Asymmetrical Portrait of Fancy Boy by Anne Walker Zoom has me staring at my face all day. I try not to look, but there I am. Somewhere in the settings I clicked the mirror image option, so now what I see is different from the view I have seen all my life. My face is backwards. It’s disconcerting. Looking at myself this way, I see things about my face I’ve never noticed before, like how crooked my nose is, and how one tooth isn’t in line with the rest. No wonder I didn’t see it before, because one eye is always half closed – that must be my artist eye, squinting to see values. Or maybe I’m just tired. Lucian Freud, Self Portrait Alice Neel learned from her teacher that everyone has a dominant eye. She took the idea and ran with it. She painted her subjects with one dominant hand, one weak one. I was remarking about this in a class, laughing at how odd it is that we have two identical hands but only one works. A student who also teaches dance said everyone’s body is asymmetrical for balance and strength. One side is better at strength, the other at balance and dexterity. It was about that moment that I imagined us all as crabs. I realized it wasn’t an accident that our “non-dominant” hands aren’t as dexterous as our “dominant” hands, they’re just built to have different skills. I am sorry I have not (knowingly) been exercising mine to achieve its full potential. Alice Neel, Portrait showing one weak and one dominant hand A typical portraits class has us all measuring ideal proportions. The head is five eye lengths wide. The eyes are halfway down the head. The corners of the mouth are directly below each iris. Knowing the proportions of the face help us avoid making the typical mistakes of shortening the forehead and widening the eyes, but they don’t really help us express the personality in a face. Our faces aren’t symmetrical. Even if they were, we only see one piece at a time. Why do we try to pretend we don’t? In Expressive Portraits class, I had everyone focus on asymmetry for an evening of sketches. David Hockney, Portrait of Mother III, 1985 We looked at portraits by Alice Neel, Lucian Freud, and David Hockney for inspiration, and then we began a series of sketches. At first it was difficult for me to not fix things, not to remeasure and align. It took effort to assert and emphasize the differences, but every time we did it made a more interesting drawing, and more fun all round. Drawings by Shima Bhamra, Liz Hejlsberg, Katie Jo Keppinger, Anne Walker, Alex Walker, and Ruthie V. Portraits from Sktchy app, featuring faces posted by Lorraine Weberg, Aeb Art, and Cody Kay. Special guest star: Stephen Fry.