Ah . . . vanity. In a way, it’s the ultimate target of the caricaturist. Nothing falls harder in the face of an accurate but biting caricature than the unrealistic self-perception of a vain subject. Like Anderson Cooper here. At the end of this clip from CNN, he goes on and on about how little he thinks the caricature that artist Glenn Ferguson did at the RNC in Tampa looks like him:
Drawing live caricatures, you run up against a few truly vain people, and they never believe a caricature looks like them…even when it’s a dead-on likeness. Everyone else in the world thinks it looks like them, but not the subject themselves. Drawing celebrities is another matter entirely. I think it’s safe to say the percentage of celebrities who are truly vain is significantly higher than that of the rest of the world’s population . . . although “real” people who have positions of authority often share this defect to a lesser degree, and even the most ordinary of people might suffer from unrealistic self-image. Celebrities have it the worst because they are mostly surrounded by bobos who constantly tell them how fabulous they are. Cooper’s reaction here is not unusual coming from a celebrity, he was just unusually asinine about it on national TV.
I’ve drawn plenty of celebrities who don’t like the results, even though my caricatures are tame in the exaggeration department compared to most. In fact, I am very leery about taking on any job where the subject of my caricatures has any say in the approval of the image. I find it’s just not worth the aggravation trying to figure out what somebody THINKS they look like, when I am forced to work from actual images of what they DO look like. Recently I was contracted to do the cover of a CD that depicted a comedian. I did a round of pencils and, based on the initial feedback, I stopped work on the job entirely. It was obvious that the subject had what I call “The Matrix Syndrome”. In the movie The Matrix, how a person looks in the digital world is not how they really look, but a “residual self-image” that looks how they THINK they look. I could never figure out, if that was the case, why Morpheus didn’t imagine himself with a six-pack instead of that big belly. Had I continued that job, I’d have been beating my head against the wall trying to figure out the subject wants Clint Eastwood when he looks more like Clint Howard. Anyway, what people think they look like can be radically different than what they really look like. It’s a little like hearing your own voice on a recording. Few people think the voice they hear sounds like them, but everyone else knows it does. Many people have this to varying degrees.
Vanity is a little different. That’s not only having an unrealistic self-image, but expecting the rest of the world to have it also. Vain people actually get upset when confronted with the realization that someone does not think they are visually exceptional. It’s the reaction that usually tells the tale. The comedian from that job reacted badly to what was a pretty tame and likeness orientated caricature, and that was a big, red flag for me.
In Cooper’s defense, Glenn’s drawing of him was not a home run. The CNN people were adamant we tone down the exaggerations and make people look good. Glenn is at his best when he goes nuts with the exaggeration, so he was working with one hand tied behind his back. Still, his reaction was ridiculous. I’ve got news for you, Anderson: You are short. You have extraordinarily large ears, a lumpy nose and squinty, swollen-looking eyes. Sorry to have to break it to you.
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