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Case Study # 1:
Part II: Keith Richards
First Impressions

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Part II: Keith Richards
First Impressions

First impression

The first thing that grabs me about Keith is his worn look. The guy's lived life, shall we say, on the edge. Too much partying, too much night-owling - and that's not a judgment, that's just an opinion from a medical standpoint. Frankly I hate to see the guy wear himself out. I truly enjoy the Stones. Keith has brought a lot of vigor into the world with his music. The guys have been in touch with an energy few of us ever get a glimmer of. (Some pretty controversial by a few people's standards.) But I'm not here to editorialize, and you don't want to hear that from me.

So yes, the guy's worn and tough looking. How do I come to that conclusion? What objective signs cue me? I see the disheveled hair, the deep lines on his face, the ruddy skin. The sometimes "bored with it all" expression you see in someone who's just plain tired. (Maybe that's his attitude when a photographer jumps in his face to snap another picture.)

Looking past "face" value

Before we go any further I'm going to tell you how I evaluate this picture, how I try to understand it. And that's like this: I try to understand what's going on underneath the skin - what's the bone structure, what's happening with the muscles, the subcutaneous tissue (the fat), the elasticity of the face. You can go through this a lot more superficially, and most books out there do a great job of going about it that way - that's fine! I want you to have the in-depth resources to go way beyond that.

I'd love it if you take the time to learn the anatomy, the features, the muscles etc. (You don't have to of course, I just prefer it.) Why? You'll be that much better of an artist, and you'll see all this stuff instantly after you internalize it. And quite frankly, the foundation material is actually finite - you can learn the basics of all of these - all the layers and parts of anatomy - and then build upon them forever. The farther you pull back the bow, the farther you'll shoot your arrows.

Exploring the features before actually caricaturing

Let's list the features (both seen and unseen but suggested - like bony substructure):

The overall shape of the head



the different bony
structures beneath the skin



"Mr. Average"


chin and jaw

mouth and lips

3D volume

vertical and horizontal alignment

Understanding the face you're looking at: What's drawable?

You can jump back and forth into character at any time while you're drawing - it's part of your grab bag. (This might not seem like a useful approach when you're drawing "live" - with your model right in front of you - all I can say is try it.) Right now let's get real objective and ask what's most drawable about Mr. Richards. You might start anywhere - I just chose the eyes because that's where I usually begin drawing when I'm drawing somebody in front of me at a party.

The first thing that strikes me about Mr. Richards' eyes

The first things that strike me are the deep set, almost sinister eyes. What characteristics give this look? For starters: the eyebrows come right off the lowest edge of the brow bone almost flipping around to the underside of the brow. Then there's the knotted skin of the glabella (the tissue between the eyebrows and above the nose), and all the little skin folds underneath the eyes. (These are called the "infra-orbital folds", or "bags".)

The combination of all of these - taken without looking the rest of the face - suggest frustration, aggression, even anger. A lot of older folks are mistakenly interpreted as being angry because the effects of gravity and time pull the skin into a very similar configuration. They're not mad - they just look mad. (Plastic surgeons will tell you raising the eyebrows just a little bit will literally take years off a person's face and make them look several degrees happier - whether they feel that way or not. Maybe they're just happy with their happier appearance.)


How do you draw such deep eyes? What's going on anatomically? I ask that second question because to do justice to the eyes, you've got to understand the area around, even behind the eyes as well. And we won't be able to do that unless we look at the bone structure. Everything builds upon that. (Incidentally, this is where I start a drawing when I'm caricaturing at a party or at home: with the eyes, almost invariably.)

The most striking thing to me about Keith's eyes is their depth - how very deep they're placed in the skull. Two things can account for deep set eyes:

  • 1) Just plain deep eyes: the overhanging brow forms a deep overhang - a shelf. That's part of what's going on with Keith. In Mr. Average the cheekbones rise out in front and below the eyes . (This is not so much the case with Mr. Richard's - his cheekbones are fairly flat when you look at them in profile.) The second reason:
  • 2) A decrease in the fatty casing around the eyes within the skull. Malnutrition, dehydration and aging all account for a diminished fatty casing. Fat is the mortar that fills the space between the actual globes of the eyes and the bony housing. (Click on the eyes in the very top illustration above or right here and you can see the anatomy in the "intro to eyes" part II (Lids and Lashes).)

Mr. Richards has parts of both of these going on - a prominent bony brow, accentuated by low eyebrows and literally signs of malnutrition. (You see this quite often in chronic alcoholics and drug abusers - food and the very basics of normal life take second place behind satisfying the craving for a fix - not to mention the accelerated aging effects of alcohol and smoke.) This is only a clinical observation - not a judgment of lifestyle. Of course I don't recommend it to anybody.

Isolating Keith's eye's and brow

So in order to understand the bony structure around the eyes, I'm going to try to capture forehead, brow and cheekbone as a quick line-drawing study the same way you saw it done in the " Shapes of the Head" section (lesson 14). Pardon me for this little digression but I have to do this in order to be able to talk about it:

Rapid sketch of the eyes and bony brow

This is a semi-realistic penciled line-drawing of the of the brow, forehead, eyes, and a touch of cheekbone. With a little further abstracting I came up with the following quick sketches. In some sketches you'll notice you can see rectangles roughly drawn in - I do this before I begin drawing just to keep me from getting out of control on proportion . (This is "formatting" - you saw quite a bit of that in lesson 5 and lesson 6. )

Rough of forehead and brow

I notice I'm coming up with an almost monkey-like forehead, brow, and eye shape. Ok this is just preliminaries. We don't want to forget about keeping the depth around the eyes. Heavy lines, elliptical ovals and shadowing over the iris/cornea further this effect (see eyes if you've forgotten what the iris and cornea are):

Arrow points to the shadowing

Here, (just below), I've compiled the last two illustrations from above and layered them together in a single picture:

Combining the last two illustrations

Looks kind of messy, but the effect I want you to feel is the depth added by the shadowed area over the actual circular part of the eye (over the pupil, iris etc.). As a person ages the eyebrows start sagging down closer and closer to the lower edge, the margin, of the bony brow, (the bony brow is also called the "supra-orbital bone" - "Supra" for above, "orbit" for eye).

The distance between the eyebrow, (the hairy part), and the top of the eyelid is different between the sexes too. Men have a narrower gap to start with and have flatter eyebrows, whereas women have a wider gap between eyebrow and upper eyelid with higher arching eyebrows.

The next obvious thing I notice

Let's move on to the next shape of the face and head that I think really jumps out at me: the area around the mouth - the maxilla and it's strong outward, elliptical push.

The Mouth

Mr. Richards has a protruding maxilla and mouth. (The maxilla and mouth are covered in the "Lips and Teeth" chapter.) People of Asian and African descent generally have stronger, wider, more marked mouths and lower facial features than other races. This makes for a proportionately wider mouth and a toothier smile, but is by no means peculiar to Africans or Asians. Mr. Richards being a prime example.

Isolating the Maxilla

I added longitudinal lines so you could get a sense of the roundness, the pear-like shape of the area under the cheekbones and above the lower jaw - the mouth and maxilla. When observing other people, look for the width from naso-labial fold to naso-labial fold - it usually gives you some idea about how wide the maxilla is. The nasolabial folds are the skin creases that run/arch from the side of your nose down and out to just outside the corners of your mouth. They form a boundary for the curtain of flesh over the upper lip.

Pointing out the naso-labial folds

[Tip. Compare these two examples. Look at, or imagine the relative proportion the distance from fold to fold will occupy on each person's face. If you were caricaturing these two people in the same picture, can you imagine how you'd contrast these two faces? I'd really exaggerate this width in Keith's face and make the woman's mouth, i.e. the width from naso-labial fold to naso-labial fold, almost mousy in comparison.]

The incredible disappearing upper lip

You can see another harbinger of age - and "too much fun" - evidenced here in Keith's lips: the diminishing of the upper lip. Lips get thinner and thinner as we grow older. Smoking, booze, drugs accelerate the natural process.

The thinning upper lip

As you saw above, gravity pulls the eyebrows right down to the edge of the bony brow. Is gravity selective? Hardly. It's working on every square inch of us every second of every day. You just see it's effects where skin and layers of tissue come together - at the features most notably. You can see it's effect very clearly on the lips too, especially on the upper lip.

The way the upper lip is attached - anchored from just under the nose and inside the mouth right there in front of your "two front teeth" - the part of the lip you can visualize can roll right out of sight to the point where some people appear to have no upper lip at all. It actually ends up upside-down on the inside of your mouth looking at your teeth. It literally rotates around the way you unroll a tube of wrapping paper...

Which is why it looks like Grandma and Grandpa's upper lip gets thinner and thinner with time - because you see less and less of it. That's the same reason you see all these Hollywood stars running to get their lips "pumped-up" - full lips are supposed to be sensuous and youthful. Like this:

Grandma's youthful lips - post surgery

Next issue: the line where lip and skin meet is a called the "vermilion border". Doctors, PAs, NPs and Plastic Surgeons will tell you any child who comes in with a laceration through the "vermilion border" is always a source of high anxiety: mis-align it and the child is scarred for life or will need another surgery. No pressure at all there. As you saw, the vermilion border and upper lip can slip entirely out of sight as time goes by. (I was lying about Grandma - she didn't have surgery. Sorry. Bad humor. Probably not even PC.)

Dividing skin from lip: the vermillion border

On to the lower lip

Notice a feature of all lips but best demonstrated in the lower lip: the vertical lines. With age, these lines extend into the tissue above and below the vermillion borders:

As with all skin aging, it's the diminished elasticity and contraction of collagen and elastin within the skin that causes wrinkling. I don't think of it just as signs of aging, it's the addition of character that these lines bring. I mentioned it somewhere before, but "beautiful", youthful faces are hard to draw because, quite simply, they're boring. They might excite, but they're "tough draws". It takes time to build character.

Touching a little on shadowing

Also notice the shadow beneath Keith's lower lip: it accentuates the size and protrusion of the lower lip. That is, it makes the lip look like it's sticking out more. When you contrast this with the highlight - the brightness of the top part of the lower lip - you get the full, protruding lower lip effect. (Look also for the lower lip highlight on the youthful female lip on the right.)

Ever heard of Cupid's Bow?

A new anatomical feature: Cupid's Bow. Cupid's bow is the line the upper and lower lip make where they meet. Cupid's Bow is actually the contour - the shared edge - between the upper and lower lip. (You saw contour lines and shared edges in Lesson 4.)

Here's "Cupid's Bow":

Can you identify Cupid's Bow in this quick sketch and in the photos above?

Jaw and Chin

Mr. Richards has a touch of an under bite that's both flagged and exaggerated by a fleshy lower lip. Some people have jutting chins that lead the way into a room, some don't - like Mr. Richards. He does have a broad chin when viewed from the front but turn him to a profile and you'll see the mouth and lower lip are the most anterior (foreword most), features. This is another reason why I think exaggerating the mouth is effective. It makes his jaw and chin appear smaller. (See lesson 14 - Masses of the Head, Part V, Section 7 for more on the jaw and chin.)

Protruding lip and underbite

So that's the preliminary discussion of what I think are the two most noticeable parts of facial anatomy, (the area around the eyes/eyes, and the mouth. I chose to exaggerate the mouth more - other caricaturist's have focused more the eyes and came out with a masterful caricature.) Now we'll quickly glance at the remaining "soft tissue": the features that make Keith and the rest of us recognizable.

Keith's Nose

The next feature: Keith's nose. Keith has a very interesting nose. And I think I partially botched it - or I convey the wrong message. How's that you ask? This picture (the one at the very top) is deceiving: Keith actually has a curved nose that hooks a little to his left.

If we view him 3/4's front view from his left (i.e. so his face is turned a little to the right like in the caricature at the top of this page,) his nose looks "hooked" at the top - like a Roman nose. In actuality, looking at him from his right, you can see he has a touch of angulation (it's crooked) and a bit of ski jump going there: that is, it slopes out, not down. (See illustration just below and at the "http" link - it'll be plainer there. For general information on drawing noses see: Lesson 11, Noses .)

Nose actually slopes to the right
(Keith's left)


One last note on noses: the 2/5th's rule

Here's a little switch for you. In earlier lessons I made a pretty big deal out of placing the base of the nose at the half way mark of the lower half of the face. That was for one main reason: so you could easily remember it. Now we're going to add a further distinction.

A more accurate (but less easily remembered) measure is the "2/5ths" measure. Which is this: The distance between the eyeline (the middle of the face) and the base of the nose line (half way down again) is 2/5ths the distance between the eye line and the bottom of the chin line.


New: Shortening the nose

This places the nose above the midway point between eye line and bottom of chin: you can compare both the above for nose placement and size. In the illustration on the left, the dotted line that the bottom of the nose rests on is also the midway line of the lower half of the face. That is, it divides the lower half of the face in half. From now on, this will be the standard of measure we'll use when constructing a face while

The Ears

There's not a whole lot to be said about the ears here - Keith usually wears his hair long and so obscures his ears. Ah, one less feature to worry about! As a note, the ears grow with time - or more accurately, the ear lobes grow and stretch - especially if you're Caucasian or European. (I remember my Grandpa Al had some really big, long ears lobes. I guess I got that going for me too.) But in pictures where you can see K.R.'s, he's got the typical long ears of a European. (So we won't get out of drawing them after all.)

As an accessory: Keith wears a small earring. I just clipped the left ear from the picture above. See if you can't identify the parts of the ear: the helix and lobe, the anti-helix, and the shadow area. Do evaluate where the base and top of the ear line up with the mouth and eyeline respectively. I've drawn a partial schematic in pencil on the right. (If you're at a loss about those parts-of-the-ear vocabulary, click here or on Keith's ear in the caricature at the top - it'll take you to the section in ears.)

Clip of the Left Ear

Closer look at the shape of the left ear

The over all Skin: Wrinkle patterns

Smoke, booze, too much sun, and hard living add a lot of lines to the face - anybody's face. Keith is testament to that. So he has lots of lines on his face. I mean lots of lines. Ruddy, leathery, beaten. All skin descriptions of sailors, farmers, and street people. There's a healthy "weathered" look and a less than healthy look. Our subject here is of the latter -the less than healthy. In an upcoming section, we'll look more at wrinkle patterns.

(I think I've thrown more than enough at you here already to go into that. Suffice it for now to say wrinkles form where there's motion - like at the corners of the eyes, and around the mouth. Turning and twisting of the head, gravity and grimacing give us the sag under the chin - the turkey gobbler effect.) With all that womping on Mr. Richards, I think on his behalf, he still gives off a very youthful look of mischief that's very much in his favor.

Ok. You came here for caricatures so it's time to get to work. Note I do what I say I do: I take an overall "clinician's inventory". Then I try and draw the features out if I have the time - like when I'm not drawing "live" at a gig - but before I ever try to pull it all together. The more you take your time analyzing a picture or photo for portrait or caricature work, the faster and more accurate you'll be when you start whipping them out live at gigs.

Click here for Part III:

Going three-dimensional:
The "Blockhead" Approach

Kasbohm & Company's


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