A Face is Never Just a Face

💫One of the many Ethos Dreams main illustration drafts (Pink being the only one rendered)💫
I cannot give you an exact reason, but I find the act of drawing humans irrationally embarrassing. Both for the artist and for the audience viewing the image.

Imagine this: You peek behind the taut shoulders of a shy artist and comment on an unfinished sketch. “Hey!” you say without much thought, “This looks like a person I know!” Unwittingly, you have revealed a part of your mind to the artist. Within your interpretation of the sketch is the world you see, the people who are important enough to you to recognise from a pile of messy graphite strokes. The timid, wimpy artist now knows all of this. It’s soul-baringly invasive. 

It is a similar experience for the wimpy artist. Every character I design, consciously or unconsciously, carries some fond story from the world I recognise. Blue wears a cap because he got used to it after being shaved bald during National Service. Orange is a sleep-deprived student sneaking in a chapter of his leisure read before crashing at 2:30AM. I can pretend they are no one but I know they are not. And now everybody will see this little piece of myself. 

When my colleagues offered me their interpretations of the ‘random stock characters’ I drew for the Ethos Dreams visual, they too, had bared their mind and offered me a peek into the world they recognise. And as you interpret this visual for yourself, maybe it speaks to you about your community as much as it speaks about mine. 

However, humans are still amongst my favorite subjects to draw. There is something inherently attractive about letting one’s pen trace the form of another person. A face is never just a face, but a lifetime of stories hidden between their creases and wrinkles. And while intimacy and connection can be irrationally embarrassing, it can equally be yearned for. 

Drawing a picture of a community means that every character in it is carefully designed and taken care of. And such is a community to me
a vast collection of robust, individual storieshowever blurred, muted, or distorted their voices are. It is a stream of experiences woven together. It is much bigger than I am, but it is still mine. 

I hope that as you 
dream with us these next few weeks, as more voices emerge from our documentary, conversations and postcards, and as this initiative gets bigger and bigger, you can look back at that little visual I drew, how embarrassed I had been drawing it, and remind yourself that this dream too is yours. 

Yours faithfully,

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