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1 March 2004


Your March 1st 2004, Caricature:
revisiting Presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry


Howdy all,

What makes John Kerry caricaturable? (I've included a mini-version of the caricature
from two weeks ago. )

John Kerry

In all fairness, Senator Kerry was an easy mark to caricature. He'll be a cartoonist /
caricaturist's dream if he ever becomes president. Even still, just because someone
seems or looks like they'd be easy to caricature, you still need to identify, you need to
make conscious
what those caricaturable things are, right? How do you "make conscious"
anything? You put it into words until you're able to describe clearly what it is you're talking
about. "Big hair" - what's that mean? It means person X's hair is"3 times as wide as the
overall width of his face, it's as high as the empire state building and he's got curls from
here to St. Louis"

Language gives us humans the unique ability to reflect on things. And in this sense it
helps our drawing rather than hinders it. How? Because we can return again and again
to what we recognized with our right brain. Language can work as a place keeper,
a reference, a referring mechanism. Does that make sense?

Let's start from the top - literally!  -- The hair

Big, BIG, no, BEEG hair! The envy of "Hair club for Men" or the (prodigy), Senator
Kerry has plenty of it. It's got both breadth and height to it as well as some massive
curls his make-up people are doing their darndest to keep under control. The part is
on his left and the main flow is from left to right (his left to right). Depending on how
long it's been since his last haircut.

If you look close at the caricature, you can tell the hair mass was changed a few times.
In fact, I purposely did not cross hatch in the new hair just to make this point (and
because I was getting antsy to get the picture out the chute:-).  Note the main
pencil line that contains the top most shaded roll of hair. Notice how it's heavier than
the rest of the more or less horizontal lines in the hair - you can follow it across the
then entire span of the hair from left to right. That's because it used to be the top
edge of the hair. But I wanted it BIGGER!  So I added the next line. And I wanted it
bigger still. So I added another line. And another. Until I literally ran out of paper. So
if I had a smaller face to start with lots of room at the top, the hair could have
got really ridiculous. Each layer of hair, made me laugh a little more. (See how
this can be therapeutic?)

A final note of on hair: it's been said before - no need to draw every hair. Draw more
dense hair where it contacts the actual head. This connects it. But leave lots of
unfettered and untouched territory within it. The brain likes to fill in spaces if a pattern
is suggested.

The forehead

Heading south, two things: the forehead appears narrow under all that hair and it's
easier yet to tell the Botox isn't working.  (I gotta be careful here since I got the
same furrowed brow...and I'm much younger. Gulp.) Making an ultra skinny forehead
works on almost anyone, but on a big hair person like JK, it's pure pleasure. Note also
how the darkest tones of the picture are in the space between forehead and hair. This
anchors the hair to the head and give the forehead almost a "tree trunk under the tree

Making lines on the forehead is a simple job of adding a simple contour that arches
above each eye. Check out this link  to David Levine - the master of the furrowed
brow and baggy eyes : (scroll down to the bottom
of his page to get to the gallery).

The eyes

Some folks got that bony brow - that big thick bone over the eyes. That's nature's
gift of protection for the eyes. It can also make the eyes appear very deeply set which
is exactly the case here. John has truly deeply set eyes. Keeping the eyes surrounded
in shadow gives that illusion. Also very notable is the slant of the eyes: Mr. Kerry has
some of the most downward most slanted eye brows I've ever seen. Almost that sad
basset hound look (I don't mean that in any disrespectful way - it's just the picture
that popped into my head). Play up this eyebrow and down slanted eye look as much
as you can. Guaranteed, this is where / what the newspaper cartoonists will
exaggerate. You can add a little more bagginess under the eyes than I did - again
shaky lines that seem like they're bowed under weight seem to work best for baggy
eye lines - and it's one of the fastest ways to age a picture. (So be fair...sort of :-)

The nose

I could have made the bridge of the nose a little brighter, give it a little more
of a highlight - this would underscore that the root of John's nose maintains the same
"elevation" as it comes out of the forehead as the forehead itself. Making the bridge
lighter would also make the eyes seem more deeply set still. Making it a touch wider
(the bridge of the nose that is) would also add to this overall effect - making the
nose seem more like an extension of the forehead.

Overall, sen. Kerry's nose is long and narrow with a flaring as you approach the nostrils.
Think if it as transforming into a sort of triangular wedge shape as you approach the
base  and tip of the nose... the base of the nose is the very bottom of the nose where
it comes to rest on the upper lip, right where the nostrils open. You know, the
business  end of the nose.

(Just for fun, check out Bartleby's on-line version of Gray's Anatomy for more in-depth
anatomy - it's an awesome resource right at your fingertips: )

Don't let this outline-as-wedge shape of the nose divert your attention away from the
very round tip. The tip of the nose - the part between the two nostrils - is still very
narrow and rounded. In a profile, it's roundedness becomes more obvious. It's interesting
how the long narrow nose seems to mimic the overall shape of his face - but upside
down :-). Think about it! you'll see what I mean.

The mouth

The transition from nose to mouth begins along the top edge of the nostrils. This is
where the "naso-labial folds"  begin. They end up running outside the corners of the
mouth and anchoring in or around the chin. (In seniors, this line can run down onto
the neck). The space formed between the naso labial folds, the bottom of the nose and
above the chin creates a sort of convex oval. This is where you'll fit the mouth. 

Open up your browser, go to Google, type in "John Kerry". click
"Google Search:, THEN click on images. I want  you to open half a dozen of Kerry's
pictures. Scan them and focus on the mouth. See it in relation to the rest of the face.

What's your assessment? Small mouth. Right  upper incisor (his right) the most dominant
of any of the teeth. And that's exactly what I saw and drew too. Also note the little asymmetry
in the lips - (we all have that) - he tends to do that Elvis lip thing to his right - pulling up
the right side of his upper lip, kind of a tenting thing that pulls his whole mouth to his
right. That's what  I see anyway. Play that up too. It's subtle, but it's real. And pat
yourself on the back for doing such a good job of "making conscious" all these little

The chin

John doesn't have a chin so much as he has a jaw. That's my interpretation. I think it's
best drawn in a front view as a more shovel-like shape rather than a Jay Leno jutting

Overall rhythm

Overall, there's a pattern, a rhythm to Mr. Kerry's face: big wide at the top, narrow at
the forehead, wider again at the top of the cheek bones (though an overall narrow face
in relation to Mr. Average), hollowed out beneath the cheek bones with a slightly
sharp - yet subtle appearance of the corners of the jaw beneath the ears, which taper
to the chin, which shovels wider again. The small and narrow mouth adding more
narrowness still while contrasting the mushrooming hair: again - wide, narrow, a little wider,
narrow, a little wider, narrow, then a little wider. That's the pattern.

Notice also the pattern of highlight and shadow - especially the shadows around the eyes,
again where the hair meets the forehead, then again beneath the cheekbones.


The difference between a good drawing and a great drawing I think is in the three
dimensionality of a picture: the better you can capture the 3-d-ness of a picture
the better. There's lots of ways to this but the most powerful is in light and
shadow rendering. The more realistic the highlights and shadows, the more real
your picture will appear. DRAW what you see - not what you think you ought to see.
(These two things are in constant conflict as you start - and even pop up after years
of practice).

So, the assignment: observe shadows around the eyes, under the cheekbones, in the
dimples and under the lips. These four areas - eyes, dimples, cheeks and chin. Squint
as you look at people (this helps the shadows stand out more) and close one eye
so you don't confuse different views of the same thing.

And try to do this as you go about your business the next two weeks. Imagine how
you'd draw these shapes of light and dark. Notice the pattern and rhythm they form
on the face.

Now go for it! Keep on drawing, Spring is coming for those of you in the Northern



Jeffrey O. Kasbohm
Executive Director
Kasbohm & Company Strategic Multimedia
home of and

(952) 544-0657
1351 Hampshire Ave. So., #127
St. Louis Park, MN  55426

"Once and for all  getting you drawing faces and caricatures"