Q: When teaching people to draw caricatures, do you have them draw a hundred variations of a nose, eyes, chin, etc., or do you have them jump right in and attempt to draw caricatures. In other words, what’s the best way to practice drawing caricatures?
A: While practicing individual features on their own is a useful exercise for learning to draw those features convincingly, it doesn’t really help you get any better at drawing caricatures. A good caricature is the sum of the parts, not the parts themselves. The exact same nose on one person might be exaggerated in a completely different way on another person because of how that nose relates to the rest of the face… it’s just one part of a greater whole.
The only way to get better at caricature is to draw caricatures of full subjects. You have to develop your eye for recognizing how all the features relate to one another, and exaggerating those relationships. You can’t do that by practicing drawing noses all day long. Yes, you need to have the kind of command of drawing individual features to be able to capture them well, but that’s just getting good at the building blocks, not learning how to assemble the blocks to make the building.
What I often do with new artists who might be struggling at drawing a specific feature (say “eyes” for example) is to have them spend extra time looking at and drawing the eyes in their caricatures for a day or two. I have them concentrate on capturing the shape, expression, subtleties, and the relationship to the rest of the face, of each subject’s eyes… but they still have to draw the rest of the caricature. That is something you can do with any feature. It’s just important to understand that it is all the features and their relationships to each other that creates a good caricature.
Thanks to Randy Miramontez 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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