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May 8, 2009 9:21 PM   Subscribe

An Artist's Guide to Human Types "If I needed to draw someone from [a] specific part of the world, what would I need to know about his or her physical characteristics?" The author, a well-traveled Lebanese artist, also has a graphic novel online.
posted by desjardins (70 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know who else...?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:29 PM on May 8, 2009


... was an author?
posted by decagon at 10:42 PM on May 8, 2009


,,,was Lebanese? Gertrude Stein, that's who.
posted by bunnytricks at 10:48 PM on May 8, 2009


...or an artist, even?

(I wonder if the Western-classics-manga camp has gotten around to Mein Kampf yet)
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:53 PM on May 8, 2009


He certainly doesn't have a very reliable webserver.
posted by delmoi at 10:57 PM on May 8, 2009


I actually found this really interesting. I've often wondered what exactly it is that makes Slavic people look, well, Slavic-looking, what makes Berbers look different from Arabs, etc. There's a guide to Asian and African types on the site as well. Although I disagree with a few of the pointers (70% double eyelids among South Chinese?!) and a few of the examples faces are a bit of (his Baltic people look almost Asian, and his Saami are a bit too exaggerated) most of the faces are pretty recognizable as the type they're supposed to be. Excellent link.
posted by pravit at 11:07 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


bit off*, not bit of.
posted by pravit at 11:07 PM on May 8, 2009


[a] must mean something quite different from where I'm from, cause I'm not seeing much [a]...
posted by Sir Mildred Pierce at 11:12 PM on May 8, 2009


I also have abundant pilosity.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:17 PM on May 8, 2009


These guides are fascinating. Thanks, desjardins--truly best of the Web.
posted by rdone at 11:26 PM on May 8, 2009


Wonderful information! Best of the Web!
posted by woodblock100 at 11:45 PM on May 8, 2009


Wow. Fantastic!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:00 AM on May 9, 2009


A visual artist who doesn't have a flash-based website? Hallelujah!
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:13 AM on May 9, 2009 [5 favorites]




Swarthy people have noses just like this, see.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:49 AM on May 9, 2009


Years ago, about 1988 or so, I was browsing in the stacks of the University of Waikato library, and I found a book on anthropology that turned out to be a very old-school, Rassenkunde-type physical anthropology book. I imagine it had been donated as part of Waikato's original collection. It referred to Carlton Coon a lot, and had very beautiful black and white plates illustrating "types" from around the world.

I would swear this dude has the same book.

Note, I doubt he has the same nasty prejudices about people's character that typically go with this sort of human taxonomy. I see he actually says up front that he wants to avoid ugly colonial stereotypes in depicting members of different groups. And even I would admit there definitely are "types" that exemplify the family resemblances in various geographical groups. But this still pings my racism radar good and hard.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:14 AM on May 9, 2009


PS: it occurs to me that the simplification required for caricature and cartoon naturally leads to these visual stereotypes. But I'd love to know how an African artist who grew up in Africa, or an Chinese artist who grew up in China, might develop such stereotypes from first principles. Would they look the same? My hunch is that they would not.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:18 AM on May 9, 2009


PPS: I am reminded of something I read recently about Mervyn Peake. His drawings of (European) people are frequently grotesque, and supposedly this is because he spent his childhood in Asia, seeing few if any English people, so that when his family brought him back to England, he was struck by the knobbly deformed countenances of his ostensible countrymen. Ever since I read that I've been looking at people on the bus, particularly "white" people, and seeing just how weird they look compared to any sort of ideal human.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:25 AM on May 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Did I say dude? That lady is no dude.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:32 AM on May 9, 2009


And even I would admit there definitely are "types" that exemplify the family resemblances in various geographical groups. But this still pings my racism radar good and hard.

I'm having a hard time seeing what could possibly be racist by showing general body characteristics of different ethnic groups. Unless you are drawing some bizarre conclusion about intelligence or inborn tendency based on length of legs or head shape, then it's no different from noting different types of bear. I'm definitely baltic/lapp type - I recognize myself and my family members' features in those simple drawings - and I'm sure someone of another descent might do the same.

What's wrong with that?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:43 AM on May 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure I see what's wrong with this either. On a skeletal level, these distinctions are ... statistically insignificant. But on the flesh level, there are trends of what genes express in what parts of the world.

We all look weird, really. The concept of "ideal human" is a strange one - but to deny there are trends is pointless. We can judge these things without the normative "better" or "pretty" or even "normal" - file it all, as an old anthropology professor of mine used to say under "The wonders of human variation."

And sometimes you look at everyone around you, even your own reflection and think - good lord, how does all of this come out of these very simple bones?
posted by strixus at 1:51 AM on May 9, 2009


The terminology and the classification are distinctly reminiscent of the racial science of the 20s and 30s. Describing people as "Alpine" is generally only current these days amongst people who are still into that stuff.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:52 AM on May 9, 2009


OK. Look at her description of the Baltic type here. Then read the quotes here which originate with this chap.

Quite possibly the resemblance is co-incidental, but these similarities are why the racism radar goes PING.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:56 AM on May 9, 2009


You didnt even realise the artist was a woman, which shows how deeply you read the links.

*PING*

:)
posted by the cuban at 2:09 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is all a little 19th century. "Irish head is one of the largest in Europe!"

Her illustrations are sweet, although they are a little too close to Yahoo Answers avatars for my liking.
posted by fire&wings at 4:30 AM on May 9, 2009


My slender to medium jaw dropped.
posted by applemeat at 4:40 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been looking at people on the bus, particularly "white" people, and seeing just how weird they look compared to any sort of ideal human.

This pings my racism meter good and hard.
posted by dydecker at 4:58 AM on May 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Easy there fella. Being against racism does not mean we should pretend that there is no variation in human features. The whole 'there are no races' point of view which, although being theoretically appealing and having some good genetic evidence to back it up, is pretty bullshit in real life and totally not practical. To be honest, I find that brand of anti-racism really misguided. It leads to people taking pride in discovering the secret racism of others. It's just really ugly. 'See! You acknowledged a difference between certain peoples! Therefore you are really racist even though you don't know it!' Now, sometimes it's true, and people are actually being racist without knowing it. But I think it's a stretch to say that is the case here.

Look, people are different. We have different shapes, different skin colors, different voices, different physiques! And very importantly, on top of all that, we all have different cultures! Racism is essentially to acknowledge these facts, and then be a total dick about it. Anti-racism should be based on acknowledging these facts and celebrating it.

But in relation to the post: I found the description of hair patches of men on differing caucasian groups really interesting! Like the shape of the hair on the forearms, chest belly etc. Although I think the author should do some more travelling if she really thinks that North and South Indian men are entirely hairless. I mean, come on!
posted by molecicco at 5:00 AM on May 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


actually I don;t have a racism meter. but I do find a shame that we can't enjoy an interesting link without all the usual sanctimonious guff about Hitler, Eugenics, racistfilter, and calling people of skin-colour-X on the local bus a bunch of fuglies.
posted by dydecker at 5:02 AM on May 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Those of you worrying that this is a racist tract --

This is an artists' reference book. As in, a reference for someone who wants to paint a scene from, say, the Bhagavad-Gita or from Celtic myth, and wants to be sure that they don't paint someone in the background who looks like they could have come from Naples. Is that a racist concern?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:35 AM on May 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


These are really cool, but I was a little disappointed at the lack of female example figures. I want to see curvy ladyshapes from all over the world, goddamn it!
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 6:18 AM on May 9, 2009


Ever since I read that I've been looking at people on the bus, particularly "white" people, and seeing just how weird they look compared to any sort of ideal human.

*checks profile picture*

Play him off, keyboard cat.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:30 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Today's Greek show remarkable physical continuity with those of Antiquity.

FUCK YES, HAIRY GODLIKE MOTHERFUCKERS IN THE HOUSE
posted by Greg Nog at 6:32 AM on May 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Huh! And looking at her comics, her style reminds me a lot of Carla Speed McNeil, which is making me want to dig out my old issues of Finder again. This a great post all around!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:40 AM on May 9, 2009


The face sketches looked really similar, whereas when you look at photographs of street scenes from around the world people display a lot more variability. Too bland to be interesting to me, honestly.
posted by Forktine at 6:52 AM on May 9, 2009


I'm glad this totally racist link distracted me from my feminist fury over my Anatomy for the Artist book. I mean, the author actually implies that men have wider shoulders and are generally taller than women!

I thought it was pretty brilliant. Can't we celebrate, rather than denigrate, our differences?

I was interested in the Central Amerind drawing, since I'm part Mexican and I've never really been sure which features in what we think of as "Mexican" are from the colonial Spanish blood mixed in and which features come from the indigenous heritage. My family looks pretty Central Amerind, whatever that means.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:54 AM on May 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Everybody's fugly, in their own waaaay.....
posted by rokusan at 7:07 AM on May 9, 2009


Fun fact gleaned from this site: In the 19th century, the Dutch were the shortest Europeans!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:15 AM on May 9, 2009


You know who else is (half) Lebanese... Salma Hayak, that's hot. (I mean 'who'... 'that's who'.)

I don't get how anyone can be pro-any-one-race, when so many of the best-looking people of our time (from Tiger Woods to Rosario Dawson to the freakin' Rock) are of unusual mixed-racial stock. 'Unusual' meaning less-common, of course.

If I was playing SimGeneticOverlord, I'd definitely be tossing the Irish in with the Cubans, and the Lebanese into Brazil. I'd have a master race of fashion model hotties in two generations, and the other players could just kiss my (perfect, oh so perfect) ass.
posted by rokusan at 7:16 AM on May 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


On second look, I'm really loving all of the "weird facts" given on this site, perhaps even more than the breakdown of hairiness by demographic. This weird fact is really, really blowing my mind, given the amount of money that goes into advertising for "whiter teeth" in the US.

During the Renaissance, Europeans, especially the English, blackened their teeth to show that they could afford sugar, whose tendency was to rot the teeth.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:20 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan: If I was playing SimGeneticOverlord, I'd definitely be tossing the Irish in with the Cubans, and the Lebanese into Brazil. I'd have a master race of fashion model hotties in two generations, and the other players could just kiss my (perfect, oh so perfect) ass.

Russell Peters: The whole world is mixing.
posted by Decimask at 7:36 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


the amount of money that goes into advertising for "whiter teeth" in the US.

I have friends who call artificially-white, ridiculously-straight, highly-engineered dentura "American Teeth", because they're so ridiculous. Like a bad boob job.
posted by rokusan at 7:46 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can't we celebrate, rather than denigrate, our differences?

I see what you did there.
posted by rokusan at 7:47 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should always be depicted drinking a cup of tea. Toodle-pip, motherfuckers!
posted by Artw at 8:04 AM on May 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


"The most common breast shapes are triangle, pear, round, heart, and teardrop, but you'll have to excuse me because I can't for the life of me find visual references... "

That's true. It's very difficult to find pictures of breasts on the internet.
posted by Ratio at 8:25 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


decimask - the discussion here also made me think of russell peters.
posted by molecicco at 8:27 AM on May 9, 2009


She could be an artist for the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland.
posted by eye of newt at 8:40 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like the ladies with a good amount of steatopygia, know what I'm sayin'?
posted by Pecinpah at 8:45 AM on May 9, 2009




During the Renaissance, Europeans, especially the English, blackened their teeth to show that they could afford sugar, whose tendency was to rot the teeth.

Tooth-blackening in Asia. I didn't know it was still practiced anywhere until I went looking for that link, but it was a big deal in Japan until the government banned it in the 1800s. Apparently showing yer big gleaming fangs is unladylike.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:12 AM on May 9, 2009


Maybe I've been watching too much Doctor Who, but when I saw the Saami drawing and the sparse hairs on the chin, my first thought was 'oh, tentacles! They're part Ood!'

I like that she mentioned the 'reduced jaw' bit. I have that, as well as some of the other characteristics she pointed out. I also have the 'mystery Great Grandfather' who came from Norway, but no one knows where. Maybe I'm actually part Saami. Or part Ood. (I wouldn't doubt it, in either case)
posted by spinifex23 at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2009


I'm Germanic, Celtic, AND Slavic! HA!

She says nothing about mutts.
posted by kldickson at 10:12 AM on May 9, 2009


HYBRID VIGOR, FUCKERS.
posted by kldickson at 10:13 AM on May 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I've often wondered what exactly it is that makes ... Berbers look different from Arabs, etc."

Keep on wondering, because the description of "Berbers" is ridiculous.
posted by HopperFan at 10:21 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "facts" about Sami people are wrong. Average height: 1,61 m? "Small jaw and nose combine to give a child-like look"? For counterexamples, see here, here and here. Nobody collects data about average height for Sami people these days, but the Norwegian Armed Forces collects regional data about the average height of recruits. In Finnmark, the area in Norway with the highest relative number of Sami people, average height for recruits was 177.5 cm (2005). The national average for recruits (2005) was 179.8, according to Statistics Norway (page 149, PDF in Norwegian).
posted by iviken at 10:23 AM on May 9, 2009


I just love how these don't fit reality. He describes British people as having prominant, but pinched noses. Many may do - but many also have what I refer to as "the potato nose" a sort of shapeless lump (including me, and 1/2 my family).
posted by jb at 10:37 AM on May 9, 2009


Sorry, she describes.

But still - everyone knows the English have squishy, shapeless noses - and red from either cold or alcohol. Also, mostly what I so scientifically call "dumpy". Not fat, just sort of lumpy.

I've been looking at people on the bus, particularly "white" people, and seeing just how weird they look compared to any sort of ideal human.

This pings my racism meter good and hard.
posted by dydecker at 7:58 AM on May 9 [3 favorites +] [!]


Is it racist if it's about your own family?
posted by jb at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2009


How strange to have my physical appearance so accurately quantified (Welsh-Irish ancestry, and, apparently, morphology)
posted by cmoj at 11:26 AM on May 9, 2009


You know, it's nice to celebrate diversity and all that, but how about getting it correct? Half of the Slavic peoples have been dumped into the Alpine group, and none of my kajillion Vietnamese relatives (or, for that matter, most of the Vietnamese people I can ever recall meeting) have skin as dark as the "average" Southeast Asians portrayed.

And I agree with i_am_joes_spleen - the principle of this concept is not a bad thing, but it is problematic that the artist feels the need to recycle racist, colonialist terminology of the 19th/early 20th century in order to present it. I've seen this kind of thing done several times and I always want to tell the creators to just scrap the system and start over already.
posted by bettafish at 1:51 PM on May 9, 2009


Heh. I defy anyone to recognize the forward-facing "North Indian" and "South Indian" faces out of context as specifically Indian/South Asian, as opposed to anything else.

Personally, I would advise life-drawing sessions or practice using geo-tagged photos from flickr for the curious artist, rather than something like this (particularly for faces). Not that it's horrible; I just think it's ... very, very limited. If it prompts you to start looking at differences in things like eyebrows and nose shapes, great, but the Indian faces alone are a good indication that the details may not be very useful.

(No disrespect to desjardins--it's certainly worth posting; when I first ran across it some time ago I thought it was quite fascinating as an artifact and spent quite a while looking at it.)
posted by wintersweet at 2:38 PM on May 9, 2009


If you take away the typing labels, it's just a really interesting classification of how to draw the types of bodies and faces you see on the different people you meet every day. I think this is a useful resource, because frankly, racism aside, he's got a lot of different facial & body types that do often occur...it's just that if he hadn't given them all a race, maybe just a general region (which he seems to be trying to do, but', yknow...)

I'd like to see how this guy handles his sketches living somewhere that's nothing like the developed countires. He might find some solutions all his own!
posted by saysthis at 3:44 PM on May 9, 2009


The artist is a woman.

Look, I'm glad bettafish managed to say what I wanted to, far more succinctly. I don't believe the artist is a racist. I am troubled by the language and categorisation. That's all.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:53 PM on May 9, 2009


Personally, I would advise life-drawing sessions or practice using geo-tagged photos from flickr for the curious artist

Ah, that would research, which is racist.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on May 9, 2009


All these comments and no one has looked at her graphic novel? It's no Promethea, but it's a pretty fun read.
posted by smartyboots at 5:23 PM on May 9, 2009


Stuff like this pisses me off, propagating the false idea that "x people look like this, and y people look like that." Sure, there may be "trends" - but these aren't static, especially in a increasingly mobile and mixing world. Not to mention that taking this stuff seriously has a lot of negative implications on normality/abnormality, by claiming that those that don't fit the "type" aren't somehow as authentic - nationally, ethnically, "racially," or what not.

Man, one of the greatest joys of being mixed is having people continually try to guess "where I'm from," hear their constant guesses, and to tell them that their repeated guesses are all wrong. I derive a sick, but pleasurable joy from screwing with people's heads in this way.

And seconding Decimask's Russel Peters mention!
posted by raztaj at 7:16 PM on May 9, 2009


I find it weird that she has such detailed descriptions of the Irish, being that it's such a sub-demographic.

**Looks again.**

OMG, I do look that Irish.

**Gives wine to cat, pours whisky.**
posted by zinfandel at 10:15 PM on May 9, 2009


Big head and all.
posted by zinfandel at 10:16 PM on May 9, 2009


practice using geo-tagged photos from flickr

Now that's a pretty solid idea.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:35 AM on May 10, 2009


Previously
posted by longbaugh at 10:22 AM on May 11, 2009


Broad generalizations look like this, but anecdotal experiences look like this, amiright?
posted by FatherDagon at 11:39 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


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