These days, I’d rather paint a landscape
Than a portrait of a person’s face
Of which the defining feature is the soul,
And I never catch its special grace;
I can paint eyes which are almond-shaped
Brown yet infused with a green light,
Or extra wide, the full circumference
Of the blue iris in plain sight;
The oval and heart shape of faces are not a problem,
Some have a characteristic square jaw
But then the delicate relationship
With the point of the chin is hard to draw.
The ogee, the line of beauty, made known to me
Through Alan Hollinghurst’s book of that name,
Curves in the corners of the eyes and mouth
So I, the artist, must raise my game.
Even my own sexagenarian face,
Small jowls and deep lines, remains elusive,
No brushstroke in a darker shade of flesh
Is ever properly conclusive.
And those I love – if I draw them –
You know at once who it’s meant to be,
The sketch may be a decent attempt
But it doesn’t come near what I see.
It is not altogether a question of light
And not altogether a question of line,
More like ‘the hard problem’ of consciousness
Or the human face as the image of the divine.