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Art × Science: Face Project

<Production Report No. 3> Rendering True-To-Life Skin Tone by Blending Four Colors on a Silicone Face

This is an English translation of information in Japanese on December 4, 2020.

In May of 2019, Kao began working with the contemporary sculptor Kazu Hiro in a joint research project to sculpt and cast two ultra-realistic portraits of Audrey Hepburn at double her real-life size. Through the process, Kazu Hiro and Kao used artistic and scientific methods to explore the elements that make a human face radiant and unique.
This series focuses on the process Kazu Hiro used to bring his lifelike creations into being. This third report describes how he molded the silicone material and blended true-to-life skin colors.

From modeling in clay to the creation of silicone faces

Kazu Hiro created two larger-than-life sculptures of Audrey Hepburn's face in clay. The first face was of a young Audrey in her mid-twenties, when she appeared in the movie Roman Holiday. The second was of a much older Audrey at sixty-three, shortly before she died. To produce a sculpture twice the dimensions of the real Audrey's head, Kazu had to use eight times more clay than he would have used working in life size.

After the sculpture was finished, he took molds of the heads and cast Audrey's faces in silicone pigmented in a light skin tone. He then applied four separate colors, working in layers, to recreate the hues and textures of Audrey's skin. Each color was mixed with a liquid vehicle and airbrushed onto the silicone skin.

By adjusting the nozzle tip, Kazu switched from ultrafine lines to swaths of color over wider areas of the face. Nozzles of three different sizes were used to apply color to different parts of the face for the appropriate texture and tone.


Blue for veins, red for capillaries, and layers of color almost too faint to see

Blue, the first color, was applied to show the veins visible through the skin. The airbrush nozzle was adjusted to its finest setting to draw each vein with a single brushstroke. The thickness was readjusted several times to spray the color onto the temples, nape of the neck, and cheeks. Layers of blue almost too subtle to notice were applied beneath the eyes and around the mouth.

He began the next color, red, by applying a lighter shade over the whole face to show the blood vessels and natural red pigments in skin. The color was applied in layers to imitate the transparency and layered structure of real human skin.


Key points in the color application

Kazu Hiro clears his mind when applying the colors: "The environment around us affects how we see color. In a room with red walls, for instance, the remnant red on your retina affects how you see the colors in front of you. Before applying a color, I try to reset my mental pallet by staring at a neutral colored surface."

Kazu carefully adjusts the transparency along with the color tones. If the pigment is too dark, the sprayed pattern will appear pointillist and opaque. If the pigment is too light, the colors will blend together, producing a muted effect. The pigment must be balanced.

Yellow layer for skin pigmentation and suntan effects

The next color was yellow. The skin color tends to be lighter in parts of the face where bone lies close underneath. A faint melanin shade was applied to highlight the thin skin covering the brow, nose, and cheekbones.

Kazu also used olive color to capture in suntan tones, which naturally vary in different parts of the face. A person who often drives a car will have deeper tan on the side of the face closer to the window.
"When we see a person, we subconsciously register natural irregularities in their face," Kazu explains. "A portrait looks more lifelike to us if the irregularities are shown."

The sculpted heads of Audrey Hepburn are turned slightly to the left. The left side of the neck was painted slightly darker since the skin was compressed.



Creating the imagined skin color

Kazu points out that his work could never be finished without careful planning of the colors to use, and in what quantities.
"Skin color isn't just a single color. I have to consider which colors are needed, and how they should be layered. I form a mental picture of the final skin tone I want to achieve and then calculate backward, simplifying the color combinations to a minimum as I go. If I paint on too much color and then try to adjust it by adding more, the result will be muddy or dull. The key is restraint, to know when the color is finished and stop."

The final color Kazu painted was a muted red, mainly on the lips, cheeks, and skin around the eyes. As the colors are layered on, the coloring beneath gradually disappears. The outermost red is mixed with hints of blue to dial down any intensity.

Once the skin color was complete, the next steps were the lipstick, rouge, eyeliner, and mascara. Pigments blended with silicone vehicle were used for the makeup colors, as well. At last, with the skin colors and makeup complete, Kazu was ready to move on to hair work for both sculptures.


* This is not a realistic rendering of the subject but the artist's interpretation.



About Kao

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