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Drawing beautiful ugly people

I watched the movie "Lincoln" last night and was fascinated by the beauty of the ugly faces. If that doesn't make much sense to you, please let me explain, as an illustrator.

My fascination with ugly faces began the first time that I read that Leonardo daVinci loved to take his sketchbook to the marketplace and seek out the ugliest people that he could find to draw. I was about 22 when I discovered this, and I was hooked. I don't carry my sketchbook around anymore, but I am continuously drawing faces in my mind. And I really like ugly faces.

Don't get me wrong, I like pretty girls and beautiful women. But when I draw them, it's just eyelashes and teeth. Not much visual interest there for an illustrator. And most movies cast "movie stars" and make them look as good as possible. I could tell that the director of Lincoln wanted ugly for the visual richness the movie has.

I have no idea who all of the actors are, nor do I really care. Every effort was made to make them as ugly as possible, from strange hairstyles to unflattering lighting and camera angles. I have to admit that my mind wandered from the story (I knew how it would end anyway) to just looking at the faces. And I applaud the actors for going all out for this movie, and being as ugly as possible.

I started drawing superheroes as a kid. It was a formula - big chin for the men and long eyelashes for the women. Then at some point I put aside the formula and started looking around. And the world is full of the tremendous beauty of ugly people.

By the way, I am using the word "ugly" very loosely here. That's not what I see. I see tremendous character and dignity. Watch "Lincoln" and you will see it, too.