Faceless Portraits: Take Another Look

We constantly create incidental portraits of ourselves, images left in our environment and in the memories of others. Life is a series of self-presentation, and each presentation helps to develop a 3-dimensional sense of an individual.

Yet individuals are much more than 3-dimensional. They move through time, through different doors to different contexts, to changing expectations, and it is in this that we present the complexity, the multiplicity, of self.

CourtYard02_01BC digital 3-dimensional modelling

Terrace05bBC digital 3-dimensional modelling


The crenelations of our mind hold memories that present and re-present changing recollections of ourselves. Thoughts flow and doors impose a structure on our access to what is there, to what was there, and to the possibilities of what might lie beyond.

Participant observation is the only option for a self-portrait and the subsequent risk of loss of objectivity has to be considered. Using multiple images and considering multiple perspectives has the potential to address elements of the question of objectivity.

Is a sense of discomfort when considering elements of your presented self indicative of good observation? The process of learning about yourself can often be uncomfortable. In this work, I seek the uncanny valleys, those uncomfortable places, boundaries that question the nature of reality.  Ultimately any presentation is a presentation of what you see and any value is in what others see.






Boundaries control
Gaps in walls controlled by doors.
Safe place illusions.


Faceless Portrait: Me Meditation

Using digital space and objects, in a digital 3D environment, I am exploring its potential to weave a narrative to examine the sense of self in a portrait. The images enclosing the bust present aspects of personality, while camouflaging and then influencing our perception of the image. The face is disrupted, but not excluded – it is a faceless portrait.

Inside looking out.
I collect, make, and see.
My face is not me.

Me meditation
Kinaesthetic centring.
Ignoring the boot


I have produced a number of these portraits to cover different aspects of `self’ and have shared them on YouTube and my Facebook page.  

Faceless Portrait: The Very Centre

Faceless Portrait: The Very Centre, is my submission for the Sussex Open 2017.

Using digital space and objects, in a digital 3D environment, I am exploring its potential to weave a narrative to examine the sense of self in a portrait. The images enclosing the bust present aspects of personality, while camouflaging and then influencing our perception of the image. The face is disrupted, but not excluded – it is a faceless portrait.

Inside looking out.
I collect, make, and see.
My face is not me.

The very centre.
Dad is everything I am.
Nothing left unused.


Faceless Portraits: Seeming Restriction and Random Compromise

Faceless Portraits now looks at another role – another narrative that is an integrated part of my life. The digital head remains the same but a different camouflage image is imposed. This is Seeming Restriction (FP02)

Each Faceless Portrait is a separate book in a series – a new narrative as I examine this individual’s life and my sense of self. 

In Random Compromise (FP06), I enclosed the head in a virtual `glass case’. To encase something in a glass is to present the contained object as precious and so requiring protection. It presents a physical barrier to full access at the cost of a visual one. It suggests a perceived value but this is redundant in a digital environment where there is no physical access. In the digital world, this encasement is purely a narrative device.

Interestingly, as I am the subject of this representation, placing the head in a glass box induced an unexpected sense of claustrophobia.

Faceless Portraits: Father-Son Bonding

The initial head I created in Blender, was a generic head – little more than a balloon shape. So I made a representation of a specific individual: however the self-portrait was all about the objects placed on the “head”. With this head, I wanted a classic 3D bust as the starting point.

Having made a digital, yet traditional, representation of a head I looked to camouflage it with a set of photographic images from `Faceless Portraits’ a series of photographs I produced in November last year and shared on Twitter.

Inside looking out
I collect, make, do and see.
My face is not me.

The images wrapped around the face present aspects of personality that are missing from a traditional portrait, but they also camouflage and influence perception. This process of influence based around the most easily perceived aspect is usually with the face as the principal influence.

The wrapped image reveals something of the person without the traditional access of a sculpted head. The resulting image disrupts rather than excludes the face.


In following the traditional form of display, the head is placed upon a pedestal. It becomes a gallery item but it has no physical reality. The 3D pedestal becomes an object on which to place the head and also a surface on which to place text; just as would be seen in a traditional gallery.


I am playing with the metaphor of the form of gallery display. I am questioning issues to do with reality and its representational narrative. What is the nature of narrative in the digital world?

Intervention: Exploring Light in Digital 3D

I extended my exploration of Blender to translate into 3D elements a post from Groyne 55. I used the top and side of a single post to create a simple, abstract, 3D model. This was not an attempt at accurate physical observation but an abstraction to project a sense of its three-dimensionality. To accentuate this aspect of abstraction the textures are were wrapped around a disc, a lozenge shape, and placed on the top of the post. I now had a simple 3D object.


Using Blender I lit the 3D object to create a `spectral’ lighting effect, reminiscent of moisture or dust in the atmosphere. I extended the effect to the area surrounding the object.


I used this model to generate some high-resolution 2D images; “photographing” the digital 3D environment.

These images were used as the foundation for some mezzo-tint mono-prints. I then photographed the prints and recombined them digitally with elements of the 3D render.


This cyclical iteration between physical and digital media, between representation and abstraction has at its core a single question; what is real?

Faceless Portraits: 3D Modelling and Animation using Blender

Moving from and between physical and digital media led me to spend January, and February, looking at the ability technology provides to use a digital space to manipulate an object. In this space objects can be created, manipulated, rotated, lit, animated and `photographed’. The application’s tool set in many cases mimic (use as metaphors) parallel processes to the physical world. Sculpture tools which add, remove, pinch or smooth an object.

Wire-frame which although it has become the archetypal image of computer graphics has its origins in the armatures and wire work used in clay sculpture. Placing metaphorical cameras, choosing camera angles, lens size, and camera tracking.

I am exploring and extending ideas from Faceless Portraits where an impression of a person is created without including a head or face. Now, using Blender, I create a simple head with minimal facial details. I negotiate a balance between the digital 3D form and the 2D `faceless portraits` wrapping the portraits around the form. The 3D form distorts the 2D image and the 2D images camouflage the form.

The next stage is to create a more detailed 3D form. Using Blender I created a sculpted digital head with more detail but which, for technical reasons, was more difficult to skin. This was abandoned and remained a `rough’.

I am currently creating a detailed model of my own head. It is representational, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, and uses a mesh topology which should allow it to be photographically skinned so camouflaging the facial features. The mesh topology used not only allows for ready skinning of the form but also presents extension possibilities allowing ready animation: opening and closing the mouth, moving the eyes.

As I worked with Blender, I made a series of short, animated rotations, presenting it as a fully formed digital 3D object.