The Tutorial Mindset

September 16th, 2016 | Posted in General

tMAoC_storeTonight kicks off my first caricature workshop weekend! I’ll be working with 13 students all through the weekend on how to draw caricatures. The students range from total beginners to seasoned caricature pros that frankly draw better than I do and I’ll be doing the learning. They have come from as close as right here in the Twin Cities to as far away as China.

I’ve been thinking a lot leading up to this week about teaching caricature and the best way to approach it, and looking back over some of the comments I’ve gotten on my The Mad Art of Caricature book I realized something… the plethora of “exactly how you do this” tutorials all over the internet have caused somewhat of a dumbing down effect on how people expect to learn new skills, especially creative ones.

Here are a few of the negative comments I’ve gotten on the book (from various sources, and in some instances paraphrased):

Lots of good drawings to look at and techniques, but not really a tutorial”

“Barely helpful” (this one made me LOL)

“Doesn’t really tell me how to draw anything.” (LOLed on this one also)

“Confusing. I don’t know where to start, what materials to use, what to draw.”

You see? I am beginning to think some people of a certain age have been trained to believe step by step tutorials are the way they are supposed to learn things. If you do not show them a clear progression of steps that form a process to accomplish a specific task, they are lost. Have those people lost the ability to develop their brains to think critically, and to grasp general theories and concepts that allow them to create their own processes? Maybe. Certainly the people who contributed the above criticisms of my book must struggle with it.

I wrote the book to be as “style neutral” as possible, because what I was trying to do was teach people about caricature, not how to use a certain type of marker. It always makes me angry when I buy a book on how to draw anything and several pages of it are dedicated to materials and supplies… I know what a pencil and paper is. Don’t waste several pages of a book on how to draw the human figure telling me what kind of paper to use. That is immaterial (pun intended).

Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of people who comment on the book found it to be a great resource in developing their ability to draw caricatures. There are still plenty of critical thinkers out there. It’s just disheartening to think we might be raising generations of people with 140 character attention spans and who think good art is created in 12 easy steps.


  1. Terrell says:

    Those students don’t know how lucky they are to be getting the training from the man himself!!!!! Are you doing anymore classes in the future?

  2. I pull out your book when I feel my work is lacking. I rejuvenates me.

  3. Isaiah Shipp says:

    I’ve been having that same problem with drawing books too. So I’ve recently turned to art collections of certain artists for guidance. The art of Mort Drucker book has been more valuable than many other drawing books.

  4. Dave Stetson says:

    I’ve been promoting your book for teaching caricature to woodcarvers and wood sculptors…no markers and paper involved. I tell them “if the subject isn’t in your brain, it can’t come out your fingers”. Your book is my bible.

  5. Nef says:

    Need to have one in Florida.

  6. I don’t have your book (yet), but you’re a GREAT teacher. I remember learning from you at Valleyfair in ’99. I still reference things, concepts, theories that you’ve shared in my short time there.

    I believe you’re going to have much success and many happy students.

    Good luck!

  7. Peter Morlock says:

    I just recieved your book… Love it! Very informative

  8. Stan Ragets says:

    I bought your book a year ago, and it’s been the best help I’ve had in years to grow as an artist. I thank you for writing it the way you did.

  9. Chris Rittenhouse says:

    I have read, re-read while taking notes, this well thought out and very informatve book. I have purchased tons of books on the topic of caricature and cartooning over many years. This book, if you seriously read it, practice it, can help anyone.
    It should be in every cartoon artists library.

  10. Emmie Carrigan says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Tom. The majority of younger generations are not being taught to think critically. I found your book the most helpful I’ve read. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and techniques!

  11. “The M.A.of C.” is my favorite caricature guide! Fine work, insightful and a good study. Wish I had a guide to tools and media (sigh…). Recently, I discovered the crayola conical marker. Would you offer any suggestions for the best black marker?

  12. Cecilia Medina says:

    When is the next workshop?.

  13. Alfred reid says:

    Would love to attend one of your workshop from Dublin Ireland


I am close to adding a second caricature workshop in January in Orlando. Details here:

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