We have all seen caricatures of Elvis. When I started a file of them 14 years ago, the drawings were pretty simplistic and unmemorable, like the ones above. They did, however, meet the definition of a caricature:
Caricatures are images showing the features of its subject in an exaggerated way. Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary.
Don’t worry, none of the nasty ones will ever be put on ElvisBlog.
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. Back in January, 2005, a website with a very long name (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.
Anyway, the writer explained how he would draw several features of Elvis’ face. Here are the highlights of what he had to say. The first one is the most incredible description of Elvis’ hair that I have ever seen.
HAIR: “Big. Huge. Massive. Larger than life.” All the superlatives you can conjure up for that top-heavy, fifties, bow-of-a-ship, tough dude, frontal assault of a hair-doo.”
The article goes on to state that effectively drawing Elvis’ hair is a challenge.
“The answer is capturing the 3-D mass of it all. How do you do that? Lots 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.”
Now that’s some serious 3-D Elvis hair. But there’s none of the dangling ends like in the first two pictures. If you scroll back up to check them out again, also notice Elvis’ chin.
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.
Here’s another exaggerated Elvis chin. Nice job on the lip snarl, too. The article had little to say about Elvis’ snarl, but it did point out his cheekbones.
CHEEKBONES: “Whereas Arnold Schwarzenegger 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.”
Note that Elvis’ eyes are closed in this one.
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 is about his eyes women like. Then you couple the low eyelids with the slightly quizzical raised eyebrows, you get that come-on look.”
You have to say that this drawing has distinctive eyes, but they are not quite Elvis’ eyes. The legs remind me of Woody from Toy Story.
Here’s a great job on Elvis’ eyes. The artist also nailed the big 3D hair. Also, you may notice that Elvis’ mouth is rather small.
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.”
This drawing captures the small mouth, the high cheekbones, and of course, the big hair.
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.”
Here’s another full-lips drawing. This image of Elvis that has grown on me since I first discovered it. I think it is one of the best black and white caricatures of Elvis.
Several of the pictures above show Elvis in jumpsuits, but for some reason, that was not mentioned in the article as a major element for caricatures.
This one is a little puzzling. That’s a 50s Elvis pompadour, but he’s in a 70s jumpsuit. It is also an example of a frequently used caricature device – big head on a small body.
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.”
I was surprised that the article made no mention of Elvis’ sideburns. Some of the photos above had big ones. Here is another.
These count as serious sideburns. This drawing has Elvis’ shades in it, but they are not really exaggerated. Not many of the Elvis caricatures I’ve found featured the glasses. That’s surprising, because they are a distinctive element associated with Elvis.
Here are a few more good drawings with a little comment.
Another large Elvis head on a small Elvis body. This one shows young Elvis with a handful of fans up close and personal. Nice concept.
The big hair pictures generally seem to be young Elvis. And yet, here the sideburns are very subdued.
Here’s a great Elvis caricature featuring his lip snarl. I guess I like the touches of color, but I’d like to see this one without it, too.
I guess this is not technically a caricature because nothing is exaggerated. But I like it a lot, so we’ll end with it.
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