Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mannequins and Facial Features

The photos below are a bit out of focus (I was shooting telephoto; plus, my camera in one case apparently was more interested in the Nordstrom store itself than the subject), but I'm displaying them to illustrate an idea I've been mulling for a while.

Back in the glory days of academic training, young prospective artists would have to slave away for months and even years drawing images of plaster casts of sculpture. Nowadays, an artist so-inclined can buy a model of a human head where the surfaces are reduced to a set of planes -- this to better understand the structure.

But there is another potential reference source: the store mannequin.

Now some mannequins are stylized beyond usefullness. Others are not. Consider the mannequins in the Las Vegas Nordstrom store pictured here. Some are definitely simplified, but that's not necessarily a bad thing because all artists except hyper-realists simplify anyway. Then there is lighting. The Nordstrom mannequins are lighted from above, and that provides useful information regarding the eye socket, the muzzle area around the mouth, and the lips and chin.

Not all stores welcome photography (a Chanel staffer gave me a stern warning once), but if you pack a camera and find a useful mannequin setup, consider snapping a reference photo.

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