Q: Love your book, it helps me a great deal when dealing with my studio works. Especially the ladies’ facial structure as I seem to have problems with (that)… issues with questions such as ” can you draw me slimmer?” , “can you draw me younger?” etc. How do you deal with such requests?
A: Ah, the eternal bane of the live caricaturist… “Can’t you draw me skinny?” “Don’t draw my buck teeth!” “Don’t draw my wrinkles!”, etc. etc. Why people with low self image or vanity issues would want to get a caricature drawn is beyond me, but live caricaturists get these kinds of requests all the time.
I do not honor such requests. I draw the subject as I see the subject. I draw them age, weight and feature appropriate, and I tell them so up front.
That said, I do not necessarily have to exaggerate the wrinkles, fat, buck teeth or whatever else the subject is concerned about. I can make other exaggeration choices and still get a good likeness when drawing an overweight person without having to make them look like Jabba the Hut. I just don’t make them look like Keira Knightley. If they have a double chin in real life, then get one in my drawing… but I don’t necessarily have to exaggerate it.
This only applies to drawings where the subject is paying for the artwork, which is why I routinely refuse to do those kinds of commissions in the studio. Live drawing is quick, spontaneous, and in general there is a greater degree of acceptance by the customer due to that dynamic. In a studio commission piece the subject can really get ridiculous about how they are portrayed, and that’s why I politely decline most of those offers… plus I am too busy with work that does not have the opportunity to degenerate into a “Glamour Shot” caricature.
If you choose to take on private commissions, be honest with the client up front about what you do and what caricature is. Make sure they see work you’ve done so they can compare your caricatures to yoru subjects and see what level of exaggeration you typically apply, and agree on a “kill fee” if the job goes south and one of your do not want to continue to the finished art.
Thanks to Dante 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!