Games People Play: Richard Neave, 61, medical artist

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The Independent Online
I am not a joiner of clubs, or a player of games with other people. I tend to be more solitary, as I'm not very good at ball-games.

Ever since I can remember, I've enjoyed making things. I grew up on a little farm in Sussex, and I didn't have much in the way of toys. But I liked playing with water and I'd make dams and little water-wheels that worked, and boats.

I've always liked the vision of a model boat chugging across a pond. There is something rather romantic and lovely about the idea of a thing by itself in the middle of the water with its little engine, preferably in the half-light.

I still like building and playing with model boats. Sometimes they're built out of wood; sometimes they're kits, modified. The trouble is I don't have that much time, but I like just to be able to settle down and work at it for half a day every few months.

Making things is the game, and I suppose remaking a face is the same sort of thing. It's all about construction, or knowing how things fit together. As a child, whenever I found a fox skull, or a rabbit's skull, I'd always pick it up and look at it, to see how it went.

I suppose this is where the business of people-watching comes in. You can stand in the Underground and count the number of people with adherent earlobes and well-defined filtrums, or whatever.

This game does have its problems, because you can offend people by staring at them. It is an extremely invasive thing to do, but I have a professional interest. Rather like an architect looking at another architect's building, and thinking: "That's nice, but the pointing is a bit rough."

If you have missed the "Meet the Ancestors" series on BBC2, on which Richard Neave reconstructed British skulls, you may catch up by reading "Making Faces" by Richard Neave and John Prag (British Museum Press, pounds 18.99). Your filtrum is the groove down the middle of your upper lip.

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