Tales from the Theme Park #8

August 7th, 2014 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

“The Drawing Muscle”

This isn’t much of a story but it is something I used to freak my fellow caricaturists out with all the time.

The technique I learned to draw live caricatures invoked using a lead holder and a 4B or 6B 3mm graphite lead. Many live caricaturists use a marker for their lines, which is wonderful and can be used to great effect. I learned with graphite, and the principal reason for this was we used an airbrush to add the color. With the airbrush it was better to use graphite as it was not as intensely black as the lines from a marker, and you did not have to work as hard with the values of your paint to get a nice looking end result. With the super-black lines of a marker, you really had to load on the paint to get a value level that would work with the line. Graphite and airbrush created a softer look, and worked better together.

Because we used graphite, it was important to put a lot of pressure on your pencil to get nice, strong, bold, dark lines. Depending on the way you held your pencil, your hand had to toughen up at the beginning to be able to apply that pressure and not get sore by the end of the day. I pressed particularly hard… still do. My lead will sometimes shatter and go flying off when I do live work. As a result of my years of trying to push the end of my pencil through my drawing board, I developed an odd “drawing muscle” on my right hand. It’s not easy to see in a picture, but here it is:

It’s no where near as big and dense as it used to be when I did live caricature full time all summer, but it’s still there. It looks like a small egg buried just beneath my skin. I do not have a corresponding lump on my left hand. I used to really gross out the new caricaturists that worked for me by flexing my “drawing muscle”, which was hard as a rock back in those days. I used to joke I could take Arnold Schwarzenegger in a right had pose-down anytime. Some of the artists that I worked with used to make sure they drew it in any caricatures they did of me:

Ed Steckley

Chris Meesey

Like I said, not much of a story… but an interesting byproduct of doing theme park caricatures for too long!


  1. Stephen Fasen says:

    The more interesting drawing muscle you developed is between your ears. That one has actually gotten bigger. And don’t forget the accompanying middle finger knob. Another that was entertaining and useful.

  2. Thomas Mielke says:

    I am happy to say I was there for some of the development of that muscle, Tom! Love your blog! (Remember me? I was a cashier for you before I flew the coop to go sing with a quartet.)

  3. Ever since I learned to write as a kid I’ve held the pencil “wrong”, between my thumb and middle finger. The result is the top of my middle finger has bent over the years!


Sketch o'the Week- Natalia Dyer! @strangerthingstv #strangerthings #nataliadyer @mad.magazine

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