Faces are hard

Filed under: web — jlm @ 22:10

So, there’s this webcomic Prequel Adventure set in the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion universe. It’s an excellent comic, with a compelling plot and great humor. (It also is paced extremely slow, with a real-time:in-universe-time ratio that handily exceeds even that of Freefall.) The panels are drawn simply, supporting the story’s elements and the comic’s jokes, and clearly indicating that the focus is on telling a good story in a funny manner, and not on having beautiful art (another similarity with Freefall). But despite the comic’s simple drawing style, there’s one bit which Kazerad absolutely nails: Facial expressions. I mean, look at the final panel from this page.

I’ve seen this face. When I was drunk and miserable and frustrated and babbling stream of consciousness to a friend who was being way more patient with me than I deserved, that was his look.

[Aggy’s face]

You look at that face, and there’s a feeling. You remember when you were trying to comfort and console your friend, when things got too much for him to be able to deal with right now, and he’s yelling incoherently and not thinking straight and swinging between anger at the universe and dejection over some failure you don’t yet understand and you don’t know what to suggest or how you can help. You look at it, and you remember how you felt then. You don’t know, but that must have been how you looked.

How does Kazerad do it? This is a ghost of an elf. And his face has so little detail. There’s not even a nose, nor lips, nor eyebrows, irises, or pupils, nor a defined jaw — and yet, even though I don’t know what to even call this expression, some mixture of exasperation, concern, bewilderment, and a dash of horror — Kazerad has nailed it.

How does this work? It’s too simple, it can’t be what you saw when you were ranting and venting to your friend. And yet, it is. It’s not beautiful. It’s evocative. That’s art.

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