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
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,
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.)
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
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.
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
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. :-)
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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