Sunday Mailbag: Flick of the Wrist?

February 7th, 2016 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: I noticed when you’re drawing (live) caricatures, you flick your hand/wrist out after drawing tighter lines. What does this do to the look of the artwork?

A: I tried to find a video that might show what you are talking about. This one from about 10o years ago of me doing a demo of a Bruce Willis caricature has some of that:

If you watch the drawing part of this video, you will see that between lines I shake my hand back and forth (you’d see a lot more of it if this was a continuous video as opposed to a collection of segments), almost like I am shaking up the pen to get better ink flow . Since I am using a pencil, this makes no sense. What is not shown so clearly here is that after I draw a bolder line I “flick” my wrist outward from the end of the line. Both actions are somewhat related, although the latter one has a more practical value.

The reason I shake my drawing hand around between lines is to stay loose and keep the “rhythm” of the drawing going. Live caricature has a certain flow and rhythm to it, and constant starting and stopping throws this off. The analogy I use is that it is like driving a car. If you take a nice, leisurely drive around town you do not put your car in park and turn off the engine at every stop sign. You break, stop briefly but keep the car idling (or even rev the engine a little) while you look to make your next turn or just keep going. I keep my hand in constant motion so the whole drawing is one long movement, not fits and stop/starts. This keeps you and your lines loose and fluid.

The “snapping my wrist at the end of a line” thing is for a similar reason. It helps with the rhythm and to keep the flow going, but it also makes the lines snappier and more kinetic. Aesthetically that snap tapers the end of the line, making it look for brush-like and  smooth, without blunt endings to lines. Taping lines from thick to thin creates a lot more dimension to what is essentially a flat line drawings, and adds life and energy to the artwork.

Thanks to Jason Chatfield 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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