That’s a good question! Short answer: I like drawing faces, plan to keep drawing faces for a long time to come. But the last drawings I’ve posted have been SUPER TINY, and when a head (or any object) gets too small to render with appeal, I drop the level of detail.
Long answer: there are a few major principles that inform those decisions.
The first principle, I guess, is that draftsmanship (the accurate linear representation of forms and detail) should be subordinate to design (deliberate editorial choices in representation). Just because you CAN draw something doesn’t mean you have to, or that you should. Or that you shouldn’t. Mignola is a great one to bring up here, and I’m glad you did!
The first cover for Seed of Destruction is RAD. And you can really see Mignola’s draftsmanship coming through. He’s drawing the hell out of that toolbelt. He’s drawing the hell out of that gun, that statue, that chain, and every damn fold in that jacket. He is DRAWING. We should all try to draw that well!
The first cover to Hellboy in Hell is RAD. And you can really see Mignola’s design coming through. He designs the hell of that composition, isolating Hellboy in a field of black. He’s designing the hell out of those figures, eliminating extraneous detail and letting the gesture tell the story. He’s paring down and doing more with less. He is DESIGNING. We should all try to design that well.
Both approaches are really effective, but only because Mignola is both a great draftsman AND a great designer. Even detail-heavy guys, like Ueyama, will simplify when a figure shrinks to a certain size, and it becomes more appealing to remove detail than add it. Ueyama draws the shit out of EVERYTHING, but he never lets his (frankly incredible) draftsmanship override his design.
SO yeah. Draw really well. And be conscientious about how you design your drawing, how you bring your skills to bear, what you include and what you excise. There’s really not a ‘right’ answer to draftsmanship vs design, as long as you’re making conscious decisions. The only wrong answer is to thoughtlessly draw without even considering the question.
The other principle is that the right gesture can say it all. You can say almost anything with a figure that you could say with a face. You don’t need a close-up to show emotion or character. Drawing is communication, and if you’re doing it right, gesture can be the whole sentence, with the face as punctuation. Michael Dudok De Wit is a master of this. Check out his film, Father and Daughter. So much emotion. No faces.
I tried to pull off faceless acting in my own film a few years ago, with mixed success.
So, yeah. Once you’re prioritizing design over draftsmanship, and comfortable with gesture as expression, you can just make whatever call you like! Faces and figures, details and deletions, all are YOURS TO COMMAND!!!
It’s your drawing, right? Own it!