Sunday Mailbag: Drawing Subject Young and Old?

December 18th, 2016 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Have you ever had to draw someone who has been in showbiz for most of their adult life, and had to draw a young version of them, and an older version of them (think Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Mike Patton, etc)? Can you essentially pull it off by the drawing same face with a few extra wrinkles, or does a person’s facial structure change in a more nuanced way? (Jowls, bigger noses, etc.)

A: Yes, I have had to draw different aged version of subjects many times. The first example that comes to mind for me is probably Ed O’Neil and Christina Applegate, both whole I drew in their “Married with Children” days for the NOW Comics title and then again for MAD‘s parodies of “Modern Family” and “Samantha Who”, which was about a 14 to 17 year time gap.

bundys2Applegate and O’Neil in panel from “Kelly goes to Kollege #1”, NOW Comics 1994

bundys1Ad for the comic book title, approx 1992

samwhocares4Panel from “Slomantha, Who Cares?”, MAD #489, May 2008

samwhocares2Another Panel from “Slomantha, Who Cares?”

Muddled Family 3Panel from “Muddled Family”, MAD #509, June 2011Muddled Family 2More “Muddled Family”

Muddled Family 1

Actually it’s hardly fair to use these images as a comparison of how faces age, since my skill level had vastly improved in the 15 years or so in between these drawings (ya THINK???). In fact for all of those folks out there that chastise me saying I am being unfairly hard on myself when I (frequently) say the work I did on those old “Married… with Children” comics was utter garbage, I present exhibit A.

Getting back to your question: no, you can’t just add some wrinkles and gray hair to a younger caricatured version of someone and have it then be an accurate depiction of the actually aged subject. A lot of factors are involved and everyone ages differently. Some develop fleshier faces and get jowls, neck waddles and are generally puffier. Others get gaunt and their skin gets thin and leathery. With men (and to a lesser extent women) the hairline recedes and with both the hair gets thinner, wispier and change color and texture. Noses and ears get longer as you age, skin begins to get loose and sag in different areas with different people. The skin between the eye and the eyebrow often sags and obscures the upper eyelid, giving older people a flatter eye shape. Then you have the wrinkles, bags and other lumps and bumps that surface, which are more or less prominent in different places with different people. Then you have the added X factor of celebrities generally doing everything in their power to artificially stay young looking through surgery, makeup, fake hair, etc.

Of course, where will (and should) be similarities between the older and younger versions of people. It’s just that the years between make them different people, in both looks and experience. I might look at younger pictures of someone when drawing a current version just to see where they came from, but I would always want to base any current caricature on current references and examples of how they really look at the time I am drawing them.

Thanks to Lindsey Dixon for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!

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