Sunday Mailbag: Drawing Size?

February 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: There’s a big (pardon the pun) difference between drawing a 15″ caricature (amusement park style) and a 3″ or 4″ that goes into a Mad drawing. Did you have difficulty switching sizes?

a: There is no major difference when it comes to the drawing, really. The same basic elements should be in place in a caricature of any size.¬¨‚Ć The size it will be reproduced at is something to think about when it comes to execution, though. You can obviously include a lot more detail in a larger illustration, and you need to think more economically for something that will be viewed much smaller. That’s really more about technique and execution than it is the caricature itself.

For example, if I am doing a caricature in a MAD splash page, that is usually bigger than the ones I do in the panels. I can add more detail to the splash page caricature, or to a close up in a panel. In the longer shots, I am still imparting the same information, but I have to do it in fewer lines so it’s more simplified. It’s still the same basic information though.

In terms of drawing, “switching sizes” is an interesting dynamic… especially when you talk about live caricature. I’ve always found that beginner live artists tend to want to draw the face a certain size no matter what size paper they are working with. I have had to break many a rookie out of the habit of drawing enormous or tiny faces, and get them to work in a manageable size for the 12 x 16 inch paper we use. How do I do that? I make them draw practice faces in the opposite extreme size¬¨‚Ć they are naturally inclined to draw at. So, if I have a rookie drawing tiny heads, I have them draw gigantic heads for practice, and vice versa. I personally like to draw my faces a certain size, and given no requirements for a job (like when I work in a sketchbook) the sizes of the heads I draw tend to fall into a certain range. I find it useful to draw a couple of caricatures of a MAD subject at my “comfort size” first, then when I have to do a smaller caricature in a long shot, I have the basic elements figured out and can just simplify them.

EDIT After thinking more about this, there actually is a bit of a difference when doing a smaller caricature as opposed to a larger one. The smaller you get, the more you have to not just simplify but to push the exaggeration choices more. Subtlety is out, and you have to make the exaggerations count with much less information. So, a bit of a bulbous forehead needs to be a very bulbous forehead if you want your smaller caricature to carry any exaggeration weight.

Thanks to J Jackle¬¨‚Ć for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


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