November 12, 2007

How To Draw a Face

You may have recently seen my father's drawings of "The Face" which have appeared on my birthday cakes and cards over the years.

For my birthday present this year, all I asked him for was a step-by-step guide explaining exactly how to draw it.

I scanned what he sent. Here are the results...

As fantastic as this guide is, I was left with more questions than answers, so I got him on the phone for the following EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW...

* * * * * * *

Okay, Dad. Tell me the story behind you learning how to draw a face.

Well, I used to sit next to a boy named Mario -- he reminded me of Fat Albert, you know?

How so?

Well, he was really heavy, but a very pleasant guy. Very nice and he was gifted. Mario's talent was he could draw so well. And I used to sit next to him in grammar school and I wanted to draw too, but I couldn't draw a circle -- so I got an art book. I think I sent away for it. And what you see is as far my talent took me. This face was in the book and when I was successful at it, I quit as a winner.

Did you and Mario form a band in a junk yard? Fat Albert did that.

Unfortunately, no.

Let's get back to the face. You're telling me that this book said this was, "How To Draw A Face"?

It was a cartoon book on how to draw all faces and different kinds of cartoons.

Was this a famous cartoon face or an ordinary face?

No, it was just how you see it! C'mon, this looks good!

Do you remember anything about the book?

It was kind of thick.

What year was this?

I'd say it was about... 1947 maybe. 1948. I was about 7 or 8 years old.

Where were you at the time?

I was in Brooklyn. When I lived on Herkimer Street. Bedford Stuyvesant.

Do you remember the name of the book?


Do you remember what was drawn on the cover?


Do you know who you're speaking to right now?

That's very funny. I think the book had a soft cover and was red and white. You know, now that I'm thinking, it could have been an alphabet book, since the drawing starts out with an "F." So maybe it was to draw by the alphabet, but I'm only guessing on that.

Let's look at the face. Is he wearing a hat?

It's like a hat. A cap. That's just the way they made the face. I guess it's a hat. It could be his hair.

In step 3 you've added an eye. That's an eye right? The thing with the dot in it.

That's an ear.

AN EAR??!!

Oh yeah.

You realize this is the greatest day of my life, right?

What are you doing with what I'm telling you?

I'm putting it on the website.

So you're going to embarrass me in front of everyone?

I'm just bringing your artistic genius to the world. Back to the drawing. If that's his ear, what are the 2 things to the right of it.

I guess that's his eyes.


To me, this is a guy. I just followed the picture. There were no instructions. They gave you step-by-step. No written instructions.

And those 2 things are his eyes?

Yes .

Why do they look like that?

That's the way they had it! It's not my design. I just copied it out of a book.

If those are his eyes, do you think it's weird that the mouth isn't under them?

I never thought about it.

Well, then what is shooting out of his face? A nose? Is he sneezing?

That's the way they finished up the picture. Now that you ask me, I don't have a clue.

Well, what do YOU think that thing is? A nose?

It can't be a nose. It's a design to show the picture was finished at the end.

Like a signature?

It was a wishbone shape with 3 lines going down. That's all I know.

When you see people's faces, do they look like this to you?

I think my face looks great.

I think it looks great, too! Now answer this honestly. How close do you think this resembles the original drawing from the book.

Oh, 100%. It's like a xerox.

This day keeps getting better for me. You realize that.

I'm glad I'm making you happy, but I think you're embarrassing me. This is the limitations of my art.

So, Dad. Now that you're telling me the thing with a dot in it is an ear, someone named Lauren who reads the site tried to recreate what she thought the original art might have looked like, based on your cake drawings. (I send my dad a link to the following...)

Nah, I like mine better. This looks like part of The Scream. You can't have real eyes. This is different. No resemblance at all. She's got square eyebrows. It's nice, but it has NO resemblance. And the mouth is a regular circle. I'm closing this window. I like mine better.

(At this point, my mother interrupts us)

My Mom: Can I tell you what I think. He drew this picture for me many times. Originally I thought that was a pipe that he had in his face.

Dad: Sticking in his neck?!

Mom: It used to be a pipe.

Dad: No, no, no.

Me: You know that game "Telephone" where one kid whispers something into another kid's ear and it goes down the line until at the end it's completely different? I think that's what this is. A crazy game of Telephone that's taken place over 60 years in one man's mind.

Mom: I agree. But I think it got better over time.

Dad: That's what it looked like in the book!

Thanks, Dad.

* * * * * * * *

And now you know "How To Draw A Face."


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