Archive for the 'Mailbag' Category
Sunday, December 1st, 2013
Q: Hey Tom! Not sure if you’ve covered this ever on your blog but here it goes. As we all know people come in all shapes and sizes. Now let’s say a lady is a little on the heavy side. Hopefully as she’s getting her caricature, she’ll know it’ll be somewhat exaggerated. But how do you find a balance on a “sensitive” person, so you’re not offending the person? In the case above, you don’t want to make the lady disgustingly fat and all that. But you don’t want to just ignore the fact that “she” is on the heavier side. It doesn’t have to stop at weight either. Say a bony nose, or big ears you get the idea. (Not so flattering characteristics we may or may not have). If a person has a bony nose, you can’t just skip that when doing a caricature. So I guess what I’m asking is, how do you keep that balance of “caricature-ism” but at the same time dealing with the sensitivity of some of your clients? Also has any clients been mad at the fact that you point these bad features out?
A: This question obviously pertains to drawing live caricatures, not illustration. It also is a question that pertains a bit more to caricatures done in a retail environment like at a theme park or a fair—in other words where the subject of the drawing is expected to pay for said drawing. You also bring up one of the biggest specific tarpits of the live caricaturist’s existence: a subject’s weight.
Firstly, in general: There are many schools of thought on the approach to retail caricature, and all of them fall somewhere along a scale with an extreme on each end of it:
Cute-acatures <————–> Fuckyou-acatures
On once end of the scale you have the complete artistic sellout: the Cute-acature. This is a drawing that has little to do with what the model actually looks like. It’s a drawing that is usually heavily based on a single look or style with some individual features shoehorned in, that makes the subject look cute, good-looking, cartoony, attractive, what have you. It ignores any and all features that might not come off as “ideal” and is meant to compliment and flatter the subject, even if it means giving a 300 lb man a jawline.
On the other end of the scale is the Fuckyou-acature. This is where the artist does a drawing that basically says to the subject: “Fuck you. I am an ARTEEST and I’m going to rip you a new one, and you are going to like it or you are an overly-sensitive moron.” This drawing goes out of the way to grotesquely exaggerate any flaws or blemishes the subject has… in fact it often OVER-exaggerates them far past any level of exaggeration the feature is actually asking for. For example, a subject might have a slight overbite/buck teeth. The Fuckyou-acature artist would draw the front incisors extending down past the chin, and in fact digging into the ground while the subject’s head pulls back and their feet barely scrape the floor. Hilarious, but few overbites are so severe they are demanding that sort of treatment. That becomes distortion not exaggeration, even if there is a glimmer of reason for it.
Neither approach is a very good one, although both can have their moments. The Cute-acature is usually the more commercially successful approach, but talk about a vapid and soul-crushing waste of artistic talent. The Fuckyou-acature will have its fans but without some tempering it will result in a lot of very pissed off customers, and not just the actually over-sensitive ones who would struggle with a good but honest caricature. Even people with a sense of humor don’t like being told to pay for a “fuck you” drawing that frankly is more about the artist than about the subject.
The best approach, both for all customers in general and in particular for one like in your example above, is a balance between the two. In fact, the really good live caricaturist develops a sort of sixth-sense about the tolerance levels of their subjects, and tempers their caricatures accordingly. This is especially true of a person’s weight, which is really in a class by itself when it comes to subject being sensitive. Why? Because it is viewed as something the subject can control, and therefore exaggerating it is like saying “you are guilty of being lazy and weak”. That’s hardly fair, because in many cases a person has only so much realistic control over their weight. Various conditions contribute to that, particularly genes. No one has control over how their nose looks, how big their forehead is or if they have freckles, but they do (or are perceived that they do) have control over their weight. Outside of surgery or some sort of cosmetic procedure, you were born with your features and they are what they are. Being overweight is considered (fairly or not) a correctable issue, and that makes it personal and therefore a subject of a far more sensitive nature.
Let’s take your example as a demonstration. A heavy-set lady sits down to get drawn…. where on the scale do you draw her? That depends. In talking with her, you could get the sense that she’s very comfortable with her weight (a rarity, especially in terms of being okay with it being the focus of a caricature), or you might get the idea she’s sensitive about it (like if she says “don’t draw me FAT!”). You cannot ignore that fact that she has a double chin, because if you do you will not get a likeness. However you don’t have to go out of your way to exaggerate that fat face to the point where she looks like a balloon with tiny a nose, eyes and mouth sunk into a fleshy ball of dough. I would never draw her so she looks like a scrawny Angelina Jolie, but I would probably look for other things to exaggerate and emphasize… especially if they are attractive things. Maybe she has very lush eyelashes, or her hair is big and flowing. Maybe she has a radiant smile, and I’d be sure to capture that. I’d still do the double chin, but I wouldn’t exaggerate it so she looks like Jabba the Hutt. When I teach rookie theme park artists live techniques, I always caution them to err on the safe side with people’s weight. Don’t ignore it, but don’t make it the focus of your drawing either.
With other features, that’s up to your assessment of the tolerance of your subject. If you get the sense they are babies about their big nose, downplay it and look for other things to emphasize. If they seem like they are into it, let them have it. MOST people understand what a caricature is when they sit down and that’s in your favor. You’d think if they really are vain they wouldn’t get one done in the first place… but you’d be surprised how many people just don’t believe they have the big nose they do out of sheer self-deception.
Do people ever get mad at a drawing? Sure they do. Sometimes you just guess wrong, or more likely you never had a chance outside of a “cute-acature” anyway, and then you lose a sale. Big deal. Just politely say you are sorry they didn’t like it and move on. You are a caricaturist, not a self-image consultant.
Thanks to Cam 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!
Sunday, November 10th, 2013
Q: What are your thoughts on the new Wacom Companion (the new Cintiq/tablet mashup)? Any plans to get one?
A: When I was at the Stanley Awards in Australia a week or so ago I got a chance to play around with one of the hybrid Android tablet Cintiqs, which was brought to the conference by Jason Chatfield. Jason, incidentally, did a comprehensive review of that device on his blog and on YouTube which is well worth watching.
I was not impressed. I thought there was significant lag with linework, and I just didn’t like the feel of it. Now, I was using it in tablet mode in Android with SketchbookPro, which I absolutely hate working with. I had a problem with the palm rejection, and I would move or zoom in and out of the image I was working on intermittently. I believe the Windows version of this has a “touch on/off” switch which would solve this problem, but I don’t know if the hybrid has this. Also, Jason’s pen had the hard plastic nib on it and I much prefer the felt nibs, so it was not a very fair assessment. The jury’s still out for me, but I think if I was to get one I’d go with the full Windows version so I could use PhotoShop.
I would love to get a chance to try the version that runs Windows 8 and full PhotoShop or other graphics programs. I actually had one on order but cancelled it at the last minute… sticker shock on the price. It’s just a little too much money to drop hoping it will be what I want it to be, rather than knowing. I’m going to wait until I can actually try one out, or at least until someone I know does a full review of it. In theory it seems to be exactly what we’ve all been waiting for, but at that price I need someone to tell me the theory works in practice first. I am tired of the Cintiq 12wx, with the giant tangle of cords, bricks and power source needs… I’d love to get a truly portable solution, but I need something that is capable of doing really finished work on it, not just sketching in a coffee shop.
If Wacom wants to send me one to evaluate, I’d be happy to write an honest review of it!
Thanks to Cedric Hohnstadt 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!
Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
Q: Did you ever consider doing anything else for a living besides illustration?
A: Yes, I’ve always wanted to be an independently wealthy, idle , international playboy. I couldn’t ever find a place to turn in an application for the job, though, so I went with cartooning.
Actually I can honestly say I never wanted to be anything else besides an artist. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t spend most of my free time drawing nor ever thinking about being anything but an artist. I never even daydreamed about being an athlete or a rock star or anything like that. Comics, cartooning and illustration was all I ever wanted to do. I cannot imagine being a young adult without any idea of what I wanted to do with my life, as so many are. All I ever wanted to be was a professional artist…
… I figure if I keep working at it I’ll make it eventually.
No matter how much you love what you do, if you do it long enough eventually it becomes work, and sometimes you’d rather be doing something else. I do have those moments—like at 4 am when I’d rather be sleeping than trying to meet some deadline. However those moments are pretty few and far between. I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything else in the world… except maybe the independently wealthy, idle , international playboy if one of those positions becomes available. And, of course…
Thanks to J Straub 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!
Sunday, October 27th, 2013
Q: I have a question about the art of book writing.
I own your book “The Mad Art of Caricature” and I love it, but I would like to know how you went to produce it. I understand that you use Photoshop for your work and you incorporated it in the book to show examples, but did the publisher you go through to produce it give you a set template? For example, did the publisher tell you where to place the page numbers and headings you see on each page, or was that part of your design for each individual page?
I’m using Illustrator for the artwork and Word for the text. I’m curious on how to go about writing a book (Like caricatures, I’m fairly new at it) I have an idea, some finished pages (24 completed), but that’s about it.
A: I self-published The Mad Art of Caricature, so I am the publisher as well as the author, illustrator and designer. I also emptied the trash and made coffee for the staff.
What you are really asking is not how you write a book, but how you design a book, i.e. the layouts, typography, etc. I did that all myself but couldn’t begin to explain how to do it in depth, as I sort of “flew by the seat of my pants” when doing the book design. It was a combination of research and trial and error.
I did the production in Adobe InDesign, which was a bit of a learning curve as I had never used it before. There are many tutorials and guides online as well as some books on how to use it. By doing some research, I was able to learn enough to create the layout and produce the book. For the really hard stuff, I asked some artists friends of mine to suggest an InDesign expert to me, and I paid that person to come over and give me a three hour lesson, specifically on how to do some of the things I wanted to do that I could not figure out on my own. Through that combination of resources, I got the book put together.
As far as design goes, what I did was look thorough my library of books on cartooning and “how-to-do stuff” looking for ideas. I liked the 2 column page, unbalanced layout that I saw several examples of, which had the flexibility of leaving the outside column on a page empty for extra images, cropping the text to a half page or any desired depth, or doing a single top to bottom column with extra room for images, or going text-dense. I came up with the color coded chapter headers as a way to easily distinguish chapters even with the book closed, and played around with text wrapping for image placement.
Look around for design inspiration at your local library or bookstore, and think about what the purpose of your book is and what would be the best way to present your words and pictures to serve that purpose. It will take some research and learning on your part but it’s entirely possible to put together a well designed and produced book on your own thanks to available software and know-how.
Thanks to Ethan Keister 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!
Sunday, October 20th, 2013
Q: A few posts ago you mentioned how sometimes art directors ask you to ape the look of another illustrator and how you either talk them out of it or decline the job. Are there illustrators out there who routinely do ape the look of other artists?
A: Oh, yes. I know of several illustrators who have built their entire careers around mimicking the style of other illustrators.
Originally this question included the website of an artist that does just that, but I removed the reference. I don’t like bashing other people as a rule, so do not expect me to name names. What people do is their own decision and if they are comfortable doing something like mimicking another artist’s style to earn a living, I am not going to judge them. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, if they can live with it more power to them, I guess. I don’t think this kind of thing hurts the original illustrator whose style is being ripped off, because they likely are not in need of work if their style is so popular or iconic it’s being aped by other artists, and any client who would go to a copy-cat illustrator was never a real possibility as a client for the original anyway. Therefore it’s a victimless crime… just don’t ask me to have a great deal of respect for those types.
I do know of a number of illustrators who are not shy at all about being clones of the styles of other, more notable artists. Jack Davis is probably the most imitated cartoon illustrator of all time (I’d say Jeff MacNelly is the all-time most copied cartoonist ever), and I see many artists with heavy Davis influence who aren’t true copycats, but I know of at least one whose work is such a Davis mimic he even signs his name the exact same way. Mort has many copy-cats also, some to the point where it makes you wonder if they don’t have a stack of MAD‘s next to their drawing table so they can find a Mort drawing of a hand, figure, or expression, they need to draw at any given time. I know of one airbrush illustrator from the 80′s who literally used the following (paraphrased) line in his advertising: “If you can’t afford Mark Fredrickson, call me!”. Al Hirshfeld is another illustrator who you see copied quite a bit. There is one guy who bills himself as the “next Al Hirschfeld”… as if there could ever be another. I even know of some live caricaturists who unashamedly advertise they work in Hirschfeld’s style.
There is actually a market for copycat artists, and that’s why some people choose to go that route. The first cartoonist I ever met was the late George Karn, a local Twin Cities illustrator who was part of an illustration studio here in Minneapolis that a college class of mine visited. His promo piece was a montage of copycat images… he had a Davis, a Drucker, an Arnie Roth, a Jeff MacNelly, etc. He actually gave us advice to say you should “adopt” a variety of styles so you can get lots of work and not be limited to “one style”. The translation to that is “clone the work of recognizable cartoonists and you’ll get work from clients who want their look but won’t pay their fees”. Karn was a talented artist but never made his own mark on the world with his own properties or features, although he did work I am sure most people would have seen. He drew many of the General Mills “Monster Cereal” characters for packaging, ads and promotional items, among other national advertising and product art. He was clearly comfortable doing what he did, and I guess in a way he was more of a “jack of all trades” kind of cartoonist who mimicked many styles as opposed to someone who just marketed himself as “Jack Davis lite”. There is a bit of a difference.
I am sure there is a few people out there who think I’m being a hypocrite saying what I said in the previous paragraph, since some people seem to think I am a rip-off of Mort Drucker. Anyone who thinks that is either visually illiterate or has some other agenda for saying so. People who don’t know what they are looking at might see caricatures done in a linear, inked technique in a sequential storytelling format and instantly think “Mort Drucker” regardless of what the style really looks like. They can go ahead and think that because I know they are wrong, and more importantly people like the editors at MAD know they are wrong. If they were right, I’d not be working for MAD. Even my initial Mort influences have been fading away for years now. I’m very comfortable in saying my work is it’s own style… far inferior to Mort’s, Jack Davis‘s or any of the MAD legends, but not a mimic.
I don’t really know what to think about illustrators who blatantly mimic the work of another artist. It’s quite possible to earn a living by doing it, but it must be very unfulfilling. You would have to come to grips with the fact that your career is really riding on the coat-tails of another artist whose style you are aping, and any jobs you get are because the client really wants the other guy but either can’t afford him or he is unavailable. You also have a certain stigma with regard to your work, especially from other illustrators and more reputable art directors. You certainly are out of the running for jobs from many upper-level clients because they won’t contract a copycat when they can have the real thing. I know in MAD‘s case, they refuse to give work to artists who too closely resemble the work of their mainstays. even when those mainstay’s no longer work for them and/or have passed away. This is especially true of blatant mimics as well as those who are just too heavily influenced by the classic MAD artists. On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to earn a living as a freelance artist no matter how you do it, so if that roads allows you to have a successful career, who am I to say it’s wrong?
Thanks to R Griffin 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!
Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Q: I’ve been meaning to ask you about how and at what point during a project do you normally send your roughs to MAD for approval. And since your originals are ‘twice-size’ how do you scan your work? Just curious.
A: The process goes this way:
- Sam Viviano, MAD’s Maddest Art Director, calls me to give me a heads up that I will be doing the art for a parody of some TV show or movie. This gives me a chance to go see the film or to get some episodes of the show to watch so I can familiarize myself with the subject. Yes, watching movies or TV is part of my job… I know, it’s a hard life.
- MAD sends me a script and the layouts for the parody. The script is usually 12-15 pages with dialogue and descriptions of the scenes being depicted in each, occasional art notes, etc. The layout is literally the complete parody with all balloons, text and panels in place…. just missing the art:
- I print out these layouts on bristol drawing paper at print size. On this paper I do my “roughs”, meaning I work out the entire parody in terms of composition, storytelling, and all the elements MAD needs to see to approve. I may or may not do actual caricatures at this stage. Often what I do is just take a quick stab at the caricature, and if I am off the mark I just move on knowing I will work on it at the final pencil stage to get the caricature right. Here’s an example:
This is what I send in to MAD for their review. The important information is either drawn in enough for them to see and understand what I am doing in each panel… “selling” the gag that is in the dialogue, advancing the story, adding sight gags, etc, or sometimes I will add notes to the panels to indicate things I intend to do but didn’t work in at this stage. This example is a fairly “tight” rough, with very little not drawn out almost fully. In some cases I might be doing circles for heads with the name of the actor scrawled in it with no attempt at caricature… I usually spend a little more time on the splash roughs.
In answer to the second part of your question, I have an 11×17 inch scanner and can scan these roughs in as two page spreads in one scan. The larger final art I have to scan in two half and stitch together in PhotoShop.
Thanks to Frank Pryor 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!
Sunday, October 6th, 2013
Q: Hi Tom, please don’t get me wrong. We love your work but doesn’t it get a bit mechanical/ boring/ task like to do same kind of work day in and day out? I know you have chosen your favorite field of profession but since most of the work is almost same style/type do you ever give a thought about say becoming a painter/ artist as in painting exhibition? Does it ever crosses your mind that you (illustrators) have to deal in volumes to make a good living while say an abstract/contemporary art painter puts in less than half the time earns a lot more, both money and respect (unfortunately illustrators, especially humorous illustrator, due to lack of knowledge in public are not as respected or considered to be doing something ‘intellectual’ as say an abstract artist) plus no deadlines, and carrying your computer/tab etc along with you?
A: Wow, I am not sure where to even begin with that…
First off, I don’t do the same thing day in and day out. Quite the opposite. Every job I get has different challenges and poses a different set of problems that need solving. I don’t draw pictures of lawn mowers or roast beef sandwiches for ads. What I do has narrative… even single spot illustrations are storytelling. I have a story to visually tell with every image, either in the literal sense in the case of a comic or one of the MAD parodies I do, or in the sense that I am reinforcing the message of the article or concept of the client. No part of that is boring.
Secondly, you are mistaken if you think that a “fine” artist (for lack of a better term, let this stand for an artist would creates are he/she sells as prints, originals, sculptures, etc in galleries to private collectors) is not a “commercial” artist, or that they do not have to work hard to achieve the kind of financial success you are talking about. They have to highly commercialize their work, creating and marketing limited edition giclees, prints the artist does a small amount of hand-embellishing on, artist proofs, etc. etc. I just got back from a trip where I saw some of the greatest works of art ever created–Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Caravaggio–every one of their masterpieces were commercial jobs, done for clients. Financial success only comes from commercialization of one’s work. How is doing a series of paintings and selling them as prints any different than an illustrator doing a print of their work and selling it as a poster, or doing a comic book and selling it?
Thirdly, do you think a fine artist achieving that kind of financial success is easy? It’s at least as unlikely as a cartoonist becoming commercially successful with their work, if not more so. Most fine artists struggle to make a living as much or more than your average illustrator does. What you describe, where an artist paints whatever they fancy and whenever they feel like it, and then sits back and collects lots of money from the sales generated from a few pieces, as an EXTREMELY rare case. Most fine artists have to work very hard creating lots of artwork and searching for a market for it to maket any kind of living.
Finally, I disagree that illustrators, especially humorous illustrators, get no respect from the public. In fact, I’d argue that to the GENERAL public, a humorous illustrator or cartoonist is far better known and respected that most fine artists. If you go up to a man-on-the-street and start naming or showing them the work of folks like Jack Davis, Jack Kirby, Chuck Jones, Charles Schulz, etc. etc, many will recognize the name or at least the work. Then ask them or show them the work of Eduardo Berliner or Hernan Bas, almost 100% of them will have never heard of or seen their work, despite their being highly regarded contemporary artists. As far as respect goes, that’s a subjective thing. How must respect does Thomas Kinkade get in fine art circles? Basically zero, yet he was arguable the most financially successful contemporary painter of the 20th century, and would be someone that previously mentioned man-on-the-street would probably recognize and likely say they liked his work. How important is it to me to have the respect of a bunch of snooty, pseudo-intellectuals who think they know what “real art” is? That ranks in importance to me right around the the same level as wanting to get a root canal. In other words, I could not care less.
I do what I do, and greatly enjoy what I do. I’m very fortunate to make a living from it. There are probably some people who think what I do and my work is low-brow garbage. That’s their opinion, and I honestly don’t care what they think. The only people whose opinions of my work I care about are my peers and those who I respect in the illustration and cartooning world. It’s wonderful and very gratifying when people tell me they enjoy my work, but even if no one ever did, I would still do what I do. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.
Thanks to Nice 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!
Sunday, September 29th, 2013
Q: I’ve read your articles on the evil of doing work-for-hire art. Isn’t MAD work-for-hire? Why the double standard?
A: It’s true, I have railed about the inadvisability of work-for-hire agreements, which are agreements between the artist and the client wherein the client owns not only the copyrights to the work, but all the originals and every scrap of every concept or idea you did for that project, forever. Usually this is not a very good deal for the artist, because that work can become a cash cow for the client with no further payment to the artist necessary.
That said, there are some exceptions to that “no work-for-hire” rule. One is when you are working on someone else’s licensed properties or characters. If Disney hires you to do a series of Mickey Mouse greeting cards, you might as well sign a work-for-hire agreement because nothing you do will ever be useable for you with any other client in the future anyway due to the copyrights of the characters you worked on. The work I do for Jeff Dunham is work-for-hire, which makes sense since I can’t possibly sell the rights to reproduce that work to anyone else anyway. Another exception might be if they significantly increase the fee you would have charged for something where you only sold them the copyright for limited use. That’s not much different than selling “full rights” to your work to someone. Where you really have to be careful with work-for-hire stuff is when you are creating something that might have longevity and marketability down the road… say you are hired to develop some comic book property for a publisher. If you do it work-for-hire, they can toss you off the book and hire others to do it, or sell the movie rights to your creation and not pay you a dime or give you credit, ever. I would think twice about creating a property or character under a work-for-hire agreement.
Now, your direct question: Why would I work under a work-for-hire agreement for MAD? I guess the same reason someone would play for the Yankees if they came calling but the deal wasn’t quite as one might like… it’s MAD Magazine. Yes, MAD owns all the work I do for them, and can reprint them at their leisure with no further payment to me. However, I have gotten a lot of peripheral work from my “notoriety” in being a principal MAD artist. For example, all those workplace posters I do every month for the last decade? I got that gig because the art director was a MAD fan, saw my work in the magazine, and looked me up. Same thing with my work for Jeff Dunham. There are many other examples. Also, the guys at MAD are great about throwing me other side projects and in general treat me like a member of the family… well, like the uncle who’s always drunk at Thanksgiving and says awkward things… but still family. They also do not ask for the original art back and and have no problem with me selling it. In other words, it’s as good an arrangement as a work-for-hire deal can get, and I am happy with it.
Thanks to Bob Mc 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!
Sunday, September 22nd, 2013
Q: I have really enjoyed following your blog for sometime now and waited with bated breath for your book to come out. It is nothing short of a masterpiece! Your book is chock full of great drawings and instruction. I know that there is no substitute for Practice. My question is… What methods would you recommend for practicing? Would you find a caricature you admire and practice it over and over? Would you practice individual features over and over? What tips could you give on the best way to get the most out of one’s practice time?
A: Great question. Thanks for the kind words about my book!
I would NOT recommend finding one caricature you admire, or even a series of them by the same artist, and practice drawing it over and over. That teaches you very little except how to copy that drawing. It’s fine to do studies of another artist’s work, but best to do it while you are also looking at actual pictures of the subjects they are caricaturing. That way you learn about their thought process and decision making, as opposed to the conventions and style of drawing they use.
Much better to try and draw from real life as much as possible. Working from photos is okay but there is nothing like translating life directly from life. That’s why doing live caricature is such a great way to develop your skills at the art form. Go to a coffee shop or a mall and draw people as they sit around… try and do it stealthily so they don’t notice and get uncomfortable.
There are lots of interesting variations on ‘public drawing’, many of which involve using your memory to develop you observational skills. One might be to give yourself a set amount of time to make observations of the face/figure of your subject. Don;t draw, just look. Then turn your back on them and try and draw from your memory. That’s a great exercise to help sharpen your “eye”.
The bottom line is there are very few caveats concerning practicing drawing. The only really wrong way to go about it is not to do it.
Thanks to J.C. Johnson 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!
Sunday, September 15th, 2013
Q: I know from reading your blog that a caricaturist can use caricatures of celebrities to display their work, but cannot sell them due to the celebrity “owning” their likeness, and that it is not worth the hassle of getting into legal trouble doing it. Having said that, an artist sold a painting of a nude Bea Arthur a few months back- Don’t the same rules apply? Or are exemptions made for “fine” art?
A: I’d like to preface my comments below by saying I am not a lawyer and this is not meant to substitute for real legal advice… I’m just a guy who has done a fair amount of research on this over the years. To a great extent, interpretation of the law boils down to how you THINK a specific set of circumstances will be ruled on by the courts. No one really knows until it’s before a court. I certainly don’t. I’m mostly speculating here…
That said, an original piece of art is almost always going to be an exception to the right of publicity, as long as it’s an original work and a one-of-a-kind thing. Putting up a website advertising you do original paintings of Tiger Woods is different than doing a series of golf paintings, one or two of which have Tiger in them. Soliciting original art commissions of a specific subject is much more like selling a product, even if they are original paintings. A one-of-a-kind painting is going to be nearly bullet-proof against a right of publicity lawsuit… especially if the artist does something stylistically where the art itself and not the subject matter could be the attraction for the buyer. If your example of the naked Bea Arthur painting was one of a series of naked paintings of celebrities no one would ever want to see naked, that would be an artistic theme and I don’t think any court would hold them in violation of a single celebrity’s right of publicity. If that same artist did 200 nude Bea Arthur paintings and opened up a “Naked Bea” kiosk at the local mall, Bea’s estate might have a case.
There are extenuating circumstances, of course. Parody is generally considered an exemption from RoP and copyright claims as long as it’s clearly making fun of the subject and/or the industry he/she is known to be a part of. The Bea Arthur painting could be considered a parody or social commentary on the ills of celebrity vanity or our culture’s instance on perfection of the looks and body of many actors. Parody is a first amendment right. Given that, I could probably sell prints of this:
… and get away with it since it clearly makes fun of Tiger’s shattered public image. This actually IS a caricature sample from one of the walls at one of my theme park locations, but I would still not sell it. Why? Well, for starters it’s not a fine art print, and as I have said here before the method of production of this kind of thing really does make a difference for the courts. An original painting, or a limited edition print series, is considered “fine art” by the courts and therefore an acceptable form of free speech. T-shirts, coffee mugs, posters and the like are considered “products” and not accepted vehicles of free speech, and thus the “parody” defense is not applicable. But the reality is that I just don’t think it would be worth selling a handful of pictures of Tiger or anybody else when the legal right to do so is somewhat in doubt. It would cost me more to defend that right in court than I’d ever make from selling the caricature, so why even try?
Thanks to Chelsey White 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!