Advice on painting old faces, footprints, shattering mirrors, atmosphere and much more.
Tom Foster replies
While there are noticeable differences between male and female facial anatomy, the aging process is much the same and the resultant facial types are no more different than in youth. The main difference tends to be the storage of fat.
Female faces store proportionately greater levels of fat, resulting in rounder forms, as opposed to the male, in which muscle is more visible, leading to greater angularity. As time goes on, gravity takes its toll on these deposits of fat and they travel to the lover half of the face, just as the skin that binds them loosens and does the same. This places a greater emphasis on the furrows around the mouth, and the migration of cheek fat southwards will often leave the fat storage under the eyes isolated in pronounced bags.
Don’t think of these furrows and bags as lines, but rather the borders of threedimensional shapes. Using these shapes to define areas of light and shade helps me create anatomy that looks more physically real than merely drawing laughter lines and crow’s feet on to an otherwise youthful face. It also helps me keep the face characterful, rather than mired in detail that serves only to drown the viewer in the message that “this person is old.” If I can do this convincingly, my character’s age will be an asset to their expressiveness, rather than an impediment.
Age doesn’t have to be dehumanising and uglifying. Well-rounded anatomical forms can make an older character sprightly and playful.
I gather more than one reference photo (of different people), when attempting difficult facial anatomy. This enables me to isolate the commonalities in expression, anatomy and ageing process from details that are specific to an individual. I can then apply these traits to my character.