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    Though, manga (especially the really long running series) suffers from that the character designs/art is mainly done by one person, and superhero comics suffer from that they're done by so many people that draw the characters how they want and very little things seem to stick to even specific characters.

    Also vaguely related, Tony Stark Is Everyone


    Last edited by TinyBird; July 4th, 2011 at 12:41 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    Truth be told, while I love Burne-Jones, I've always thought he would be way more interesting if he gave people different faces (or at least different expressions, I mean, come on! Must everyone be vapid!) Ditto Maxfield Parrish, I mean, okay, he had his favorite model and used her for everything, fine, but when he does a big group where everyone is the exact same person, it gets a little... weird.

    I agree about Burne Jones. Truth to tell it bothers me more the more I look at it. I can see how it wouldn't be a problem doing similar faces from painting to painting, as back then the paintings wouldn't ordinarily be seen together once they were out of the studio, (apart from during retrospective exhibitions). But painting virtually the same face 18 times over in the same painting does seem questionable.

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    A painting like the Golden Stair is symbolic and decorative, not narrative. Those women aren't characters as such. Having said that, within the confines of Burne-Jones' esthetic, they really don't look that similar, the faces vary about as much as the clothing. There are maybe five or six faces, not one .


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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    That's because a lot of them were painted from Victorine Meurent.

    Even the men - with beards?

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    I had a professor who stated that the most familiar face you know is your own, so it will always be your 'go to' face. After that I cant help but trip up while drawing faces sometimes, especially when drawing a female. It's one of those things, where if I don't start thinking about it while I'm painting, it wouldn't happen.

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    This reminds me of this thread. And as for the comic books with the same face, it's true of the typical DC or Marvel comics, with a Hero and a Villain, because that's what the average buyer wants and expects. Graphic novels tend to have a bit more variation though, depending on the artist. Just look at Frank Miller's work.


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  21. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Actually, comics is an area where this is most common. In both manga and American superhero comics, except for a few characters with distinctive facial features, most faces are generic, and character distinctions are made with hairstyles etc.
    I know it IS common, but that doesn't mean it SHOULD BE. Let's face it, a lot of manga and superhero comics have a reputation for being schlocked out... For many good reasons, and making-everything-generic is one of those reasons. Stock faces, stock bodies, stock plots... It's like soap operas, it gets cranked out for the entertainment of the moment, quality is optional.

    Fine for what it is, I guess, but... If you've got a choice, why not aspire to do something better?

    (And no, I can't tell most superheroes apart either, unless they're in costume. Ditto any generic shoujo characters... I've been known to get genuinely confused reading some manga, and have to backpedal frequently to figure out who said what after I've finally realized "oh wait, what, you mean this isn't the same character as before?")

    (I can't help noticing most of the comics that I buy - and keep buying - are the ones with distinctive characters and/or plot.)

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; July 5th, 2011 at 12:23 PM.
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