October 31st 2000


YouCanDraw.com's Insiders Communiqué


In this issue - Breakdown of the Magic Johnson Caricature


Hi all - Happy Halloween, feliz El Dia de Los Muertos or whatever it's 
called in your part of the world :-)

This week, we'll just review a few of the finer points of how and why 
Magic's caricature works or doesn't work. (For your information, the 
caricature's were sent to you on the 9th and 23rd of October's "Your Every 
Other Week Caricature".) So if you saved them pull 'en out and we can over 
them together. 

The Setup

In front of me I have 4 finished drawings (the realistic and progressive 
pencil drawings), and the original photo. I have to tell you, it probably 
took me 5 or 6 tries to get Magic Looking like Magic and certain parts of 
the original (like the upper lip and teeth) I bet I redrew 9 or 10 times.
(Don't afraid to go back to the drawing board.) Once I nailed down a good 
likeness, I placed the original about 3 or 4 pages back in the old 
Strathmore tracing pad - that way I can flip all but the page I'm drawing on 
over the top and re-flip them back one at a time as I progress. Tracing the 
original drawing is a commonly used time saving measure. 

Pencil used: one of those little yellow mechanical pencils you find in a 
"12-pack" at any store - you don't need anything fancy to draw. Thin tipped, 
medium hardness.

Starting at the top

For all Magic Johnson has been through the last few years, he just keeps 
marching on. He's one of those folks who just radiates warmth - he has 
that great smile with just plain happy eyes. So it's the smile that grabs me 
first about Magic. 

With the short hair and long face, I fall into my pattern of late: shrink 
the forehead and make the jaw and chin large. (It works for the athletic 
look.) When someone has a "buzz" job, I mean hair cut right down to the 
skin, (just shy of a skin head look), I immediately go for the shrunken head 

I also noticed in the original photo, (and you can see this in the realistic 
drawing), the highest part and the most rounded part of the head are towards 
the back. What's this let me do? Lets me push the eyebrows and their bony 
base way out. Lets me play down the forehead too. I've mentioned this 
before, but it's worth mentioning it again, on an unconscious level, we 
don't need to see someone's forehead to recognize them. It's also a very 
common mistake in beginning portrait students to leave off the forehead 
altogether. (Very very interesting thing when you see it happen over and 
over in people just learning to draw faces.) 

Short Hair

To get the short hair look, I just cross-hatched with fairly sharp lines and 
never strayed outside the contour of the scalp - gives the hair an almost 
painted-on-with-marker look. 

Eyes, Eyebrows, and Lids

The actual hairy part of the eyebrows have a sort of rectangular shape to 
them most noticeable in Magic's right eyebrow (on the left side of the 
picture). If you squint at any version of Magic, you can see the spherical 
shape formed by the combination of the globe of the eye, the bony brow, eye 
lids and eye itself on either side of the nose. 

In a smiling person, the lower lids obscure the lower part of the iris (the 
colored part of the eye - in an angry person the upper lid obscures the top 
of the iris). All this goes into the backdrop around and in the eyes. Squint 
and ask yourself how much you see the shadowing as contributing to this 
"Earvin-ometric effect" effect. (Ok, bad joke for "Earvin" and 

The Nose and Cheeks

If you look close, you'll notice there's only a suggestion of cheeks - and 
only the lateral edges of it at that in the final picture. It's diminishing 
in focus through all the pictures. Why's that? Well, it's because I went 
crazy on the nose. Follow the progression through the 4 pictures. On the Mr. 
Average model, the most lateral part of the nares (the flesh around the 
nostrils), generally lines up with the inner canthus of the eyes (the 
"canthus" is the place where the upper lid and lower lids come together). 

People of African and Asian origin often have significantly broader based 
noses that are relatively flat in profile. Caucasian lineage people have 
narrower and significantly more protruding noses. Those are pretty well 
known "rules" - interesting thing is you can reverse that rule and still 
come up with a recognizable likeness of a person. As a further aside, there 
are certain caricature "schools" that in the name of speed, always play up 
race and ethnic generalities to keep customers moving through fast. The best 
way, in my opinion, is to always draw what you see. You won't offend people 
(usually) if you do that. 

Lips and Teeth

The Upper lip and the teeth were probably the hardest part for me to draw. I 
drew the upper lip fairly thin but added a large "apron" between the upper 
lip and the bottom of the nose. Now notice this: even with a really 
humongusly wide nose, the proportion between horizontal lines of importance 
remains consistent (by horizontal lines of importance I mean those 
horizontal lines the features generally fall on: the eyes at the half way 
point, the base nose at the "2/5ths the distance between the eyes and the 
chin line", the lips on the lower third of the bottom half of the face, 
etc.). These distances remained proportionately the same in the whole series 
- I only stretched things at the bottom and shrink them at the top.

And speaking of the Nose...

The base of Magic's nose is still above the 2/5ths line - so you can 
maintain a likeness by exaggerating the width shortening it even more in 
height - which has the overall hilarious effect of making it even wider. In 
fact, if you measure the overall height of the nose, it's no taller in the 
final caricature than it is in the realistic drawing. You'll have to do a 
sighting or take out a ruler to wee for yourself. 

More on the Lips and Teeth

The teeth I felt were most effective leaving them free of any vertical lines 
that marked off the different teeth. I also maintained dark "cornucopia-shaped" shadows at the corners of the mouth to push the teeth 
out even farther. 

The Dimples

Magic has several layers of dimples - both strong and subtle. Weeding your 
way through them a few times on all sorts of subjects is great practice and 
it's also something I think adds so much personality to your drawing if you 
capture them accurately. 

The Lower Lip

The lower lip has a deep "v" in the middle - that is on the "tooth" side of 
the lip. I found in my first preliminary sketches where I didn't have the 
deep "V", the picture was really missing something. Also notice the parallel 
lines on the lower margin of the lower lip - it's the bottom edge of the 
shadow shape that lies on top of the lower lip. That whole shadow shape 
looks almost like a pterodactyl head. 


Lastly, the shadow under the lower lip and the shadow under the jaw - both a 
little rushed - add to the depth of the picture. 

The general overall shape of the Head

There's a square formed between the outer edges of the eyebrows and the most 
peaked part of the jaw corners under the ears. Secondarily the jaw and top 
of head, though narrower than the rest of the face, add symmetry at the top 
and bottom. 

Adding a Body and Composition

In the final picture I added a Laker's uniform and a quick throw-on body. 
When the main focus of a picture is the face, you can really get away with 
fairly unfinished "supporting" features (like a body or a gag), and it 
actually adds to the picture - as opposed to playing-up or adding lots of 
detail and color to the parts you really don't want noticed so much. (which 
is why the picture where Magic is in just the suit, you're pulled so much 
more to his face. Adding a body can add to the comedic value but it can 
detract from the overall picture. But we want to have a little fun doing 
this too. :-) 

Magic Links

Here some decent Magic Johnson links: (if the entire line isn't highlighted, 
it may be best to copy and paste the address into your browser's address 







(you may need to type the "g" on to the last line of the text string if it wasn't blue-underlined in your email.)

Until next time...keep on drawing!



Kasbohm & Company's


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e-mail: jeffkaz@YouCanDraw