Sunday Mailbag: Best Head/Body Ratio?

June 5th, 2016 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: If I draw a (realistic) person, the ratio is about 1:7 head to body. In a caricature, which is very different, I’ve seen already 1:1, 1:2 or 1:3. What is in your opinion the best proportion of head to body in a caricature?

A: The short answer is there is no “best” proportion. Your subject matter and the situation dictates what works best.

For live work I have always disliked the “lollypop” school of caricature, with a gigantic head and a little tiny body that is roller skating or something. That takes way any dynamic between the head and body that can very well be important to the caricature. Often the neck, shoulders, posture, etc. are an integral part of a subject’s look and persona, and an 4:1 head to body ratio prevents the artist from playing on that.

Like it or not, most caricatures do center on the face. After all, that is where a subject’s persona is centered, so the face and head are the focus. Instinctively most caricatures do increase the head size over normal proportion (and should), but too much can ruin the effect. Too little and it looks like a weird life drawing. Sometimes the caricature calls for a really tiny head, like in the case of a big body builder or athlete.

Really it’s all about what kind of end result you are looking for or need. The caricatures I do in the MAD parodies have bigger heads but not that much bigger… it would be distracting to have bobble-headed characters in these kinds of comic-style illustrations. Other jobs I might do will call for a bigger head to body ratio.

Here are some samples caricatures from different sources where the size of the head to the body varies greatly depending on the circumstances and the effect I was looking for:

10-finalI kept the head size of the Doctors in my print, like David Tennant here, a little smaller because there were so many in the print (11), and I wanted to play with their posture and outfits.

BrettThis caricature of Jeremy Brett, done for my Sherlock Holmes print, has a bigger head size than the Doctor Who series, because there were only 8 Sherlocks in it and I wanted to focus mostly on the faces and their expressions.

Obama_boxer Nixon
These character design turn-arounds were for some animated segments of a film, and the director wanted the oversized head look.

Orange is New Blecch pg 5

Hunger Pains Much Delay 6

While still considerably bigger than realistic human proportion, the heads on these caricatures for the MAD parody of “Orange is the New Black” and “The Hunger Games” are much closer to human size than those earlier examples. MAD prefers I stick closer to a “normal” proportion, even though I’m really not even close to normal. They just don’t like the lollypop look.

Thanks to Thomas Vetter 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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