What’s in a face?
Apparently you can infer all sorts of things about a person just from a brief glance at their features. It’s all down to the brain being very clever and networking information from the part of the brain that perceives the face and the bit that decides if there’s anything threatening or useful showing in the face.
Over time – a long time – the ability to quickly extract information from faces has allowed mankind to predict something of the character and behaviour of the people we look at. We can tell who might blow up at any moment and who might be trustworthy.
Would you trust this cat? He’s in the Museum of Childhood in London. As is the wooden doll, below.
Personally I wouldn’t. It’s smiling – but what a tight, weird smile – and what is it looking at? What can it see? I think it’s evil and it’s dreaming up some awful demonic attack. This is a cat that would blow! And yet it’s only made of cloth with plastic eyes.
This doll’s face is full of character. You can immediately see how imperial she is, how haughty and clever. All of that just from three or four brush strokes made by a clever artist. That’s what we have to do as writers, conjure up an entire character with a few words and gestures. It’s not easy.
I’m always on the look out for an interesting face to use or inspire. I haven’t found a place for this face, but I was intrigued by it: Sorry it’s not a better photo. This image was made by the artist Odires Mlaszho. It is a collage combining a black and white picture made in 1945 from a book called Roman Portraits with the cut out eyes from Paul Swiridoff’s 1960s photo of a German politician. It is very arresting. Very spooky. The two images fit together almost seamlessly. This becomes a man that I doubly would not trust. And not only is the person’s character somehow more complicated by this super imposing of the eyes of someone else, but also now it’s hard to decide if it’s a man or a woman. Weird.