Caricatures - Elvis Presley:
What Makes Any Face Caricaturable?
How About Elvis Presley?

How do you know what to exaggerate? The answer is in the details...
Caricature and Drawing Newsletter for March 1st, 2005
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Once and for all getting you drawing faces and caricatures:

1 January 2005
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Your 1 January 2005, Communiqué


My treat: Five Elvis' for the price of one :-)

Well you know it's been a long time since I've done much drawing. So I put it to myself to draw for at least half an hour five nights in a row. And the following is what I came up with. See, if you just schedule in the time (like just 15 minutes a day or every other day) the momentum will start to build. And you'll be asking "why didn't I start that years ago?". I spent the majority of my time drawing and re-drawing Elvis Presley. And 30 minutes rapidly turned into 45, 60 and more minutes of pure (though in the beginning frustrating) enjoyment.  -- It was more frustrating in the beginning. And I only mention this since in  the last e-zine I was talking about how it had 6,7,8 months since I've done any significant drawing. Let's dive on in...

See original at the link above. (This is not my own picture of Elvis, i.e. I don't own it so I really shouldn't keep it here permanently on the site until I get permission from I flipped this picture around in Photoshop to make it face the same way the other pictures face. 


OK, what makes Elvis caricaturable?

Let's start from the top down...

The 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. Next to Lyle Lovett and maybe Boxing promoter Don King, Elvis sports third place in my book for front heavy hair. That's the obvious. What's not so obvious - and 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. Now I was pretty lazy with the following examples. Only on two of the samples below did I even begin to fill in the hair. (Go ahead and check 'em out.) Watch for how the highlights traverse the separate locks of hair to form an overall highlight shape. 

Elvis also has lots of loose dangling ends of hair that fall across his face. You'll see in almost every picture / or caricature of Elvis, artists capitalize on this.


The forehead and overall shape of the head

Whereas as Arnold Schwartzenegger (at least in his younger days) boasted really hard angles in his face, Elvis is softer edged. Might have been zero body fat for men wasn't a requirement for males in the 50's, but he still has prominent cheek bones. 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 - not unlike the cheekbones you see in Native Americans or folks of Asian descent. You'll see artists grab on that too.

Overall Elvis shows a lot of forehead (because he wears his hair up so high), but he also has a broad Hollywood forehead. Again, 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 - and explains why his mouth may seem small compared to say Julia Roberts (who has a very broad, flat-at-the-front-where-the- teeth-are type of maxilla) then, down to the broad chin. So, if you relate all that to Mr. Average, you could say as a starting point, you could play up the forehead and cheeks, shrink the mouth, maybe even narrow the areas around the mouth and top it off (or bottom it off) with a broad chin and jaw. 


The eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes and local  shadows

Women just plain love Elvis' eyes. (At least that's what I've gathered). Even if this is what women find sexy, here's what I see as the observable deal. And what's that again Jeff? It's the low riding eye lids, almost that sleepy eyed look. You see Jack Nicholson (out of wanting to intimidate) and John Travolta do it - but or him it's a total "I don't care what happens to you" look when he's playing a bad dude. 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 eye lids with the slightly quizzical raised eye brows (brows, not lids), you get that come-on look. 

And when you raise the eyebrows you get more brow bone. And on Elvis, I swear he used (or his makeup artist used) some kind eye shadow on that space between the eye brow and the upper eye lid. So that's worth exploiting - at least on the young Elvis. Do this on an overweight middle aged man and the results will be, well, less than captivating. That's my guess. (I like women if there's any doubt :-)

The other thing I want to point out now  -- and you'll see below -- is the primitive form and how alternating light and shadow are used in the brow bone area of the eye. In fact, I want you to look for this effect in not just the brow but in every part of the face that is slightly cylindrical: like the brow bone, the nasal wings / nostril, and the lower lip. In fact I highly recommend you review the Flash lesson on The Lips and Mouth after you skim through this. Here's a close up of the bone over the upper eye - look for the layers of light and shadow: 


Can you see the primitive form in the brow bone over the eye?


The 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 on down to the sharp tip - especially when the caricature is of an older Elvis. Caricatures of a young Elvis show a more flattering nose. What seems to be an accurate description is that it is broad at it's root, thick through the main body of the nose (the middle wedge) and comes to a very tight tapered tip. A tip that has a dimple in it dividing left and right halves. (And what's the cause of those halves? Check out the Flash "Noses" lesson in the Archives or on your CD if "greater alar cartilages" don't mean anything to you.) 

Check out these Elvis caricatures for this nasal comparison:

And the official Elvis site:


The lips and teeth

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 is very full. That's worth exploiting. Of course, how do you exaggerate a lip and keep it realistic looking? The same secondary theme we've been hinting at: that primitive form in the shape of a cylinder. In just one caricature below you'll see Elvis with his teeth showing. Compare the lip shapes between pictures: is there a difference in the lips? Can you identify it? Or is the general primitive from of a tube preserved?

Notice in the photo above the direction of the nasal philtrum: how does the Elvis "sneer" affect the philtrum? Don't know what a "philtrum" is? See the Flash lesson on Mouth and lips. Notice how there are no liens in the philtrum and it's solely the play of highlight and shadow that suggest it's there at all. 

Also note where the lower lip casts it's shadow in relation on the highlight on the top margin of the chin: if the lower lip was really huge, what would happen to that chin highlight? See the photo above to see this subtle chin highlight and the drawings below to see how the really big lower lip changed or obliterated this highlight. 

(OK,  I'll give you a hint: the nasal philtrum is the little indentation, that little groove that runs between the nose and the upper lip. But still go review the Flash lesson on the Mouth and lips.)


The chin

No David Hopperfeld chin dimple  (is that a real name -- the guy on Baywatch?? I don't know :-), but 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 it. 

There's more under the chin than on the chin (and this is true in most people) because you have the neck, the Adam's Apple, neck muscles, clothes and collars casting all sorts of gradations of shadows and highlights. I avoided a lot of that by giving our subject some big old 70's disco collars. When you draw these (shirt collars), make sure you observe for the shadow beneath the collar and draw something there that represents shadow.


Body Language

See john Kascht's painting again. I know, I rarely throw bodies on the caricatures at this site (even though I love doing life life drawing as much as drawing caricatures). Generally though, if you can draw a face, you can draw the body.


Final comments about Elvis's trademark Snarl

And like I said above, I flipped the above picture around in Photoshop to make it face the same way the caricatures below face. The difference? Elvis curls the left side of his lip, not the right like in the picture. As do 95 % of the rest of the world who can curl their lip into a snarl like that - the 95% that can snarl only on the left. Like that. 

By the way that 95% figure is by my own small research efforts. I draw from a sample size of two. Me and Elvis: we both curl our lips on the left. That's really a 100% result but I take away the 5% the way the network TV stations always have their plus or minus 5% during the presidential campaigns. So that's how I arrive at the 95%. It's more than likely your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse can only snarl or curl up their lip on the left too. This is important: without this unconscious quirk of attraction, you're relationship would probably crumble. On the other hand, you're probably different handed. Ha! See? It means absolutely nothing. OK I'll shut up about this now....New years has begun early around these parts. Hic.




PS - Click over the pictures to see the larger pictures and read more comments about each specific picture.


elvis-1-rdy.jpg (144010 bytes)

1) Off the cuff Elvis that worked pretty dang well with woefully unfinished hair



elvis-5-rdy.jpg (103390 bytes)

2) Big, big, BEEG  hair and big chin Elvis

elvis-2-clooney-rdy.jpg (130490 bytes)

3) The George Clooney influenced  Elvis


elvis-3-rdy.jpg (102379 bytes)

4) The "really bizarrely exaggerated Elvis that starts to not look like Elvis" Elvis.

elvis-4-rdy.jpg (124498 bytes)

5) The young brash Elvis with a really  nasty, wicked  smile Elvis

  elvis-eye-close-up.jpg (135629 bytes)

6) Study of Elvis eye - keep your attention on the primitive form that's suggested by the light and shadow pattern.



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