Your Every Other Week Caricature:
Well happy Friday all,
Today's caricature is of Jazz/blues great Mose Allison. How many of you
all have actually heard of this guy? I know, pretty obscure, but he really is
a musical/poetic tour de force. I first heard of him while I was stationed
in Alaska in the late 1970's. I didn't go see him but they interviewed him on
an Anchorage radio station. What a character - and a true blue story teller.
Approaching the drawing
In the upper left of the attached drawing (mose-allison_for_road.jpg), you'll
see a rough sketch - probably a 5 to 6 minute rough. You can see where I
was fiddling with the outline of the beard - I was trying to decide if I should
go with the "wider at the top going to narrower at the bottom" literal approach
or if I ought to follow my gut and grab that beard and work it.
The outline shape of the head
Look close at photo (mose-Allison-origianal-pulse-mag.jpg), and you can see
that the overall shape of the head actually tapers from the forehead going down.
What's difficult to see is what happens to his chin as you cross into the beard.
The beard makes it easy
The shape of the beard - and the pure mass of it - makes that decision
easier: appreciate the bulk of it and be glad you don't have to go into a great
amount of detail drawing the chin. :-)
The beard has it's tough side too: I had to figure out how to draw a big white
- but still close cropped - white beard with black ink pen and still keep it looking
puffy and white. Can you see how I resolved it? Right. A sparing number of
straight lines and most of them placed at the periphery of the beard.
Other notable features going from top to bottom
The hat was fun - fairly simple. The more challenging part was recognizing
the shadow shape as it fanned down across the forehead. Squint your eyes
as look at the photo and see of you can't collapse the different gray shapes
into one larger shape - that's what I tried to do in the drawing. That's what I
always try to do when looking at complicated shapes: squint and see if you
can't make one simpler larger shape out of the numerous smaller, complicated
ones. (The brain will make sense out of it :-)
Moving down: the eyes
Mose's eyes have a an angle to them: they slope down a little as you travel
from the nose side out to the temple side. (There's definitely room to exaggerate
this much more than I did here.) also, note how blue eyes (again) are handled:
a dark pupil, a light space around them, then a darker ring at the edge of the
cornea. (Note: the iris is the actual colored part of the eye but it's behind the
clear cornea and makes the cornea look like it has color.)
Missing the obvious
I found the "Pulse" photo on-line this morning as I got ready to send the ezine
out. And it's amazing to me how some things so obvious in the small photo
I missed altogether. I drew from a picture in the actual magazine - a full
page picture. What did I miss? I missed the strong line over his left eye -
right to us. And I missed the large shadow shape on the right side of his nose
(our left). It's always a good idea to get some distance from your pictures: in
the act of drawing them, like anything else, being too close blinds you from
The nose was the funnest part of the face I thought. It starts out high and
narrow, then runs a long widening course down the face. It "terminates",
ok, it ends in the more bulbous tip. Note also the wide nostrils.
Mose has a mustache - I represent that with small quick lines around the
periphery of the overall mustache shape - otherwise a white 'stache starts
looking black. Also note how the mustache, beard and side burns all hook
together: in a sharp "u" shape over the bare skin on the cheeks.
Lastly, the mouth
Most of the mouth is obscured again - and this helps us. How's it help? Well
it helps me any way because I don't have to sort through all the little shadow
shapes around the lips. For me that's always the hardest part of the face:
getting the lips and mouth right.
Here's a hint though: focus on the shape of the darkest line formed between
the lips rather than on the lips themselves. Hint number two: In drawing the
lower lip, focus on the shadow shape underneath the lip - it's much more
recognizable than the actual lip. A few vertical lines on the lower lip representing
the wrinkles of the actual lower lip will usually suffice.
After drawing one version of Mose and after having two or three days away from
it, I see how I could do a second drawing where I might make the hat huge, the
forehead huge, and make everything smaller from there even down to the chin and
beard - and still make it recognizable. Play with your drawings - I know that's easy to
say. That old perfectionist bone can really get in the way but having fun with it makes
it all the more enjoyable. How to have fun? Sometimes - for me anyway - "having fun"
means purposely trying go way way out or even trying hard at making a BAD picture -
a really rotten one can get you past that in-grown "critic"obstacle.
Well, that wraps up today's caricature and lesson. Hope you got something from
it :-) If anything is unclear or you have questions, please don't be afraid to ask!
Keep on drawing and I'll talk to you next week.
PS here's the address to the actual link at Pulse magazine / tower records
where I found the small photo file. (I cannot legally print this in the permanent
book so file it, print it out, or save it in your personal links):
"Once and for all getting you drawing faces and caricatures"