For the last two days since my return from NYC I’ve been working doing live caricatures at Valleyfair. It’s been a little slower than is usual this time of year… I blame the gas prices. At any rate, I didn’t really get a chance to get back in the groove of doing live work. That is something you have to warm up to and get back the “eye’ for doing quick draw, spontaneous caricatures. I have been spoiled by the luxury of working from clear photo images that don’t move, pick their noses or refuse to give you the same expression twice and the ability to sketch my way to a successful end result. When you work live, you have to be confident and aggressive with your lines, and live with your mistakes. It’s very much like gestural life drawing, where you draw your impressions of form and figure very fast and loose with no regard for detail. With live caricature however, your initial feelings and impressions about the face are likewise the basis for your drawings, but you have to execute it not with sketchy vague lines like in a gestural drawing, but with solid and bold lines and details.
Here are six samples of live drawings I did yesterday. They are all mediocre at best, because I was not ‘on top’ of the drawings as I should have been. By that I mean I did not have total mental control of the drawings from line one, but tried to ‘chase’ the drawing by looking too much at each feature as an individual part and not the entire face as a whole. As a result, while there is a decent likeness in each, with hindsight I can see glaring errors in my approach of each face, usually related to head shape. I’ll critique each and point out what I got right and what I missed. These drawing took about 8-10 minutes per face to draw and paint.
This was one of the first ones of the day. Not a good likeness of the girl. Her eyes are flatter across the bottom when she smiles, and I should have played up the dark eyeliner more. Her forehead is wider and should be less high, so the crucial face shape is off. The guy isn’t bad, except he only smiled when I took the picture… he refused while I did the drawing. I got his head shape much better with the small forehead, big cheekbones and long face. The 3/4 view is always more interesting.
These three girls sat well, and that helps. The head shapes are okay, but I should have made the top two smaller to give me more room at the bottom for the third one. There is a slight symmetry problem with most of the faces I drew at a straight on angle today… I was skewing the bottom of the faces to the left, making the eyes appear crooked. I catch myself doing that when I am rusty or getting tired.
This couple drawing is a bad composition. In trying to exaggerated the guy’s face I made it too big, and so there is no depth in the drawing. He’s supposed to be behind her, but with the size difference I had to make him coming from the left side of the drawing and that destroyed the composition. The first couple’s drawing above is much more successful in that way. Funny how they always smile when the camera is out… Anyway I wanted to get his long face and jutting, pointed chin, but blew it when I made his jaw the widest part of his face, when it is clearly at his temples/eye line. At least I got the close set eyes right. Looks like I should have given her more chin but actually it only sticks out when she smiles. Again with the symmetry problems. I would have done a better job on her caricature but I was distracted by her… uh… eyes. Yep. They were blue… no wait… green.
This was the best one of the day, and that’s not saying much. At least I exaggerated a little bit, got the head shape right with the wide and squat forehead, big wide set eyes, massive nose and heavy brows. I should have done a 3/4 view, though.
These two kids sat well, also. This is an example of a decent composition, although a little heavy to the left. The older kid forced me to break a few “kid rules” like giving him a larger chin/jaw to make his mouth appear closer to his nose and still exaggerate the teeth. The smaller kid got a lopsided face but the head shape pulled off the likeness reasonably well.
This last guy had a fun face, especially the hair. I should have made his eyes closer together, but I did get their very different eye shapes, which added to capturing his expression. The head is again a little off symmetrically. Must have been one of those days.
Maybe I should turn in some of those caricature awards I have. Not a successful day of live work. I draw again on Sunday and hopefully I can get my rhythm down and do some good ones. If I do I’ll post some on Monday. If I don’t post anything, you’ll know I sucked.
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881 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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