December 28th, 2014
Q: Drawing is just one aspect of the art of live caricature. Another aspect is smalltalk with your subject. You have already written about an extraordinary conversation “drawing somebody naked”. Can you give an example of a typical conversation during a live caricature? Are you talking about the weather or something like that? And what are you doing if your subject is a child or a person who does not understand English?
A: You’re right about drawing being only one aspect of the art of live caricature. Live caricature at its best is a performance art. Those who can combine great drawing with great “banter”, and especially those who can play to the audience watching the drawing, are the full package. I’ve seen some caricaturists lean too heavily on only one of those aspects, and the results are not as entertaining or satisfying.
There really should be no “typical” conversation with your live subjects, but sadly there is. There are a number of stock questions or comments many people use to “break the ice” with their models. They usually involve asking “where are you from?” or “are you have a fun day?”… boring stuff but they work to get the subjects talking. That is the key… keeping a conversation going while you are doing the caricature. Where it goes is up to the artist. You can stick to the cliche stuff, or get them talking about something that really interests them. Use your observational skills… if they are wearing a “Walking Dead” t-shirt you can ask them about the show. If the environment you are drawing in gives you some possible subjects to bring up, use that. Say you are drawing at a theme park where they just put in a new roller coaster, you can ask them is they are daring enough to ride it, and talk about your first time on the ride. Just get some talking going and keep it going.
I always hated the banter. I would much rather have just shut up and drawn, but that is boring and awkward with nothing but silence between you and the subjects. I had to force myself to joke around with the models and the crowd because I recognized that was a big part of the experience. If my subjects were not talkative, I’d turn around and bring the crowd into the conversation. Maybe make some jokes about not being sure which one of the couple I was drawing should get the five o’clock shadow. Dumb jokes, but they get laughs.
Kids are easy to talk with. When you are dealing with someone who does not understand your language, you are stuck. Then I make goofy faces at them to get them to smile. Not a lot else you can do in that situation.
Thanks to Dominick Zeillinger 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!
December 26th, 2014
Last May at the NCS Reuben Awards Weekend in San Diego, Reubens Master of Ceremonies Tom Gammill put together a great video intro featuring a montage of clips from “The Simpsons” that featured gags about cartoons, comics, cartoonists and MAD Magazine. There were a surprising number of them, including a few cartooning luminaries like Cathy Guisewite, Sergio Aragonés and Mell Lazarus (among some others I can’t quite remember) being “Simpsonized”. After the video there was an audio clip featuring Homer Simpson as voiced by Dan Castellaneta opening the evening:
I did the above quick ink and watercolor caricature as a thank you to Dan for doing that. Tom G presented it to him at the last read Simpsons read through of the fall. A huge thank you to Tom Gammill for making that all happen. It was a really fun touch to the evening.
December 24th, 2014
The Happiest of Holidays to all, from the Richmonds (throwback Christmas Card circa 1999 above)!
December 23rd, 2014
I occasionally get the opportunity to do work for Library Journal and School Library Journal magazines, and earlier this fall I did a quick piece for them featuring a caricature of Travis Jonker, a well-known book reviewer and librarian who is very social-media saavy (and very tall and lanky). Travis did an article on social media in a recent issue of Library Journal, and I did the above illustration for it (set in the layout here, thus the greek text).
Here’s a rough comp and one of the initial sketches as well:
December 22nd, 2014
This week’s Monday MADness features a few panels from “MAD‘s Inside Scoop On This Year’s Stupidest Holiday Movies” written by Desmond Devlin and Scott Maiko in MAD #459, Nov. 2005. Also as a bonus, the pencil roughs at the bottom (clicky any image to embiggen):
Tom Cruise‘s lunatic couch-bouncing Oprah appearance was used by computer animators as a basis for one of Kong’s rampages.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
To save time in make-up, Daniel Radcliff agreed to let the famous lightning blot scar be permanently seared into his forehead with a red hot linoleum knife, having made peace with the notion that he will never be known for anything other than his role as the boy wizard anyway.
When a call was issued for extras, the casting directors were surprised and thrilled to have over 20,000 mentally challenged people show up—until they realized they were there for the NASCAR event at the stadium next door.
The Chronicles of Narnia
A severely confused Vin Diesel showed up on the set every day for the first two weeks of filming until producers managed to convince him that the Chronicles of Narnia was not a sequel to the Chronicles of Riddick.
Fans of the original series may complain that Aeon Flux now wears a more modest outfit than her animated counterpart’s black leather straps and boots, but producers insist the change wasn’t made to avoid an NC-17 rating—they claim the new costume is based solely on a sense of decency towards everyone who’ll have to see all the fat Goth chicks wearing it come next Halloween.
Here are the pencil sketches from this job:
December 21st, 2014
Q: Prior to the internet and image search, how did you gather reference material for caricatures?
A: Internet search engines have certainly spoiled me. If I want to do a caricature of Jennifer Lawrence, I am only a few seconds away from having literally thousands of photos of her to choose from… some even show her wearing clothes. Back in the days before Google, Yahoo and their ilk, it was a lot more time consuming a process.
I used to keep what was called a “morgue file”. I believe the term was originally used to refer to collections of old police files and reports, but illustrators used it for their photo reference collections. I used to subscribe to just about every entertainment magazine there was, and after The Lovely Anna was done reading it I would clip out the pictures of celebrities, sort them by the individual, and paste them onto 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of heavy paper into a sort of collage. Then I’d either put them into their existing folder, or create a new folder for them. Thus, when I had to do a caricature of Tom Cruise, for example, I’d pull out the Tom Cruise folder and it would contain a number of pages full of pasted-up pictures. I’d take just about any picture I found, but really looked for different angles or unusual expressions. The best sources for pictures were the tabloids or the trashiest of the entertainment mags like OK. They didn’t airbrush their pictures like Entertainment Weekly or US did, so you got the real deal. At one time I had a very large file cabinet full of celebrity folders, from the super-famous to the mostly obscure.
This method really became a challenge as my autistic daughter, The Animated Elizabeth, became obsessed with tearing paper. Many autistic kids have overwhelming OCD issues, and for a while one of her’s was ripping up paper into tiny pieces. Her favorite thing was to tear the FACES out of magazines. If she got hold of one of those entertainment magazines, I’d find it later with EVERY SINGLE FACE torn out and shredded. I remember thinking “why can’t she be obsessed with tearing pictures of FEET out of magazines???” She eventually moved on to other OCD issues, but now I have the internet!
I often get the question “What did guys like Mort Drucker or Jack Davis do to get references for movie parodies back before the internet?” I’m sure they had multiple sources including their own morgue files, but I know of at least one resource that I saw evidence of having been used. Movies used to have these kits they sent out to theaters that included not just movie posters, but many 8 x 10 stills from the film, actors head shots, etc. About 14 years ago I was working on a piece that included a caricature of Matthew Broderick, and an internet search for him resulted in a link to an eBay auction for a vintage one of these theater kits from the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. I was looking through the various uploaded scans of the photos from the kit, and they looked very familiar to me. I pulled out my boxes of old MAD Magazines and found the parody of Ferris Bueller, drawn by Mort Drucker. I compared the photos from the movie kit to Mort’s panels. Every single photo was obviously used as reference by Mort for the parody, right down to the poses and in some cases the backgrounds. It was very cool to see the actual reference he was working from. Movie studios used to send MAD their press kits in hopes the magazine would parody their film, since that was great publicity. Maybe that’s where Mort got it, or maybe he was friends with a local theater owner.
My morgue file is long defunct. No need for it anymore. Image searches certainly make life easier.
Thanks to Paul from Omaha 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!
December 19th, 2014
Unless you live under a rock, you know that last night was the final episode of “The Colbert Report”, and that host Stephen Colbert will be taking over “The Late Show” from David Letterman in 2015.
Whenever anyone asks about MAD magazine’s influence on pop culture, invariably how it shaped today’s satirical comedy becomes part of the conversation. The three things I always point to are “The Onion”, “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”. All three of those shows are benchmarks of modern satire, and all three publicly cite MAD as a major influence on their work and comedic sensibilities. Colbert even celebrated Al Jaffee’s birthday on the show.
The Colbert Report in particular is satire at its most biting and effective. He created a persona that pointed out the absurdities of extreme right-wing conservatism so brilliantly that not a few Tea Partiers probably still think he was serious.
It will be very interesting to see Colbert no longer in character behind Letterman’s old desk. Best of luck to him in his new gig!
Tags: Stephen Colbert
December 18th, 2014
Clicky to Embiggen…
This was a spot illustration for a magazine called Snow Country done around 1995 (I think). It’s a caricature of a guy whose job it is to pick up all the stuff that drops from the ski lifts of a major ski resort. The story was about some of the crazy “treasures” he finds after the snow melts, so we did a kind of “Indiana Jones” theme. Yes, that is an artificial leg in his bag. This was done in ink and watercolor on illustration board. This is a scan of the original which is still floating around here in a big drawer labeled “Old Crap”.
Tags: freelance illustration
December 17th, 2014
I’m beyond busy right now so only had time for a quick sketch late today. The Lovely Anna and I started watching “Arrow” in the last month or two. Here’s Oliver Queen himself Stephen Amell.
What do I think of the show? It’s kind of a guilty pleasure. It is way too soap opera-ish for me to really love it, and some of the dialogue is George Lucas-level awful, but the action and the slow unveiling of the story on the island keeps me interested.
Tags: caricature, sketch, Stephen Amell
December 16th, 2014
WIRED online reported today that the great Jack Davis, who turned 90 years old earlier this month, has announced he’s retiring from producing work. Jack has slowed down considerably from the days when you basically could not open a magazine, look at a movie poster or see an ad anywhere without it featuring his art, but he has still been doing work for clients like the University of Georgia, various golf and sports magazines and the like recently. Jack claims his work is no longer up to his standards:
It’s not that the iconic 90-year-old cartoonist can’t draw anymore—he just can’t meet his own standards. “I’m not satisfied with the work,” Davis says by phone from his rural Georgia home. “I can still draw, but I just can’t draw like I used to.”
Jack did a fantastic drawing of Batman for the NCS Comic Con T-shirt just this past summer, and it looks like a classic Jack Davis to me. However when you draw at a level like Jack Davis does (i.e. better than just about anyone, ever) maybe you have to be Jack Davis to see your work slipping. Regardless, Jack owes the world nothing since he’s given us so much already. Still, that world seems a little poorer place knowing Jack isn’t picking up his pencil down there in Georgia working his magic. Fortunately for us he was one of the most prolific illustrators ever, and his body of work will continue to entertain and inspire us forever.
So, happy retirement, Jack! Thanks for sharing your incredible talents with the world!
Tags: Jack Davis