Face of the familiar

Hiking in a dramatic landscape is very similar to moving over the terrain of the human face. There is the same geography on the bridge of the nose as on the saddle between two mountain peaks. It is the unique slopes and valleys of our faces that give us each our most valuable form of personal identification.

Naturally, the appearances of our faces change over time, through age, weight gain, hair loss, bar fights.  Undeterred, the face remains remarkably faithful in its responsibility of providing our easy identification to anyone who can see it.  Over time, however, our faces become more than just visual indicators. They become symbols for what we stand for, or maybe for what we have done in our lives. If given a bit of context, the image of a face we recognize will recall an absolutely specific moment or emotion. It’s the context of the face that turns it from being simply documentary, to delivering something with emotional grip.

Painting a successful portrait depends on combining both the emotion and geography of a face.  Though aspects of my work may lean in the direction of realism, perfect rendering is not my ambition. It is the off-handed recognition of a painted face which brings around some unexpected bit of memory and feeling.


Dave was born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1970. In 2013, Dave founded Paint or Die Studio ltd., a design and painting studio, from which he oversees projects ranging from fine-art portraits to children's book illustration.  He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Sharon. They spend as much time as they can afford eating and traveling.