|3 April 2000
YouCanDraw.com's Insiders Communique
In this issue:
1) Feature by Feature Mini-series: the Chin
The chin is the cornerstone of the face. Some chins are broad, some are
narrow, some jut, some are nearly non-existent. But everybody - and almost
anything with a mouth - has a chin. Chins are seen best in both profile or
3/4 view. We don't get the full appreciation in the frontal view.
Through evolution, the Christopher Reeves jutting jaw has been a sign of
aggression, virility, and braun in men and males. Funny that sharks have
almost no chin at all and clams are nothing but jaws.
The Chin and Natural Selection
Evolutionists studying attraction theory say that before brains became
important, the jaw and the chin were signs of dominance. Maybe because big
jaws meant big teeth, and big teeth meant trouble. I don't know, but that's
my guess and it's probably not too far off. Now with the times changing the
way they are, survivability and attraction have more important determinants
than just a big jaw. Still people are admired for their chins. Cartoon
characters, like Dudley Doo Right was nothing short of a talking jaw and
chin. Spineless and "chinless" are names given to cowards. Even into recent
times a strong jaw and chin were signs of social standing among the Chinese
gentry. Boxers and athletes are supposed to have big jaws - but I can think
of lots of exceptions to that. Plastic surgeons haven't left the chin out of
their surgical repertoire: you can even get chin implants now. Sometimes you
just have to take it on the chin I guess.
Gender and the Chin
You can't get away from gender differences in any body part - the chin's no
exception. A small chin with pouty but full lips in a female were seen as desirable
during the "mating years". In fact if I remember correctly, the small
seductive chin was 1/3 of what made Twiggy, the 1960's model, so popular.
(Whatever happened to her?)
Some gain protection by their chins: "not by the hair of my chinny chin,
chin" said the three little pigs to the big bad wolf - who incidentally is
always depicted with a monstrous jaw. A salmon's jaw and chin grow with
their version of salmon testosterone as they steer northward to the
headwaters. Aggression increases too. Body builders discovered several
decades ago their jaw would grow significantly - and permanently - by taking
anabolic steroids to the chagrin of their competitors. And if the side
effects of steroids didn't kill them, the workouts outside the gym would:
The Chin and Medicine
Acromegaly is a disease of overgrowth: "hypertrophy" medical people call it.
Most notably it affects the hands, feet, the forehead and the jaw. Andre
the Giant - the professional wrestler - suffered this malady. And the James
Bond star, "Jaws" suffers from the same. Poor souls. Enough is enough I
guess. To me, the chin is the finishing touch on the jaw the way the top ornament
is on a Christmas tree, or a chrome bumper is on a '57 Chevy. (The Chevy seems closer to it to me.)
So how do you draw it?
You can draw the chin as a point, a square, round, double-peaked,
underrepresented like in an "overbite", and overrated in an "underbite'.
The Anatomy of the Chin
First there's bone - the mandible, then a layer of several muscles, then a
little fatty tuft - usually forming the raised area and cleft of the chin.
The main muscle of the chin is the "mentalis". Which comes from the Greek
"mental" or "mentate", which means "to think". Look in the mirror, scratch
your chin and say "Hmmm" and sure enough, a little bundle of ripply tissue
will form right there in the middle of your chin. That's the mentalis at
work. So we think with our chins too...if you can follow that logic. The
other important muscle of the chin is the "Triangularis" - but I'm not going
to go into that today - you'll see a lot more anatomy in an upcoming chapter.
Getting down to business: Drawing the Chin
The best way to draw the chin is to look at some extreme examples. By going
to the limits, you get an idea of the range. (See the attached illustration
for a collage of chins.) And as either up-and-coming or experienced
caricaturists, you get to exaggerate the chin to other worldly proportions.
Shadows around the Chin
There's three subtle shadows around the chin: one just above it, and one
right in the middle of it: (the shadow of the cleft), and lastly, in normal
lighting, there's the shadow caused by the overhang of the chin and jaw
themselves. Of course, not everyone has a cleft. If you don't, you were
just cleft out. (Sorry, I had to. :-)
The transition from lower lip to the chin is very subtle - this threw me for
a long time. Until I realized it's a transition - not a really wildly
demarcated area, a sort of demilitarized zone. The way to represent it is
with a contrast of color from red to shadowy grays. The more over hang there
is to the lip, the more noticeable the shadow is. I realize after clipping
and scanning a bunch of illustrations for this communiqué, there really is
enough material to do a section on the chin all by itself.
Between now and the next "Feature by Feature" feature, try and do the usual
three sessions (of hopefully 30 minutes minimum per session), doing nothing
but practicing drawing the chin.
-Observe the transition of the lower lip to the area just under the lip, the
variety of clefts, the profile of all sorts of chins and jaws - from bulldog
underbites to shark-like overbites. View it left to right, and straight on
as well. The variety, like any other part of the anatomy when you observe
it, will fascinate you.
So keep your chin up - and keep on drawing!