Still crazy busy with a deadline for MAD, so today I am just going to post this reminder again about my guest speaker appearance and inking workshop March 2-5th in St. Louis. Today is the last day you can register at a discounted rate for the St. Louis NCN Minicon. You can still register tomorrow and later, but it’ll be more dough and they do have limited capacity.
This will be a lot of fun and full of opportunities to learn with all the seminars and workshops going on. I hope to see you there.
Q: Do you have some set of rules that determine a particular way a caricature should be done depending on face shape or features or is it simply an acquired gut feeling?
A: If by “rules” you mean following a template that is applied to any face that is drawn, then absolutely not. Following the same rules or pattern of exaggeration for all faces isn’t caricature, it’s stylization and distortion. If you apply the same relationship of features, for example, on each face you draw, you may get a likeness depending on your skill with the individual features but you would be missing the target because you would fail to identify what is unique about your subject’s particular facial relationships. I know a fairly successful caricature artist who is very accomplished in the drawing and painting department, but who makes almost all his caricatures with closely grouped features within a large face and head shape ala “Littleface Finney” from Dick Tracy. His caricatures are a lot less effective as a result.
Even being strictly guided by a set of rules for particular face types is a dangerous path, which can lead to “generic caricature”. Each face has it’s own unique relationships of features, and while certain headshapes will generally follow suit with certain feature relationships, there are still plenty of surprises and things that break such conventions. For example, long thin faces tend to have close set eyes and longer features, but I’ve seen some faces where the opposite is true. The typical relationships seen in certain face types can be a good place to start making observations… if you know what you expect to see you can more easily see where it breaks the mold… but it’s still all about what makes the face in front of you unique and not about any kind of formula.
I wouldn’t call what a caricaturist does when determining and interpreting these relationships a “gut feeling”, but it is certainly all about observation and perception in the moment. You have to approach each face with a clean slate, and allow the face to tell you it’s story so you can interpret it on the paper or canvas. You can develop your ‘eye’ for making these observations via constant practice, study of the face and portraiture as well as the study of other caricaturists and how they interpret relationships of features. Ultimately, you must learn to trust your own eye because no one can make those observations for you.
Thanks again to Daniel Moir 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!
In case you haven’t seen it via Drawn! or the Wisenhiemer Cartoonists forum, here’s a link to Gizmodo’s review of the new 12″ portable Cintiq tablet/display from Wacom. It features a video with unpacking and the creating of a color image of “Bender” from “Futurama” along with subtitles commentary. The verdict from Gizmodo is “professional artists: GET IT!”.
Another independent and even more in depth review can be found at my friend Cedric Hohnstadt’s blog. Cedric got the new Cintiq and has good things to say.
Both these reviews are highly useful as they are done by working artists, as opposed to being reviewed by techies. It’s certainly more important to me to hear from those who need to and will use such a piece of equipment like I would.
I’m still not getting one, though. There’s just not enough moments when I am on the road and needing to do any color work. I still do all the drawing and inking the old fashioned way… I use the Cintiq only for the final step.
I know I’m a tough guy to get gifts for. The Lovely Anna constantly reminds me of this. She says it’s not that I don’t want or need anything, it’s just that I have this habit of buying things I want for myself… Well, I hate waiting.
Lately Anna and I have been in the habit of getting something together and calling it our Christmas present to each other. This year it was a case of six bottles of Silver Oak cabernet sauvignon, 1998-2003 that had a Thomas Arvid painting reproduced on the case lid. Anna loves Arvid’s work, which is a realistic style of oil painting with wine bottles, glasses and trappings as subject matter… usually in a forced perspective, almost fisheye setting. Great idea to blend fine art with wine as a subject, since that attracts the interest of people with money for both interests. Anyway, we enjoyed one bottle on Christmas eve.
The kids all got iMacs, which meant Daddy Tech Support spent hours setting them up, installing Leopard, installing other software, transferring their files from their old PCs, blah blah blah. Next time I’ll just get them completely disassembled bicycles with instructions in French. That would take less time. The Lovely Anna is now the old PC holdout in the family.
I still got a few things under the tree, including some cartooning/art related stuff. “The Completely MAD Don Martin” (pictured) was one. I can’t wait to dig into that… His cartoons were some of the funniest things to me as a kid reading MAD, when some of the other stuff went over my head. I also got a nifty traveling case to carry brushes, pens and other art supplies in that keeps them from getting mashed (especially the brushes). That will come in handy, I am sure. I also got a pair of Grinch pajamas from my daughter Elizabeth, who loves to make me sing the Grinch song… year around of course.
I’m still under the gun in the studio, so I don’t have much time to blog right now. My apologies. I’ll make it up to people in the new year, with some caricature instruction tutorials I’ve been working on.
I’m a little busy right now trying to wrap up a few things by year’s end, and I guess there is some kind of holiday going on tomorrow? I’ll have to check my calendar… in the meantime here is a rough image of a job that fell through last week. I mentioned it in a previous “On the Drawing Board” post. It was going to be a movie poster for a film that will be in the Sundance Film Festival next month. It’s a documentary following two researchers abroad on their quest. I’ve blocked out the title just in case it was supposed to be top secret…
I ordinarily never do anything “on spec” (meaning for free in order to secure the job and MAYBE get paid), but in this case I spent a small amount of time cobbling together this rough layout for the client to use to try and sell the concept to the rest of the producers. As it happens the concept got rejected because they felt it would have been too humorous. Actually the original concept would have been far more humorous, with a high energy action caricature of the two main guys and lots of surrounding caricatures of some of the colorful people they meet on their travels. This rather boring design was an attempt to salvage the idea a little, but all the reasons one would want to use humorous artwork in the first place had basically been removed, so it was doomed to failure. Too bad because this was going to be a full blown one sheet movie poster that was 40 inches tall. That would have been fun to see.
I have another movie project in the works that involves art for the actual film and credits, which is a definite “go” (more or less) so that will be interesting, fun and a ton of work in the first quarter of 2008.
Q: When you were first starting out, how did your parents react to your decision to become a cartoonist? Were they supportive of your chosen profession, try to talk you out of it, or somewhere in between? Also, how did the in-laws feel about having their daughter marry someone who aspired to become one of “the usual gang of idiots”?
A: As a young kid my parents were very supportive of my desire to be an artist. In fact, they enrolled me in the “Art Instruction Schools” correspondence art program when I was 14. I did about three lessons with them before realizing the “individual” instruction I was getting amounted to 4 to 6 words of illegible scribbling and several pre-printed overlays obviously selected from different piles depending on the most prevalent problems I had with the lesson. My dad somehow got out of the contract when I pointed out these facts to him. Never once did they discourage or question my choice to pursue art as a career. Had they any idea what the chances of making a good living as a cartoonist were, I’d probably be a lawyer right now. As it was, they were all for it.
My in-laws were delighted that I was an artist. Actually I think it didn’t really matter what I was as long as it wasn’t a guitarist in a rock band, which was what The Lovely Anna‘s boyfriends mostly were prior to me (“losers” is also a term that might apply). All that mattered to her parents was that I treated their daughter like a queen, and made her happy. Good thing, because I worked as a caricaturist at theme parks during the summers and drew in bars and nightclubs while going to art college while Anna supported us with restaurant management and retail jobs… Stavros Niarchos I was not. Fortunately for me I was able to parlay my theme park caricature gig into a business and then get my freelance career off the ground before too long.
I was also smart enough not to mention I was a Green Bay Packer fan until we’d been married three years and had two kids… then it was too late to throw me out of their Minnesota Viking family.
As far as MAD goes, they all have subscriptions and I hear comments a lot about my pieces in the magazine. In fact, I get a lot of “when are you going to draw me into MAD!” from my brothers… don’t worry boys, you’ll show up one of these days. I’m waiting for the right circumstances.
Thanks again to Timothy Houston 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!
Charles Schulz‘s widow and my friend Jeannie Schulzwrites some public comments about the David Michaelis book. Jeannie is one smart lady, and her comments demonstrate that quite clearly. No one would blame her if she just took a few reactionary public shots at Michaelis over his portrayal of her late husband. Instead she shows that she is actually very familiar with the book’s content and calmly and intelligently explains why a number of Michaelis’s conclusions are poorly conceived or are outright erroneous. After reading these comments and talking with her, I believe Michaelis was bent on painting Schulz as the tortured artist, and conveniently ignored both facts and whatever opinions and stories about Schulz did not support that portrayal. -From the Canadian Sans Everything Blog.
Trailer Park Parenting for Dummies Dept.
Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. was preparing to release a new book on parenting on Mothers Day, 2008. The Author: Lynne Spears, mother of those fine, upstanding role models Britney and Jamie Lynne Spears. Spear’s book, “Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World” was to be all about “raising” (term used loosely) young Britney through her rise to fame.
The publisher has decided to shelve the book’s release. That decision came, I am sure purely by coincidence, shortly after it was reported that 16 year old Jamie Lynne was pregnant via her high school boyfriend. How long will publication be put off? “Indefinitely is the word we are using,” a source from the publisher told the NY Post.
“We don’t know how this happened,” Jamie Lynne has reportedly said… Apparently there is no chapter in Spear’s book concerning the “birds and the bees”.
Meanwhile plans for other rumored books by the publisher proceed including “Tips for a Successful Marriage” by Elizabeth Taylor, “Fair Play: Honor in Baseball” by Barry Bonds and the posthumous “Ethical Business Practices” by Kenneth Lay.
Ink Slip Dept.
Former Catfish Bend Casino employee David Stewartfound himself unemployed after tacking up this “Dilbert” comic strip on an office bulletin board:
Apparently casino management was not amused by the strip, and it’s referral to company decision makers as “drunken lemurs”.
“I find that very offensive,” and unidentified management source exclaimed. “We are not lemurs.” No comment on the “drunken” part….
Casino management reviewed security tapes to discover who posted the cartoon, and then fired Stewart saying he was not a “team player”. They cited the posting of the cartoon during a hearing over Stewart’s unemployment compensation, which they were trying to oppose. The judge sided with Stewart, saying that posting the cartoon was not done with malicious intent.
“However, had he posted a “Cathy” cartoon, he would have had his unemployment yanked in a heartbeat,” the judge reportedly added. -from The Daily Cartoonist
The Year in Askew Dept.
Finally, web humor site JibJab has once again posted their annual “Year in Review” video. Not quite as funny as last year but still worth look and a laugh:
Disclaimer- Certain additions to the “news stories” above were added for satirical and humorous purposes, including fictitious quotes, facts and other nonsense. Treat the “reporting” above with the same amount of gravitas as you would Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”, except not as funny…. and no Amy Poehler.