Drawing style

portr_verybigman (800x567)

Here are two sketches working from the same model and ending up with two quite different results. I liked the eyes and the fact the guy was of such generous proportions. Usually not trying to make anyone I draw look beautiful but rather exaggerating flaws, while drawing these I start to appreciate them. Will Terrell, cartoonist extraordinaire and generous youtuber, cracks me up when he goes people sketching, lovingly-jokingly talking of going where the”wildlife” is, which describes it so perfectly. If you take a look at your fellow passengers like a new species you find different aspects to their features and of stylizing these.

portr_bigman (539x800)


Lopsided chops

I know, I know, I know

when drawing you are supposed to use a mirror or flip the image in your software in order to create harmonic facial features

– I beg to differ, though.

What I like about human faces is their lack of symmetry and even when that fact is being exaggerated – or as I would call it ‘enhanced’ – what you get is character and something that feels more alive.

quick off-the-TV-people-sketch – tried to capture the pronounced difference of the eyes and the resulting quirky expression with a hint of dignity

Sure, in the animation industry something different may be required. In illustration, however, you have a greater amount of freedom –  if you wish.

It is quite astounding how far you can push facial features, exaggerate and still have an outcome that looks believable. On the other hand images of  pleasingly symmetrical faces look odd if you cut them across a vertical mid-axis, mirror one side and flip it across to make up a face from 2 exact copies of the same half. The now increased symmetry should make you consider that face more attractive. Oddly, this is hardly ever the case, though. Something seems to be wrong.

The result of a potentially controversial  study is being described in an article in the Telegraph just now:  “How your childhood is written in your face”

The current study’s conclusion – in a starkly simplified nutshell – seems to be that an outdoor toilet in early life may remain a stumbling block throughout, keeping you from climbing the winner’s podium later on in life, your Dad’s smoke rings may settle indelibly under your eyes, Mum’s unhealthy cuisine has the potential of turning chubby cheeks into permanently lopsided chops. And  even if against all odds you make it from rags to riches despite your underprivileged social background, these early hazards will remain imprinted on your face for all the world to see and interpret.


“…an outdoor toilet may remain a stumbling block throughout your life keeping you from climbing the winner’s podium…”


If you read carefully, however, it is mentioned that other factors apart from a deprived upbringing are inducive of a lack of symmetry in a person’s face.

You cannot help but wonder about the validity of such a study and whether there is more to this than those daily and conflicting results of numerous and probably well intended ‘studies’ on the simultaneous benefits and drawbacks of consuming coffee, lettuce, wine, chocolate and just about anything else. Or on what is deemed to cure or cause cancer – often the very same thing. Ben Goldacre is doing a funny presentation of these juxtaposed evils and grails for mankind in one of his talks that can be found on youtube.

The approach summarized in the article linking early hardships with facial features feels faintly reminiscent of 19th century’s pseudoscience of phrenology- telling a person’s character traits and proneness to commit criminal acts from looking at their shape of skull.

But long before that ancient Greeks tried to read their fellow men’s nature in their faces. Pythagoras is supposed to have rejected a prospective follower whose face seemed to indicate to him a ‘bad character’, poor sod. Physiognomy seems to have been held in esteem during the middle ages. Leonardo da Vinci dismissed it as ‘false’ and a ‘chimera’ with ‘no scientific foundation’. Hurrah, Leonardo. (And excuse my extensively quoting from wikipedia).

Renaissance English physician-philosopher Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) was one of the major proponents of the theory of physiognomy in his time.

He is also believed to have coined the expression caricature (when in fact, I believe, he only gave the definition in his writings of what the Italians called drawing a person’s characteristic features in an exaggerated manner, ‘in caricatura’).

And whilst some people would not wish to be caricatured, more often than not it seems to me that caricaturists enjoy and in their way appraise what makes a person’s features unique and thus uniquely attractive, recognizable, likeable.

I still somehow doubt that people with an easy childhood are more attractive due to symmetrical features and that it is possible to directly extrapolate same people will be less prone to stress related diseases, or not troubling you with extended or repeated  periods of sick leave. Which, in effect would make them even more attractive for employmers, almost a guarantee of an unstoppable upward mobility.

Whilst the scrunched up, lopsided and literally dough-faced among us give the impression their facial features have just been rearranged by a careless toddler and are left to linger in subordinate positions, possibly unemployment and the general ranks of eternal successlessness.

On the other hand, maybe this is the way it works and, as of now, noone has bothered to tell me. I agree with Leonardo that lines caused by facial expressions may indicate personality traits. Pre-Botox, anyway.

>>More plausible from a character designer’s point of view, maybe. But in real people we would find this degree of symmetry slightly disturbing. <<

Heaven forbid, Human Resources start casting applicants by the symmetry of their faces. It is when your face, demeanour, character, behaviour becomes utterly balanced and symmetrical you turn into a cartoon, a caricature of a human being. At a glance maybe pretty or pleasing to look at, but only resembling life, not alive, it seems to me.


Speaking for myself: I like a face that is less than the mirror of perfect symmetry. Crease-resistance being equally unnecessary. And I think a toilet seat, whether be it in- or outdoors, may make for a surprisingly suitable stepping stone in the right direction, whatever the direction.

people sketches – exclusive preview for Dennis!

Skizzen, die bisher noch keiner gesehen hat.

…of sketches that up to now had not yet seen the light of day…

MarkSteele Hamilton and I forgot who
Mark Steele and others
Judy Punch – not in the happiest of moods
dunno – pretty serious, too
Anna Chandler – oh, these people know how to party!
der Doktor ohne liebes Vieh
if Stephen Fry and Jo Brand had a love child…
JCarr sexed up
Jimmy Carr sexed up
long face
in the long face of adversity
hungry mouse - happy mouse
hungry mouse and happy mouse
RichardAyoade iii
Richard Ayoade ii – still have to practise drawing him
RichardAyoade ii
Richard Ayoade iii
RichardAyoade i
…and the firsfirst attempt. His hair is marvellous! like an entity in itself
QI guests
QI guests
dark and light
light and dark
actress I think
some actress?
Graham Norton – the easiest way to sketch is relaxed while watching one of your favourite programms