Sunday Mailbag

November 11th, 2007 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: Is there a celebrity that no matter how many times you attempt to capture their likeness it just eludes you? I see posts from artists a lot (ones that do incredible work) that seem to have at least one subject that they just can’t seem to capture. Conversely is their a person that you find hard to do an original caricature of because their features have been beaten to death; ex: Jay Leno always is drawn with a big chin etc.

A: Some faces are easier to draw than others but there is no face that cannot be caricatured with a good likeness. That said I have always had a hard time drawing Gene Hackman… I had to do him twice for MAD, once for “The Royal Tenenbaums” and once for “Behind Enemy Lines“. I never was very satisfied with any of the caricatures I did of him. What often happens when a face escapes you is that you get too close to it, and cannot be objective anymore. Then you need to step away from it for awhile and come back to it with fresh eyes. Given enough time and effort, you can always get a decent likeness, especially for a single image. It becomes more challenging when trying to draw the same person over and over at multiple angles, because if the success of a single caricature of a given person is based on things like the angle of the head and a certain expression, those things change when the head moves around and different expressions are called for. Then you need to rely on the solid structure of the face and the caricaturing of that structure and those features for success.

William Shatner is a person who is famously hard to caricature… at least the young Shatner. I should try one of the bloated, puffy, current Shatner and see if he’s easier to do nowadays. The 60’s Star Trek Shatner was very hard to capture for some reason. Even the great Mort Drucker did a lot of profiles of him in his famous MAD parody of the TV show. Profiles are much easier to capture a persons likeness in caricature than a full face or 3/4 view. If you see myself or any MAD artist doing a lot of profiles of somebody it usually means we are having a tough time doing their caricature.

Speaking of Mort, the second part of your question pertains to him and other famous caricaturists. Yes, subjects like Leno or Jimmy Durante had obvious features caricaturists always picked on. However the ones I find hard to do original caricatures of are subjects that I have seen drawn to perfection by another artist. A year or so ago I was asked to draw a caricature of Barbara Streisand by Stephen Pastis for his strip. Every time I see Streisand all I can picture is Mort Drucker’s brilliant caricatures of her from MAD‘s “A Star is Born” parody. Every drawing I try to do of her ends up looking like Mort’s, and I thought that one for Pearls Before Swine certainly did… even though I hadn’t seen Mort’s caricatures of her in years. Likewise I cannot draw Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones without thinking about Sebastian Kr?¬?ger’s incredible caricatures of him. There are a few other examples or artists that have ruined certain faces for me.

Thanks to Daniel Singley 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!


  1. DShultz says:

    I agree 100% on ’60s Shatner… and I also have found the same problem with Ben Affleck.

  2. JWB1 says:

    You might remember from your last visit here that I was having problems with Steve Carell. Recently I found another pic of him and redid my sample from that . He’s got such a prominent nose you’d think he’d be easy, but if I exaggerate it too much he becomes Danny Thomas (Marlo’s dad for all you young pups out there). I still have Steve as the “man-o-lantern” in my display sample. Some folks think he’s Sly Stallone??!!


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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