Daily Archives: December 2, 2007

What a Caricature Artist Sees in Elvis' Face

We have all seen caricatures of Elvis, and some of them are pretty good.  Obviously, caricature artists have a highly developed sense of facial observation.  They can look at the features of a face and know which ones could be best exaggerated while still keeping the full image recognizable.


The January 1, 2005, e-newsletter from www.drawing-faces-and-caricatures-made-easy.com had an interesting topic:  “What Makes Any Face Caricaturable?  How About Elvis Presley?” 


How about him, indeed.  When I saw that title, I knew it was going to be an interesting article.  An expert was going to analyze Elvis’ face for the benefit of aspiring caricature artists.  Cool.


The writer of the newsletter started with this photo for his analysis.  Before we go on, can you tell what’s wrong with the photo?   Answer below. 



Anyway, the newsletter writer took each feature of Elvis’ face and told us how he would use it.  Here are the highlights of what he had to say.


HAIR:  “Big.  Huge.  Massive, larger than life.”  (Editors note:  That would seem to cover it, but he goes on with the most incredible description of Elvis’ hair that I have ever seen.)  “All the superlatives you can conjure up for that top-heavy, fifties, bow-of-a-ship, tough dude, frontal assault of a hair-doo.”  (Wow.  Well done.)


He continues:  That’s the obvious.  What’s not so obvious – and that’s what makes drawing this kind of hair a challenge – is capturing the 3-D mass of it all.  How do you do that?  Lot’s of contours and highlights.  Elvis also has lots of loose dangling ends of hair that fall across his face.  You’ll see that in almost every… caricature of Elvis, artists capitalize on this.”


FOREHEAD:  “Overall Elvis shows a lot of forehead, because he wears his hair up so high, but he also has a broad Hollywood forehead.”  (Whatever that is.)


CHEEKBONES:   “Whereas Arnold Schwartzenneger boasted really hard angles in his face, Elvis is softer edged.   He has prominent cheekbones.  They may drop low, because they have a mass to them.  They also seem to rise high as they roll past the level of the eyes.  You’ll see artists grab on that, too.”


MOUTH:  Traveling south down his face, you encounter the cheekbones, then rather full cheeks, then a relatively small maxilla behind the mouth (that’s the bone that holds your upper teeth).  This explains why his mouth may seem small compared to Julia Roberts (who has a very broad, flat-at-the-front-where-the-teeth-are type of maxilla.  So, if you relate all that to Mr. Average, you could play up the forehead and cheeks and shrink the mouth.”


EYES, EYEBROWS, EYELIDS:  Women just plain love Elvis’ eyes.  Even if this is what women find sexy, here’s what I see as the observable deal.  It’s the low riding eyelids, almost that sleepy eyed look.  You see Jack Nicholson and John Travolta do it.  In any case, it’s the confidence and control factor half-mast eyes seem to exude.  That’s what I think it about his eyes women like.  Then you couple the low eyelids with the slightly quizzical raised eyebrows, you get that come-on look.”  (Sounds logical to me.  What do you think, ladies?)


NOSE:  You’ll see his nose drawn with a very broad root (where it comes out of the forehead between the eyes), that maintains that width right down to the sharp tip.  A tip that has a dimple in it dividing left and right halves.”


LIPS:  For a white guy, Elvis has pretty full lips.  Even though, as mentioned above, the mouth overall seems on the small side (from corner to corner), the lips — especially the lower one — are very full.”


CHIN: Elvis has a full rounded chin.  About the only thing else I can say about it is when you draw it, think “sphere” or “square” and try to incorporate those shapes into the chin when you draw.”  (Sorry, I don't think it's possible to incorporate square into anything about Elvis.)


ELVIS’ TRADEMARK SNARL:  (Editors note:  Before you read this, go ahead and curl your lip like Elvis.  It is part of a test.)


“I flipped the above picture around in Photoshop.  The difference?  Elvis curls the left side of his lip, not the right side like in the picture.  Elvis curls the left side of his lip, as do 95% of the rest of the world.”


So, there’s the answer to the question about what was wrong with the picture above.  Did you figure it out? 


I have asked a few friends to do the Elvis snarl, and they all curled the left side of their lip, so the 95% figure may be accurate.  How about you?  The Elvis Snarl Test – one of the many things you find on Elvisblog and nowhere else.


©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net