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Sunday Mailbag- Time on a MAD Job?

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Q: The pages your draw for the TV and film parodies in MAD are very complex. How long does it take you to do that?

A: As long as they give me.

Actually it takes about 2 days per page. That’s from blank layout to final, colored art. Some pages go faster than others of course. It depends on the subject matter and how many caricatures or complex scenes are involved, but it always seems to even out to 2 days per page in the end.

Of course, that’s just the actual art. I also spend some time researching the job (i.e. watching the show or film) and usually a full day finding references and such. All together a 5 page parody probably takes me 12 working days to complete. I can step it up if I have to, but that is more of an exercise in endurance than increased speed. This stuff takes time and certain parts of it I cannot speed up. If I am under the gun I just have to work more hours per day.

Thanks to Bill Hodgins 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 Mailbag- SotW Size?

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: How big are your sketches of the week?

A: That’s not a question with a real answer except for “almost any size”.

I don’t keep a sketchbook proper, wherein I draw and then put away when it’s full. I have a couple of those but I just draw on whatever is at hand. I have a stack of 12 x 16 live caricature paper in a drawer by my drawing table, and I use this paper for most of my roughs, conceptual drawings and thumbnails for jobs as well as random sketches. I do a lot of my “sketches of the week” on that paper.

When I am just drawing for fun or practice I don’t pay much attention to the size I work at. The drawing just ends up whatever size it ends up at. It can swing wildly. Here’s some examples:

Richard Kiel © 2014 Tom RichmondThis week’s one of Richard Kiel was pretty big… 7 x 11 inches.

This Andrew Garfield was only 2.5 x 6 inches.

This one of John Candy was really tiny… 3 x 4 inches.

I recall this one of Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer being really big… took up most of that 12 x 16 piece of paper.

Thanks to Taylor Miles Clark 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 Mailbag- Handling Files?

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Q: You are creating hundreds of pictures a year. As you work partly digital there are at least hundreds of files a year. Which order do you have for these files on your hard disk? Do you have one folder for each project? Do you have a folder for finished work, quasi a portfolio folder? Do you save all your files or do you delete most of them after some time? Do you have a standard procedure for your files (names, folders, etc.)?

A: I don’t think it’s exactly “hundreds” of illustrations a year but it is a lot. I have three different areas where I keep my digital files: Working, Art Files, Archives.

Working: This is a single folder on my main hard drive where I keep the files of anything I am working on at the time. I organize these into sub-folders for each job. These folders can get very filled up with different versions of the illustrations I am working on. I might save an illustration at a certain stage and then work on the same file under a new name going forward. I might do that if I end up merging a few layers at a certain point, so I have a version with the layers merged just in case I need it. I prefer to work on a file with as few separate layers as possible, to minimize the likelihood of my working on the wrong layer accidentally and messing up something. I also keep any references or working files in this same folder like sketches, raw scans etc.

Art Files: This is a folder on my secondary hard drive where I keep the finished work I have done for the last year or so. I have sub-folders for each of my regular clients here, and then sub-folders in each for the different projects I did for them. I take the file from the “Working” folder, delete all the unneeded files from it like the references, extra versions of the art, etc and then move it to it’s home in the appropriate folder in “Art Files”. I usually save an unflattened master version of a finished illustration, the flattened final art I delivered and any sketches involved. If I don’t have a client folder for a given job I put it in a “Misc” folder.

Archives: Every couple of years I purge my Art Files folder and put the older art into an archives folder. This is on a third separate hard drive and organized by year. I sometimes delete all but the final art file, but most of the time I keep the sketches and such as well. I have some of my really old art on CD roms somewhere, but a lot of the old digital stuff is lost to posterity. It seems to me that this whole digital art revolution is still a new thing, but I was doing digital illustrations as early as 1992 (my first digital job was a series of comic book format anti-drugs/anti-smoking/anti-bad stuff info for grade school aged kids using Adobe Illustrator), so that was 22 years ago!

I have a redundant auto backup of all my hard drives as well as the Mac “Time Machine” feature set to guard against data loss.

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!

Diary of a MAD Job Revisted: Part 6!

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Now we are in the home stretch! It’s time to get coloring. Those of you who are looking for a tutorial on my painting techniques will be a little disappointed I’m afraid. In order to do that I need to save steps along the way, and I did not do that with this or any past job in anticipation of a tutorial. My apologies, but I will save those steps the next chance I get, and will put together a real tutorial on how I paint my line art soon. (did that years ago. See Here) In the meantime, here are the basic steps:

When painting I used to use a Wacom tablet with PhotoShop. My technique is meant to imitate a traditional watercolor look, and using the pressure sensitivity of a Wacom tablet is crucial to accomplish this. I got along fine with the tablet, even though I was not looking at my hands as I painted but at the screen. You quickly become used to this, and after a time it seems very natural. A few years ago Wacom came out with a new piece of equipment called the Cintiq, which is a combination tablet and monitor. With the Cintiq you draw and paint right on the screen. Despite the steep price tag I took the plunge and got the Cintiq 18sx. It took a little time to get used to it, but eventually the Cintiq became indispensable. Recently while on a road trip I was forced to use my laptop and a standard Wacom tablet to color the last two pages of a MAD job. It was a bit awkward after using the Cintiq at the studio, but it turned out fine. I’d recommend either the Cintiq or a tablet, depending on your budget. Either way using something with pressure sensitivity is a must. A mouse will not do the job. I just upgraded to the Cintiq 21ux this winter (Now use the Cintiq 24HD).

The first thing I do is lay in flat color in the background layer throughout the panel or panels I am working on. I use the paint brush tool at 100% opacity and turn off the pressure opacity settings. I lay in a midrange color for almost every object in the panels. I say “almost” because I always skip hair and anything needing a fuzzy edge. These I’ll do later when using the pressure feature of the pen. I have to use the brush tool for this, as I am painting on a blank layer and using the fill bucket wouldn’t work… no lines to contain the color. It wouldn’t work with my lines at any rate… I never close off my paths like you need to in order to keep the color fill in place. I ink too loosely for that. The flat color looks very flat. No life at all. I’ll add all the values in the second stage.

By now, the deadline is likely right around the corner. Endurance is going to be a must now, with late nights and early mornings, and probably at least one all nighter at the end. Those MAD guys are slave drivers. Now the audiobooks I mentioned before are the only thing keeping me from going crazy. Also: enter energy drinks. Three Monster Lo-Carbs will keep me up all night. I’ve got a small refrigerator in my studio, and all that’s in it is Monster. I can’t drink the sugared stuff, However. That will cause you to crash thanks to the insulin spike it triggers, and besides the outrageous calories in them would make me into Tom the Hutt in short order. Audiobooks and Monster Lo-Carb… my secret anti-distraction weapons.

energy.jpg

Listening to Frodo crossing into Mordor with a belly full of L-Carnitine, Taurine, Caffeine and god-knows-what-else, I keep on task. The next step is rendering. It would be easy to isolate each panel and color it as a separate illustration, but that leads to trouble. I admit I used to do this. Now I try and keep the entire page in mind, and even the spread of two pages when it comes to color choices and establishing values. When I lay in the flat color, I’m thinking about how things balance. You can’t have panel after panel of saturated, bright color… that’s like listening to an entire album of loud dance music at full volume.. you’ll be exhausted by the end of the album and your eye will be exhausted by the end of the story. When you see a panel in silhouette or with monochromatic color, it isn’t the artist being lazy, it’s done to give the eye a chance to rest and makes the rest of the page more effective. Okay, sometimes it’s because I’m being lazy, but not often. Well… not all the time.

Getting back to rendering, I use the magic wand tool to select a flat area or areas of color. For example, all the skin tones in the panels. I then go in with darker colors for the shadows and start building up values. Now I use the brush tool again but with the pressure sensitivity set to control both opacity and brush size. I lay in layers of color and build up values. I do this all on the background layer, right on top of the flat color. I know, I should do this on a separate layer so I can make changes easier, but I have trouble keeping track of all those layers, and end up painting on the wrong one too often. So, I just paint like it’s a piece of illustration board. I also add other colors as needed, like blue and red tints, maybe bring in some color reflected off some other background object, I usually start out painting the hell out of everything and then have to skip some of the smaller details as the deadline looms. I always start with the splash and spend a lot of time on that, but after I will skip around so the last page isn’t the one that always suffers from the dreaded deadline crunch. Speaking of that, the deadline is getting closer, and I am basically in my studio all the time now. I still find quality time to spend with my family, however. Here’s a picture of me having a nice conversation about the day with my four children (that’s the door to my studio):

mad10.jpg

I got the Cintiq in the first place because I thought it would speed me up with the painting. It had the opposite effect… At 100% zoom an area that will be only 1/2 by 1/2 inch on a printed page is about 4 inches square on my monitor. What happened was I would spend a ton of time rendering some reflected light on the side of a face that ended up printing 1/4 inch high in the magazine. That is overkill and a real waste of time. To combat this, I do my rendering at 50% zoom on the images, which makes the physical size of the image on my monitor about 150% of the size it appears in MAD. That’s a good size so you have some tightening up as it’s printed, without wasting time to painting effects that will be lost completely.

Back to rendering again, now I come in with the highlights. That’s the beauty of digital… you can go from doing washes of darker values to opaque highlights without missing a beat. I’m painting loosely and leaving things looking kind of rough and chunky. I almost never use the airbrush tool or the blend/smear tool to smooth transitions and blend edges of color. That’s because the physical act of printing already melts these values together enough to make it look painted rather than digital. Because I am painting line art, I can afford to be loose. The lines define the edges and forms, and the color just adds to the values and depth of these forms. By way of demonstration, here’s a finished section of the image with and without lines:

paint1.jpg
paint2.jpg

You can see that without the lines it’s undefined and looks terrible. The lines hold it all together. Fully painting something without lines means the artist must establish all edges and forms with values and color. I could probably work the rough painting above into a fully painted version, but then I’d need to haul out the blend tool and add a lot more contrast and definition to the painting.

By now, the deadline is getting ugly. Even the Monster will fail eventually, and I’m not getting any younger…

mad12.jpg

Finally, the last panel is done and the job is finished. I flatten the final page and save as a TIFF file. I send the final art to MAD via FTP. On my way up to bed I check the mailbox for my paycheck from MAD for the job I just finished. It’s never there! They pay pretty fast but not that fast.

Here are some images from the final splash for “Extreme Once-Over: Home Repetition”:

mad13.jpg
Click for closer look
mad13-2.jpg
mad13-1.jpg

Sunday Mailbag- Working From Home?

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Q: I have a series of questions for your blog regarding the mental state one goes through when working from home as a freelancer (or just working from home in general). Do you ever get depressed from being locked in one room by yourself for an extended period of time without speaking or seeing anyone else besides your family? (And by family I mean your wife and children who live with you). Do you ever wish you were in a studio environment alongside other artists you could have lunch with or just casually chat to on a break?

Continuing on with the theme of working from home, do your family members take advantage of you for being at home by asking you to do errands? How do you stop your family members from distracting you? Do they ever barge into your office/studio and ask questions or stop you from doing work?

A: There are pros and cons about having a studio in the home as opposed to having studio space in some other location. The pros are you are never far from the studio. The cons are you are never far from the studio.

Me spending some quality time with the kids at home…

This has always been something I have wrestled with. I know many freelance artists that swear having a studio away from home is the only way they stay productive. Some tell me that sharing space with other artists begets a creative atmosphere that they need and that makes them better artists. I have always wondered if that would be a better way to go for me, but I have never taken the plunge to try because it frankly would cost too much money and the intangibles of working out of the home are too important to me. My studio in the lower level of our home costs me nothing in terms of rent, extra equipment or commute time, and I have never been able to justify the extra expense just to try having a studio outside my home. Just setting up internet service, paying for electricity, getting furniture and stuff would be expensive. I’d have to do a lot more work per year to cover those expenses, and I find it hard to believe I’d see enough extra productivity to make up the difference.

I would not say I ever get “depressed” working in a solitary environment, but I do sometimes have trouble staying on task. Mainly it’s because there are a lot of distractions here, but when I take a hard look at it there would be as many of the same distractions at an outside studio. Email, phone calls, NCS/business stuff… that’s all going to be in the way at any location. Personally I get my best work done when I am alone and in a quiet environment, which is why the hours of 9pm-7 am seem the best times to get serious work done. I would probably not be able to work during these hours in an outside studio, and if I could it would defeat the purpose of having an outside studio as those are quiet hours anywhere. I can see the argument that, by having a studio outside the home, you would be able to be more productive during business hours and not need to work the wee hours to get quiet time, but I disagree. The world itself is loud during business hours, and I think I’d struggle with the same distractions in a separate studio as I do at home.

I often do think about what it would be like to work in a studio with other artists. In a way I think it would foster a highly creative environment and might add a lot of energy to my day and work. Then again I might end up chatting too much with everyone and get less done. I’d have to find the right person(s) to share space with, which would be tough to do. I’d also have to establish the same kind of guidelines about when you can and cannot bother me when deadlines get nasty, which I have to do at home with the family anyway.

Which brings me to your last question about dealing with family members interfering with work. I am sure you did not mean to phrase your question to suggest family would “take advantage of me” in terms of them being knowingly intrusive or demanding. That has never, ever been an issue, and we had four kids in six years so there was a lot of family about. The Lovely Anna and the kids always respected my studio time and would always ask if I was busy when they needed something. When the kids were little I would have a drawing area for them in the studio and they would come in and draw sometimes, but they had many more fun things to do about the house so they didn’t spend much time hanging out with dad. Anna has never been anything but a huge help with my work, either by dealing with the kids and family stuff herself or also by helping me the business end of things… she still does a lot of that. Now that the kids are all grown up it’s only the dogs that demand my attention, and believe me they are more demanding than the kids ever were.

Sure, there are times when I have to put down the pen and go do something in the house that Anna needs my help with. If things are really getting serious with a deadline I am not afraid to say “I can’t do that right now”, but honestly very few things are too time consuming for me to have to say that. Anna knows exactly what I am working on at any given time, and so she knows when I am getting behind and when I need to be left alone, or when she can ask me to help move something in the garage without being too distracting.

The pros of family distractions are worth it all, though. I never missed a first step, lost tooth, first bike ride, holiday school singing show, choir concert, play, or any other growing-up milestone. More importantly, I was there when the little things happened and shared in all the important and not-so-important but still special moments of my kids growing up. I feel sorry for the many parents out there whose jobs and careers only give them a few hours a day of time with their children. I had all day, every day. Only when I was doing the theme park thing full time did I have significant time away from home,. That was only during the summers and I ended my personal time in the parks when the kids were still very young. Likewise The Lovely Anna and I spend all our days together. I know more than a few married couples whose relationships I seriously doubt would survive spending that kind of time together. We are lucky in that it’s not a cliché for us to say we are not just husband and wife, but best friends as well.

All in all I’m quite content with having a studio in my home as opposed to outside the home. In fact, I feel very blessed to be able to have done that all these years.

Thanks to Hugo Z 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 Mailbag- “Bats” Print Info

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Bat_mailbag_header

Today’s mailbag is an amalgamation of many of the questions I have been getting on my new Limited Edition Print “Bats in the Belfry”, which goes on sale online here tomorrow:

Q: How many prints in your limited edition?

A: Just like the last two prints, there will be 450 of them, all hand numbered and signed.

Q: How much will they be?

A: $25 plus shipping, just like the others.

Q: How big is it?

A: Big. 11″ x 28″.

Q: Will you ever reissue the print after the limited editions are sold out?

A: Nope. Both the James Bond and Doctor Who prints are completely sold out (although I do have a few of the Doctor Who prints left from the original print run, which I am selling as “Artist Proofs”), and I will not be printing them again.

Q: Will you be selling the original art as well like before?

A: Yes. Just like the last two, I did the original inks of each of the Batmen as individual pieces and will be selling them as “Special Editions” along with a signed and numbered “SE” print series of eight. They will be priced at $125 each. Several of them all already spoken for, though. I will post the individual ones still available sometime later tomorrow.

Q: This is your second print in less than 4 months. Are we going to be inundated with new prints several times a year now?

A: No. My intention was always to do only one print a year, but the Sherlock print was sort of a special extra one. Most of the time I will have a new print released in the early summer. I’ll do it as long as people are interested in buying them. Don’t worry, if you are a completist kind of collector you won’t be looking at “Disney Water globe” syndrome here, where 20 new items are released each year.

Q: Why didn’t you draw the bat on the chest of the Batmen?

A: Because that bat symbol is a trademarked property, and even though this is a parody of the subject matter including a trademark is hard to defend legally.

Sunday Mailbag- Drawing Disabilities?

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Q: Live caricatures are difficult partly due to the fact that you are face to face with the person you are drawing. You do a fantastic job explaining this in your book and go on to say how some customers are easier to draw than others based on prominent features (i.e. a big nose) and this is called a “field day.”  

But what I want to know is how do you deal with clients that have deformities? I’m not talking about caterpillar eyebrows or a big forehead. I mean scars, a very lazy eye, or anything out of the norm.

I have a cleft lip/ palette. Meaning I have a prominent scar on my upper lip. It’s not horrifying in any sense but it’s there and it used to make me self-conscious. So, naturally I would avoid caricature artists like the plague (ironic considering I love the art form now). But later in life I gained more confidence and had a caricature done recently. I actually told the artist not go easy and to be honest on what he saw; mostly because I wanted his honest interpretation, but also to ease the tension mostly for my own selfish reasons. He complied and it worked out fine. I was happy with the final piece.

I’m sure this is a rare problem considering the fact that the person would need to be either shy or self-conscious like I used to be, but has there ever been an exception? How would you handle something like that?

A: You would think that if a person sits down in front of a caricaturist, they would be prepared for the results and have the self-esteem necessary to take a little ribbing about their physical appearance. Often, nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only do live caricaturists get subjects who are overly-sensitive about their appearance, but they get people who are downright delusional about what they look like…. they just plain don’t believe they have buck teeth, even though they could open tin cans with their central incisors. They literally think they have nothing to exaggerate, and are usually appalled when their delicate self delusions are brought crashing about their feet like splintered glass.

That all said, those subjects with real physical abnormalities or disabilities are different cases all around. The above paragraph is about people with basically normal features, the differences and perceived “flaws” being only minor cosmetic elements… nothing but superficial vanity. There are, or course, many people with very obvious abnormalities to their features. Cleft lips or a lazy eye like you mentioned, injuries, scarring, illness, disabilities needing prosthetics, wheelchairs, etc…. these are issues that affect their actual lives, and are in some cases central to their daily lives.

So how do you handle these kinds of elements in a caricature? Do you ignore them? Downplay them? Draw them but not exaggerate it much? Ruthlessly exaggerate them?

Much of how you handle it depends on the person in front of you, and they will often let you know what they want like you did with your recent caricature. These folks are used to living with whatever issue they have and understand that many people, not just caricaturists who are wondering how to draw them, have difficulty addressing them. The more invasive the issue, the harder time people have getting around it in normal daily interaction. These people get that, and they will often take the initiative and address it upfront. They may say “don’t forget my scar!” or “can you downplay my scar?” or whatever… they will give you the lead. If they have a very obvious issue but say nothing about it at all, that also says something. It means they don’t let whatever it is dictate their interaction with people, and while they don’t hide from it (they are asking for a caricature after all) they don’t let it get in their way either.

So, what do you do when confronted with an issue like this?

It’s been my experience that there are two things you absolutely avoid doing:

  1. Totally ignoring the issue and draw them without whatever it is.
  2. Making an exaggeration of the issue the focus of the drawing.

With regard to the former, whatever their issue it is part of who they are. It may be nothing more than a cosmetic thing, or it may impact their life from morning to night. I’ve found the more it affects their daily lives, i.e. the severity of the disability, the more important it is you depict it in the drawing. It is actually insulting to the subject to NOT draw whatever it is (unless they specifically ask you to do this) because it insinuates they are “broken” and you draw them normal because that’s the way they are supposed to be. People usually don’t like that.

That goes for wheelchairs/mobility issues as well. I had a caricaturist once email me telling me a story about how he had a kid in a wheelchair get a drawing done, and how he drew him running with healthy legs across a race’s finish line in first place, and then telling the kid “you WILL walk again” when he handed it to him. That is just about the most disturbing and wrong thing I’ve ever heard a caricaturist do with a disabled subject. That kid might be permanently paralyzed and have zero chance of ever walking again. He may have spent years coming to grips with that, or still be coming to grips with it. That kid isn’t less of a person because he can’t win a foot race, and doesn’t need to be able to do that to live a great and happy life. What kind of message is that to impart, that walking again is an ultimate life goal? The artist said the family loved the drawing, but he got lucky there. Most of the time the opposite is true.

The latter point is the opposite end of the spectrum. No matter what issue or challenge the subject is dealing with, making that issue the central part of your exaggeration/caricature is equally as insulting as not drawing it. Your subject is not defined by whatever their issue is, so making it the focus of your drawing is not only insulting, it is incorrect because it says they ARE defined by it. A caricature is supposed to capture the personality and “presence” of the subject, and that means deeper than the skin. Expression should be as central to your exaggeration as the raw features are… making a prominent facial scar into the Grand Canyon on the subject’s face captures nothing about their personality, and is a lazy cop-out for the caricaturist.

How I usually handle it, once I understand the subject does not want me to ignore the issue completely, is I draw it but I do not emphasize or exaggerate it. If it is something strictly cosmetic I will perhaps downplay it a bit, but will definitely include whatever it is. If it is something more invasive like missing limbs, a wheelchair, etc., I will of course include that as well but I might address it more… that depends on the interaction I have with the subject. If I get the sense they have a good sense of humor, I will make a gag out of the issue, but in a way that makes light of the issue, not them. For example, if they have a missing arm, I might draw them with a book in one hand entitled “Robotics Made Easy”, and have a giant robot arm in place of their missing limb, doing curls with a 100lb dumb-bell. If they are in a wheelchair, I might draw the wheelchair as an “Ed Roth” style souped-up drag racer wheelchair bursting through the finish line of a race. These kinds of gags are twofold: first, they are funny ways of addressing their disability. Two, they show the subject clearly overcoming their disability using their own power or ingenuity, unlike the “miracle” gag the afore mentioned caricaturist used. People want to be shown as empowered in the face of a challenge or disability, not at the mercy of hoping for a miracle.

It’s always a challenge to draw someone with a physical abnormality or disability. The rule of thumb is you want to draw THEM, not their issue. Drawing them likely will include drawing whatever issue they have, but it should not be about the issue… it’s about them.

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 Mailbag- Fonts?

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Q: How do you approach copyright on fonts when it comes to your different projects? It’s tempting to just use whatever font looks best but quite a bit of them have copyright restrictions on commercial use. Or they are donate to author. I am guessing you hand letter some but curious how you approach font usage in your artwork when it comes to copyright restrictions.

A: I have to admit I am very lax when it come to the use of a font in an illustration I am doing. Often I hand letter something, but I will usually base that on a font I have seen or am using as a reference. Most of the fonts I use in illustrations are from Comicraft or another free, open use font resource. I seldom really look to be sure though, and it’s possible the use of some of these fonts could involve copyright permission or payment.

I am not sure how the legal use of a font within the context of an illustration works with respect to copyright. It might fall under the same sort of fair use exemption as does the use of a sampling of another person’s music in a hip-hop/rap song. Fair use permits the use of elements of a copyrighted work as long and the resulting work is completely original and new. Certainly, that applies to the illustrations I do where I might use an actual font as an element of the piece. Interesting question, though. I need to look into it. Thanks!

Thanks to Sean Platt  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 Mailbag- Caricaturist Superpowers?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Q: As a caricaturist you are analyzing thousands of faces. So I am wondering if you have got super-powers in the following sense: Can you better than other people see, if two persons are relatives: father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister, cousins, etc.?

A: I wish. My only super-power is the ability to procrastinate until the very last second and still pull off a deadline.

Actually I think the opposite of what you describe might be more true, at least for me. I think as a caricaturist I recognize things like expression and subtle facial or body language nuances related to personality more than anything else. When I see a person who reminds me of some celebrity or another person, it’s often because of the way they hold their head or squint their eyes or their smile curls up or some such expressive element. I might say to someone “That person looks a little like so and so”, and then get an odd look because that person doesn’t really look much like so and so, but just has some of his/her mannerisms or presence and that’s why I get the association. Other people often don’t see it at all.

This is sort of hard to explain… the best way I can do it is to use a celebrity impersonator as an example. The really good impersonators don’t just sound like the person they are impersonating, they adopt the facial expressions, tics and mannerisms of the subject. When they do that, they somehow start to physically resemble the subject even though their actual features do not match at all. That’s what I mean… seeing those elements of a person and recognizing that they resemble someone else, even if the features do not.

Sometimes family traits include mannerisms and expressions like I described, but as far as physical features and family resemblances go I am no better than your average bear at seeing them, and probably worse than most.

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!

 

Sunday Mailbag- Comic-Cons?

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Q: It’s been fun to see your reports from the San Diego Comic-Con. I have noticed you are doing quite a few comic-cons all of a sudden, whereas you used to do very few if any. What changed?

A: I’ll probably never do a big circuit of conventions like some artists do, but yes I am doing quite a few more than I used to. Up until this past year, I really only did two—San Diego and the smaller MCBA cons in Minnesota. I did San Diego because the National Cartoonists Society has a booth there, and they wanted members to come and spend time at it. I did the local Minnesota cons because they were local and I wanted to support the local cartooning industry.

There are three reasons why I started doing comic-cons:

First and foremost, I actually make some money at these things. There is no way I could take time out of the studio if I did not. I don’t make a lot, but it’s enough to justify my time away from other work.

Second, I actually have something to sell and promote at these shows. Once I had the book done, that became something I could always have a pile of and sign for people. Then I started doing the prints, which was another thing that I could have for people to buy and get signed, or at least to look at. I do a lot of drawing at these shows as well… that has surprised me a bit. There are actually quite a few artists doing caricatures at these cons, but people still seem surprised they can get themselves drawn as opposed to some comic book character. I draw them as their favorite character, or in some theme/topic, but with a humorous bend. Of course I also draw Alfred, or “Alfred as…” upon request. I change a reasonable amount of money for these, and stay pretty busy drawing.

Third, the NCS and its charitable arm the NCS Foundation wants to step up its presence at conventions, and I am helping with that by making connections and finding the conventions it makes most sense for us to go to. Right now the NCS only does San Diego, but we’d like to have a booth in Chicago, New York, and other areas around the country where we can bring in members from that area to meet and greet fans and promote the art of cartooning.

Finally, it’s fun to meet people that enjoy your work. That never gets old.

Thanks to Ben Hovart 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!

 

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