not quite ready for my close-up
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 05:53AM
Anna Maxted

Well it’s one thing knowing that you look a bit rough in the morning – advanced age of thirty-one-eleven, intermittent sleep, thousands of children (okay, three, but it’s still a load), a half-mauled sparrow at large in basement courtesy of killer cat, plus other family stresses, the type we all face sooner or later but that are nonetheless sapping of spirit – but whatever the reasons I don’t look photo-fabulous, it’s quite a shock to have six million people witness your non-beauteous visage – and for a bunch of them to comment on it in a mean, cold way.

I say this because today I have a piece in the Daily Mail, with my husband Phil Robinson, entitled ‘Could you photoFit your other half?’

The photographer came round two hours before our deadline, objected to what I was wearing (they don’t like black, or trousers, or anything approaching black, or trousers, so my deep blue harem pants were, politely, vetoed – ‘don’t get me wrong,’ purred the snapper, ‘I think they’re incredibly stylish etc’), so having dug a hideous flowery dress out of the recesses of my cupboard and glared at him while worrying if I’d be able to finish the feature and collect my son from cricket and feed a gaggle of fussy eaters (food must be distinct and identifiable on the plate) an acceptable dinner – I didn’t look like a Gisele or a Helena.

Oh yes and I am too lazy to wear make-up – it makes my eyes swell and turns me into the human version of a puff-adder, consequently, on page 21 today of one of our bestselling national newspapers, I look as plain as the nose on my face.

And yet, comments like ‘she’s got bags under her eyes’ and ‘these drawings take twenty years off her’ just got to me. It’s true that the internet has turned half the world into sociopaths – you can say all the cowardly mean-spirited piggish things to people that you presumably wouldn’t dare say to their face – with no consequence at all to yourself (although, possibly, your arteries clog with the mucus-like goo naturally produced by an evil aura.)

Having ranted, I feel better – but I also wanted to say that writing this feature was enormous fun and actually, an honour – mainly because I got to (virtually) meet forensic artist Carrie Stuart Parks – www.stuartparks.com – and her husband FBI Visual Information Specialist Rick Parks. Not only were they obliging, fun, and delightful – isn’t it funny how the most successful people can be the most generous and kind-hearted? – Carrie managed to translate my bumbling description of Phil into a near identical sketch of him.

Check it out on the Daily Mail website – it’s amazing. All I did was describe him, in six lines, and send her a couple of images of people I think he looks like (with the reasons why.) Then from 6,000 miles away, having never set eyes on Phil, she produced a drawing of him that was so close – and after a few extra pointers from me – managed to pluck his image from my consciousness onto the page. She’s been a forensic artist for over 25 years, creating likenesses of suspects, from witness statements – what a gift.

My six-year old is a pretty committed artist, so I’m going to order one of her books – Secrets to Drawing Realistic Faces. Rick - who runs forensic art courses with her attended by the FBI and The Secret Service, among other law enforcement agencies - sent me an example of what they do; after two days of instruction, one female officer drew a sketch of a man that wouldn't disgrace a professional – two days earlier, her artwork resembled that of my 4-year old! Just brilliant!

Having had the opportunity to work with them was such a pleasure - and I suppose one just has to remember that this world is full of smart, wonderful talented people – not just those who comment meanly underneath Daily Mail articles. 

Article originally appeared on My Glamorous Life (http://annamaxtedbooks.squarespace.com/).
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