Sunday Mailbag- Caricaturing Animals?

November 13th, 2016 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: You put a lot of effort into your caricatures of people, and they’re brilliant. Your animals are also brilliant. How much effort do you put into animal caricatures? A horse is a horse I guess, but there are many breeds of dogs to get right. How hard is it to do them all in your style? And what happens when you have to draw an animal you’ve never done before? A sloth? Or a horseshoe crab? Or a giant weta?

A: Thanks for the kind words!

I’m not sure “caricature” is a term you can strictly apply to an exaggerated drawing of something other than humans. For me, caricature involves the exaggerated description of the personality and “presence” of the subject as much as their physical features, and that really only applies to human beings. Doing an exaggerated drawing of anything other than a human being is more “cartooning” than caricature, IMO. I wouldn’t say it’s any harder to draw an animal (or anything for that matter) in my style because everything I draw is going to be in my “style” unless I am trying to mimic another style for parody purposes.

Drawing exaggerated animals is a little different than drawing inanimate objects like cars or lamp posts or whatever because animals, particularly domesticated pets, do have aspects of personality that can be incorporated. Often I am called upon to anthropomorph animals in illustration, meaning to endow them with human characteristics like emotion, attitude, reaction, etc. This influences the caricature aspects of the animal, and thus the term “caricature” applies a bit more.

You are right about the difference between drawing something like a horse as opposed to a dog. There are a lot of different breeds of cow, for example, but not very many people will recognize the difference between a Holstein and a Hereford. Breeds of dogs, cats and birds are different, though, so I work harder to make the unique aspects of those breeds obvious and prevalent. My main concern when trying to “caricature” animals is to exaggerate their physical natures while retaining the recognizability of their breed, especially with pets. The more familiar most people are with a type of animal, the more the physical features of that animal are noticeable and important. Collies have very thin and pointed snouts, for example, so I’d exaggerate that (among other things) to describe that breed in a caricature.

Here’s some examples of a few animal “caricatures” I’ve done in a few projects in the last couple of years:







Thanks to Jay 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 your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!


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