Sunday Mailbag: First Live Caricature?

May 8th, 2016 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q:  I was asked to spend an evening drawing caricatures at a party, but chickened out. I believe the key to success is practice, practice, practice and I just wasn’t ready for it, but I was curious to know, when and what was your first ‘live’ caricature session and how did it go?

A: I don’t remember the exact date but the first time I drew live caricatures was in May of 1985 at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL. I was contracted by a company called Fasen Arts to draw there for the summer. Although I had no experience doing live caricature I demonstrated enough drawing skill and “eye” for it that they offered me a contract, and after a couple of days of observing and working with concession manager Gary Fasen, I eventually had my first day in the chair and did my first drawing. I don’t remember the specifics, except that it was a couple. They liked the drawing, paid for it, and off they went. I had just turned 19 earlier that month.

I did several drawings that day… it was not really busy but I remember getting a dozen or more sales. I was a little nervous but didn’t hesitate. Confidence is a huge part of doing live work. You cannot be timid or tentative. You have to attack the drawing and trust your skills. I am sure many of the drawings that day were pretty rough, but my skills quickly developed and my drawings improved every day.

Fear of failure holds many people back from doing live caricature. It’s not for the faint of heart… you are drawing live models at a fast pace with an audience behind you observing every line. That can be intimidating. You just have to get over that, and let the drawings fly. Yes, you will draw some duds… everyone does, even pros. However you never learn to swim until you get in the water and start splashing around.

Next time go for it.

Thanks to Chris Berry 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!


  1. Anthony says:

    I worked with Gary his last summer at Six Flags in 2004. I remember the first drawing I did. It was a black and white of a chubby grade school kid. I remember not wanting to make him look fat. I also remember the look of disappointment on his face when I showed him the drawing. Since then I’ve drawn thousands of faces and done countless live gigs. The only way to get better is to jump in feet first and never stop.

  2. Chris Berry says:

    Thankyou Tom. By the sounds of it, it demands a certain amount of courage, (a bit like learning to ride a bike by the sounds of it….’just keep on getting up every time you fall down’).
    I am practising every day, and my time will definitely come. Once again, thanks 🙂

  3. Beast says:

    Chris. Keep in mind that you are a better artist than the person on the other side of the drawing board. Unless you are drawing Tom. But a highly skilled artist would never make disparaging remarks about your drawing. Critiques maybe.
    Good Luck


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

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