Q: Can just anyone learn how to draw caricatures, granted they have some artistic talent in the first place?
A: I guess that depends on at what level of success you consider needs to be reached before the artist in question can “draw caricatures”. Art is subjective. Anyone can pick up a pencil and move it around on a piece of paper and that’s drawing. Mastering drawing, or any art form, is a different story. That’s a lifelong pursuit.
Caricature is an artform and anyone can learn about it, study it, and practice drawing them. Study and practice hard enough and, with your caveat of having had some spark of talent in the first place, do drawings other people with react positively to. Being really good at it is another matter. Anyone can learn to play some simple songs on a guitar, but that does not make one a guitarist.
The difficult thing about learning to draw caricatures as opposed to just learning to draw, is that drawing an object is not subjective. It’s either a good drawing of a chair or it is not. The drawing part of a caricature is only part of it. The other part is the artist making decisions on how to exaggerate the subject, and that IS subjective. Drawing a nose so it looks like a convincing nose is not that hard. It’s practice and study and more practice. Looking at a subject and understanding that in drawing their caricature it’s important to make that nose much bigger than it really is, or much smaller, or more crooked, or whatever, is the hard part. That is SEEING… recognizing what makes the subject in question unique, and pointing out those things by exaggerating them. No one can teach you that. That is something you have to develop your eye for. It takes time and many thousands of drawings.
In these workshops I teach I try to do two things. One, I teach about good drawing and how to render the features to good effect. That’s cosmetic, simple drawing skills. Important, but not really “caricature”. The other things I do is try to open students eyes on the observations they need to make on a subject to “see” what makes them unique and how to exaggerate it. I cannot make those observations for them, so I need to try and give them the tools to make those observations for themselves. It’s up to them to take those tools and use them every day so they get good with them. How good they get is a combination of practice and hard work, and innate talent.
Some people have a natural eye for caricature. I’ve seen the work of artists whose drawing skills are pretty rough but who make great observations of the face and do good caricatures despite the poor drawing. I’ve also seen artists who can draw like masters but who just don’t see what needs to be seen in a face to caricature it. The ability to draw is separate from the the ability to “see”.
So the answer to your question is yes, I think anyone can draw caricatures and have fun doing it so long as the expectations as to how good they turn out are tempered. And no, not just anyone can become a truly good caricaturist even given all the time in the world to practice. A natural eye for it is required if the expectations are very high.
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925 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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