Saturday, January 30, 2010

How do you draw a 65 year old man?

The question above is a little misleading - the question should read "How would you draw a 65 year old man from the early Old Testament period?" (but that was a little too long for a post title!) I was pondering this question as I was illustrating the story of Enoch with his newborn baby Methuselah. The problem is, Enoch, (who was 65 years old), lived for another 300 years after the birth of Methuselah and before God took him. So, how old would Enoch have looked at age 65 bearing in mind that he was going to live another 300 years? I'm just wondering if the aging process at this time was much slower. The Bible tells us that the average life span was much greater up until, and just after, the flood. So, let's say for example that a man lived to be 500 years old. When he died, would his physical appearance have been like that of a typical 100 year old man today? Would this then mean that when he was 250 years old he would have the physical appearance of a 50 year old? And when he was 125 would he have looked like a 25 year old? In other words, could the whole aging process have been much slower? This might explain why so many first children were born to those over 100! For example, Enoch's father Jared was 162 when his first child Enoch was born. Methuselah was 187 when his first child Lamech was born, and Lamech was 182 when his first child Noah was born, etc.

A similar thought arose again last week as I was illustrating the story of 'Abraham and Sarah'. (picture 2 right). We've all heard how, when in Egypt, Abram asked Sarai to pretend to be his sister. Abram's fear was that, because Sarai was so "fair to look upon", If the men in Egypt knew that they were man and wife, they would kill Abram just to be with Sarai. Most Bible artists who have illustrated this scene depict Sarai to be in her twenties, when actually she was 65! Did she look younger though? More surprisingly, when the same thing happened again some time later with King Abimelech, Sarah was in her 90's! Now, I know that many ladies age well, for instance the actress Julie Newmar who played Catwoman in the original Batman TV series still looks amazing at 76, but how many men would kill off the husband of a 90 year old lady just to be with her? This is what was happening with Sarah! Was this because the aging process was slower then? I don't know, it's just a theory! The down side to slow aging would be that parents would have those difficult teenage daughters to cope with for about 30 years! :0p

I doubt that many theologians have lost any sleep over this question but it does have a relevance for Bible artists and illustrators who are seeking to accurately portray biblical events. I decided to depict Enoch looking as a youngish 65 year old man might look today. The reason being that if the pictures are used with children, and the person telling the story mentions Enoch's age, it might be confusing to the child if he looks a lot younger than 65. Drawing Sarah was more of a challenge! Most artists who show Sarah at 90 depict an old lady, but Sarah was still very "fair to look upon!"
Looking forward to your comments on this interesting subject.
There are two pictures in the 'Enoch' set and seven in the 'Abraham and Sarah' set which brings our total Bible picture count to 821.
At the end of this month we will be launching a brand new website! The new website will display every picture done over the last 14 months. as well as all our previous pictures from the old website. As soon as the website goes live I'll pass on the link via this blog. You will also be able to view all the pictures in large format too!


Bible artist said...

I purposely haven't gone into the various theories why people lived longer in Old Testament times as there are already a number of websites that discuss these in detail.
I wanted to concentrate rather on the questions that arise because of this which are relevant to Bible artists and illustrators.

Unknown said...

It seems likely to me that many of the sources of the Bible were originally written in the cuneiform script and language of the early civilizations of the ME, where a number system based 60 rather than 10 were used.

Many of the ages of the patriarchs in the first chapter of Genesis have a rather symmetric and simple form when written out the ancient way.

This may be an indication that f.i.what we read as individuals may actually be dynasties, i.e. saying Adam lived 939 years may mean the Adamic dynasty or period lasted 939 years, with the individuals having natural lifespans.

But I dont really know.

Bible artist said...

This is one of the theories which has been dismissed for reasons which I won't go into here. I realize that there are many people out there that would like to discuss the aging topic itself, but this has already been done very effectively on many apologetics websites.

The post here is relating to how this affects the way we illustrate Bible characters. If its possible to keep comments on this subject, that would be helpful to this discussion.
I know that I've not made a request like this before, but if we don't keep to the subject of "How we might tackle biblical aging as artists?" we will be inundated with people wanting to discuss biblical aging itself.
I do discuss all topics on this blog from the standpoint that the Bible is true. Hope this is helpful.

deboraw said...

Graham, I quite understand what you are saying. I have had those same questions as well. I find it difficult for example with Sarah, for that exact same reason. I believe the response of the unknowing pharaohs and kings would speak volumes as to her youthful/beauty. If Abram was concerned for no reason, the kings would not have 'taken her into their house'. Another thing that I ponder on is their idea of 'beauty'. Is it the same as ours? We look at beauty differently than previous generations. Deboraw

Paul Green said...

Based on a literal interpretation of Genesis then a 65 year old man has to be illustrated as looking younger than a 65 year old today.
If the aging process was prolonged and a 65 year old had centuries left to live then he couldn't possibly have aged as rapidly as we do today.
So a 65 year old should resemble someone around 40. Not young but not old. Not that 65 is old. But you know what I mean - I hope. :)

Unknown said...

I've had the same questions before.

.. as an artist, I would express youthfulness in old age ("old" being relative!) through their body posture (more upright and showing strength), and bringing out color and vitality in their skin tones. The challenge is preserving their youthfulness but still subtly represent the passing of time in their age. With this in mind I would retain some grey hair and subtle wrinkles.

A crazy thought came to mind – Certain parts of our body continue to grow throughout our life, such as our nose. In the pre-flood characters, perhaps youthfulness could also be shown by reducing these growth differences. Can't imagine how big my nose would grow by age 700 with todays aging process. :-(

I would think that the outward appearance of aging would be very similar to today in the accelerated growth, early years of life (birth - early 20s), then slowing down and differ greatly in the later years.

Bible artist said...

This is a good point Deboraw. We do see in Bible art in the depictions of Eve, Sarah, Esther etc, how the idea of beauty has changed in just the last century! So we can only guess at what a beautiful woman would have looked like thousands of years ago.

That is my thinking on this Paul. I erred on the side of youthfulness in my depiction of Enoch. He is a fairly young 65 year old!

My thoughts exactly Tim! I have aged Sarah with grey hair and subtle wrinkles but tried to retain her beauty. Yes, I agree about the normal aging in the early years otherwise a seventy year old would have looked around twelve and a thirty year old around six!!!
I didn't know that the human nose continued to grow.

deboraw said...

Graham, Nose and ears, I have heard. Deboraw

Bible artist said...

Well, I suppose thats two answers to the question "How do you draw a 65 year old man?" With a long nose and big ears!! ;0)

Patrick said...

Long nose and big ears? I guess dear old Methuselah must have been like a fusion of Pinocchio and Dumbo, only not naughty. ;D

I would agree with other commenters here that an early Old Testament-period 65 year-old man can be depicted as a 'young', vital elderly man. Someone who may be quite advanced in years (from our viewpoint), but is still, in many ways, in his prime. One who can still pack a punch, as the expression goes.

deboraw said...

Graham, LOL...seriously though, if you figure 70 as an 'older' age for our life span, compare it to 700. Divide 700 up as you would our 70. What are 'normal' appearances for 25, 50, 60 etc? Then multiply by ? ten? Not that a 25 yr. old would look like a child, but in the scriptures even 30 and 40 year olds are referred to as "child" strange to me but... Just a thought. Deboraw

Christian said...

In regards to Sarai and the other long-lived ladies of the O.T., I would like to point to a fact of more recent living. It is a well proven fact that hard work ages a person, be they male or female. That said, the American Indian ladies were considered great beauties by the settlers. Until their work aged them. Even today, you can see the truth of this principle in both the American Indians as well as the Indian ladies and indeed the Israelite, Middle Eastern and Egyptian ladies.
Sarai was the head lady of a considerable household and would have therefore had an easier life than that of one of her handmaids. Therefore, it is not a great leap of logic to understand that her workload was lighter and therefore she would not have aged as quickly as other menial laborers. Thus, she was fair to look upon. Just some thoughts. Not sure how that would apply to Abram's situation.

Paul Green said...

This is all getting way too heavy and serious. Who is the target audience for your illustrations Graham? Children? No need to get bogged down in precise details.
Just illustrate a weathered middle aged man. If the kids say he looks young for 65 then say he exercised well and ate plenty of roughage. LOL

deboraw said...

That is so funny! Exercised a lot, and ate plenty of roughage! Really, kids understand a lot more than adults give them credit for. Love them little people...LOL--exercised and roughage. Honestly, Paul!

Bible artist said...

As you say Christian a 'Hard life' does have an effect on people living an average life span even today, so I guess that you could apply that same principle to an extended OT life span too.

The pictures that I'm doing at the moment are initially for use in a tribal setting predominantly with adults but also children, and you would be amazed at the things that get noticed! Things that we in the west take for granted when it comes to story telling, such as the passage of time between pictures. For example, to establish that Cain was a gardener and Abel was a shepherd, I showed Cain planting small plants and Abel looking after sheep. In the next picture I show them both bringing their offerings to God. The question was asked by one man "How can Cain have a basket of fruit and vegetables already? Those plants haven't had time to grow!"

Now, going back to biblical aging; we do our best to illustrate what the Bible says, and the bible clearly states that, at 90, Sarah was so amazingly beautiful that men would kill her husband just to be with her. If I said to you Paul, "go away and draw Sarah at 90", you would probably want to think about how best to do this, and judging by the comments so far, I'm not the only one who has given this some thought.
Similarly, if you had to draw Methuselah when he was 100 years old, how would you draw him? As an old man perhaps with a long white beard? How would you draw him then when he was 969? Would he look like a grey version of 'Cousin It' from the Adams Family, but with a long nose and two big ears poking out?

Seriously though, biblical aging is a valid question for Bible illustrators/artists, granted some aspects more so than others.
There is a sense in which this question could be considered invalid though; If there was a clear scripture that indicated that biblical aging was much slower, and that a 500 year old man, at one point, did look like an average 50 year old looks today, would we ever draw a 500 year old man looking like a 50 year old? Probably not, because, whether we are illustrating for adults or children, we do tend to only illustrate what we can see, or what we understand, therefore whether we are drawing a 100, 300, 500, or 700 year old, we would probably end up drawing them all the same anyway! That might be a good conclusion to arrive at, but we might not have arrived at a conclusion had we not discussed the question in the first place! ;0)

Yes, I agree. Kids don't miss anything! When I worked on kids comics here in the UK, I had to re-illustrate a one picture joke that a child had sent in. It involved a 'Lancaster Bomber' which for those who don't know is a British WW2 plane. I started drawing one from memory but was stopped immediately are told to use a reference. When I asked "Why?" I was told that if the plane isn't accurate they would be inundated with letters from children saying so!
Also, do we really want to illustrate the Bible with a "It's only for kids" attitude? Bookshops are packed with children's Bibles that have been done that way already!

deboraw said...

Graham, As a Bible class teacher, when I draw an illustration for my wee ones--whether they are 3 mo. old or even my ladies classes--I illustrate the way the Bible indicates. Then I explain as if they are intelligent human beings. If the people recline to eat--well that's what I draw. I then explain to my audience that even though we don't eat reclining that's the way it was done 'in Jesus times'. Or if it was 'only a little boy David', I explain that the 'little boy David' was probably about their 'Uncle Benjamin's age', and even though that's pretty big to you, just think how big Goliath would be..." they understand those things. The 3 mo. old doesn't care, he just likes the songs and crackers right now (he's a year and 3 months actually). You see, I get down on their level and bring them up to mine. We don't need to 'child' everything in my humble opinion, smile. If I have a 100yr old man that looks like he 'eats roughage, and exercises well'--I explain why he looks that way. Eye to eye--and they understand very well. Deboraw

Bible artist said...

Absolutely right Deboraw!
Another point is, all Bible illustrations come under a lot of adult scrutiny. If you get something wrong, you will know about it!

Paul Green said...

I was only joking and trying bring some light relief to the board Graham. Deboraw got the joke anyway. Hey, maybe my humor is becoming Americanized from living here so long. You Brits just don't get it!! LOL
By the way I never talk down to children because I hated adults talking to me like I was stupid when I was a kid. And many adults get dumber the older they get. Children have open minds - unless their parents try to close them with their prejudices.

Paul Green said...

I think I've got an answer to your question Graham.
If women were giving birth into an advanced age they were still pre-menopausal.
In normal terms this could mean an age range from 14 to 45. So if a woman gives birth at 200 years of age then she should still resemble a woman of child bearing age. Probably around 35.
Hope this makes sense.

deboraw said...

Well, Paul and Graham, In school they taught my husband to 'never over estimate the intelligence of your audience', and it is a sad occurrence that people do seem to get less intelligent often with the more education they get also. Very strange face here--and I'm reminded of an incident with a dog, out the first chapter out of a book (my son just finished reading) by Mark Twain (Tragedy of Puddin' Head Wilson) some folks just don't ever get the joke. Deboraw

Paul Green said...

For those interested here's part of the dog story from the Mark Twain book Deboraw mentioned -

He had just made the acquaintance of a group of citizens when an invisible dog began to yelp and snarl and howl and make himself very comprehensively disagreeable, whereupon young Wilson said, much as one who is thinking aloud:

"I wish I owned half of that dog."

"Why?" somebody asked.

"Because I would kill my half."

The group searched his face with curiosity, with anxiety even, but found no light there, no expression that they could read. They fell away from him as from something uncanny, and went into privacy to discuss him. One said:

"'Pears to be a fool."

"'Pears?" said another. "Is, I reckon you better say."

"Said he wished he owned half of the dog, the idiot," said a third. "What did he reckon would become of the other half if he killed his half? Do you reckon he thought it would live?"

"Why, he must have thought it, unless he IS the downrightest fool in the world..."

deboraw said...

Paul, Thank you. I thought that was funny. It probably has fallen into non-use these days, but I happen to appreciate classics. Smile Deboraw

Nathan P. Daniel said...

I think Paul’s thoughts on these older women looking like those of child-bearing age today makes sense. Even though Genesis only tells the father’s age, I would imagine that the mother’s age would be similar. Genesis 5 looks like they were having at least the first born children around the ages of 50-200, but Noah had his sons at the age of 500, so he either had a young wife or people were having children for centuries. That one verse alone might affect how they look.

It appears that there was some significant longevity depreciation between Noah and Abraham. Terah was 70 when he had Abraham, but looking at Genesis 11, that seems atypical. It actually looks like people generally were having kids around the age they do today. It's interesting that Sarah was considered far beyond child-bearing age at 90 but was still beautiful enough for Abraham to keep lying.

I hope this isn’t veering off topic at all, but I often wonder about Moses, Joshua, and Caleb’s appearance. Moses was 80 when he led the children of Israel and 120 at his death, yet, “his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.” (Deut. 34:7) I wonder how he would have looked. I tend to think there was something supernatural in these particular men’s vitality. Caleb was 40 when the wandering started and was still just as strong at 85, when he took Hebron. My only reference for how that might look would probably be my grandpa, who was an old farmer by the time I came around, but apart from his arthritis and his weakening heart later on, he was as strong as an ox.

mac said...

C'mon! Nobody lived for 300 years!

Bible artist said...

Not only 300 Mac, Methuselah lived till he was 969! It does seem strange to us because for the last few thousand years, most people are lucky to make it to 100!
It is interesting to see the age limit start to drop after the flood. As I mentioned in one of the first comments, there are a number of excellent websites that go into this subject in detail. You might want to visit one if you have questions that you want answered. It would take us off topic to deal with it here. is one that you might find helpful. Thanks for dropping by.

P.S. Nice bike!

Johnny said...

Love your website

Bible artist said...

Thanks Hassan!
Thanks too for your blog on the persecuted church.