What can you say about the gender of these two faces?
They're sort of on the borderline, but if you had to say one was male and the other was female, what would you say?
Most people say the face on the left is female and the one on the right is male.
This is just an illusion because they're both the same androgynous face. The only difference is that the contrast of the features is increased in the face on the left, and the contrast is reduced in the face on the right.
According to the psychologist Richard Russell, who created of this illusion, "Contrast is an important cue for perceiving the sex of a face, with greater contrast appearing feminine, and lesser contrast appearing masculine."
He observes that cosmetics in women serves to heighten this difference, increasing the contrast, particularly around the eyes and mouth. "Female facial beauty is known to be closely linked to sex differences," he says, "with femininity considered attractive. These results suggest that cosmetics may function in part by exaggerating a sexually dimorphic attribute—facial contrast—to make the face appear more feminine and hence attractive."
The upcoming August/September issue of International Artist magazine contains my article "Painting Candid Portraits in the Wild," which recaps nine recent adventures in plein-air portraiture.
In the article I address a question that comes up often:
Is it OK to Sketch Strangers in Public? Yes. In most public places people have no expectation of privacy, and you have a right to sketch them. However, for both ethical and practical reasons, it's better to assume otherwise. Whenever someone notices that I'm sketching them, I try to introduce myself, and I show them what I'm up to. My standard line is: "Hi, I'm just getting some practice sketching people, hope you don't mind. Keep doing what you're doing. I'll be done in five more minutes and I'll show you when I finish." Most often, they just want to take a photo for Facebook. If they look annoyed after I say that line, I'll switch to someone else. But nine times out of ten, being open will erase their worries and perhaps make a friend. Sometimes I'm sitting too far away to make such a connection, or I'm dealing with a language barrier. In that case, I hold up the sketchbook and smile. That clears the air and gives them the opportunity to decline politely. If I want to do a portrait with a lot more commitment, rather than stealth sketching, it's best to get permission and set the terms at the outset. Then I can say something like, "Hey, are you going to be around here a while? I'm an artist and I'd love to sketch your portrait while we talk."