Artist Neil Shigley is obsessed with faces, especially the faces of homeless men and women outside of his studio in downtown San Diego.
“The faces could be from a thousand years ago. Beauty, nobility, dignity, it’s all there," he says.
But he's is not just a voyeur, he’s an artist. He imagines the curves and planes of each face carved, rolled with paint, and then printed.
His portraits are six feet tall.
One day he met a man who identified himself as Pastor Michael Shelby. The man allowed his picture to be taken, and Neil got to work. From the photograph, he made a drawing. He took the drawing to a commercial print house and had it enlarged to six by four feet. He brought the enlarged drawing back to his studio, put it behind a Plexiglass plate and carved the image with a drill.
The result is stunning. Pastor Shelby looking straight at the viewer, with a friendly, hopeful expression. You can see his slicked back hair, strong nose and cheekbones … a half smile.
When Shigley finished, he was eager to find Pastor Shelby and show him the portrait, but no one had seen him for weeks. Shigley never got to show Pastor Shelby the portrait, but hundreds of thousands of other people have seen it on display at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. As a finalist for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, the huge plexiglass block print of Pastor Shelby now hangs, on it’s own wall, in Washington D.C.
Special thanks to the news crew at Fox 5 in San Diego for the field audio. Their story about Neil Shigley and Pastor Shelby won an EMMY.