17. Understanding Gender Nuances In Facial Structure (PG) : A Reptilian Story

Before we begin, I’d like to share with you a story that, I hope, will provide a fun way for you to understand the differences between feminine and masculine features, as it relates to painting.  It’s just a crazy story I concocted to explain differences. (I used to tell a version of this story to my teenaged children and, much to their chagrin, their friends, when they began to look at members of the opposite sex….)

This story should probably be PG rated :)

The Story of the “Oogah-boogah” hormones (My version of the role of hormones & biology in human development)

(Let me apologize right now for those of you who adhere to creationist theories.  I’ve no desire to offend…)

In the dark ages of time lived a tribe of people who were called “The Oogah-boogah’s” because that’s the only words that would come out of their mouths.  They lived out in the wilds.  The women were charged with staying at home keeping safe the children and old folks, gathering nuts, tasty morsels, herbs, mushrooms, berries and the like.  They had to be alert, and keep their eyes wideopen at all times for marauders and predators, whilst the physically stronger men were away hunting for meat, so nature endowed them with large eyes that sat close to the front of the face, inside wide eye sockets, just deep enough to protect sensitive eyes from the sunshine.

The most successful men of the tribe were large-boned, strong, with deep-set eyes that protected them from thorns, animal strikes (….or the clubs of jealous husbands and bad-tempered wives!)

Survival of the fittest; A ‘not-so-natural selection’ may work better for 2012!

The Oogah-Boogah Men:

At puberty, males receive massive doses of testosterone which creates many physical changes, including lengthening and strengthening jaws and brows, dense, long and wider bones in legs, arms and body.  Body hair protected these hunters. (I read somewhere that during these times of rapid growth, many males in olden times did not survive this phase because immunities are depleted.)  Testosterone enables the male to not only grow large and strong, (which enabled the men of the Ooogah-Boogah tribe to bring home the bacon and keep the tribe safe) but also fertile.  In sum, these type of physical attributes signal to women that here is a man who can have kids, feed kids, and keep kids alive!  Women were biologically programmed and conditioned to find such men attractive, in Ooogah-Boogah times, anyway.  (I know you ladies wouldn’t let your “reptilian brain” convince you to fall for that ‘neanderthal-type’ today… would you?)

The Oogah-Boogah Women:

Conversely, the females received large doses of estrogen as they reached maturity.  When estrogen was present, some physical signals in the body were:  Growing breasts, laying down fat deposits causing ’rounding’ of limbs and torso, etc.  (Large abdomens indicated pregnancy, prior birth, or onset of maturity, and therefore large torsos were less attractive.) Estrogen prevented testosterone from laying down bone, so jaws, brows, chins, arms and legs remained demure, petite and free of comb-able body hair! And so these and other physical attributes drew biologically-programmed men towards a female that is likely capable of having a baby, feeding a baby, and if the eyes are nice and large, she might be able to spot, and save ‘junior’ before he leaps off the cliff!  Again, Oogah-Boogah men were biologically programmed to be attracted to such traits.  (Of course, modern, intelligent men don’t fall for that..Do you?)

Why my teens needed to know this….

This is what I said to my teens “If you guys can get through teenage years without incident, and without letting the ‘Oogah-boogah’ hormones take over, you might make better, more-enlightened and intelligent choices when looking for a partner (using your modern rather than reptilian brain to do the thinking!)  Let’s consider, kids…The football star might be gorgeous, but maybe he’s too busy pumping iron to hit the books?  The gorgeous super models with body types that resemble pre-pubesent girls may not have the strength or the estrogen to have your kids.  Consider that, more often than not these days, it’s the nerdy kid (with the late testosterone or estrogen surge), banging away at the piano with his/her nose in a book that’s highly likely to be ‘bringing home the big bacon’ and trotting off to a great University!”  (I know a few teens that needed this talk…. I was one of ’em… Oh, and I married a football player… who hit the books, thank goodness!)

Regardless of how we choose a mate, via natural selection, conscious decision, or both, the fact remains that good, genetic diversity creates beauty.  Symmetry of planes and lines of face (check out Brad Pitt’s perfectly symmetrical ‘chevron lines’ of his brow, keystone, nose, lip and chin.)   The landmarks I have just given you can be used as a canon for ‘normal features’ i.e., distance between eyes is usually an eye-length, etc.  Slightly narrower or further apart causes us to be physically less attractive to these attributes.

Those hormones are at work throughout humanity creating amazing faces of every gender…It might be nice if we all don’t get bogged down with what’s pretty and ugly, thus showing our reptilian-selves up!

“Late To Model Group” 12 x 12 oil. The name says it all! However, as I began to paint this 1-hour sketch, I realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to capture this beautiful, female form.

Now, with a lot more understanding, let’s proceed with other ways to learn how to understand, plan and paint (and draw) the human face….  Happy painting!

Want to see the process in action? Click below.

Final Word….



My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”.  In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information.  The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey.  If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."

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