Q:¬¨‚Ä† What advice would you have for someone thinking about getting into live caricature? I’ve been doing them for about 3 years now but still have much to learn. It started out as something I did for fun/practice and lately I have been selling them. The thing is I’m used to having a lot of time, often times days to find a person’s likeness, color, etc, drawing and redrawing until I’m satisfied. Usually in illustrator/photoshop but also paper on occasion.¬¨‚Ä† How do I know when I’m ready to go live? Is there a way to get my feet wet first before diving in head first?
A: Unfortunately the only way to learn to do live caricatures is to do it. No amount of reading or practicing from photos will really prepare you for drawing live. It’s a catch 22 because you can’t get the hang of live work without drawing live, and you can’t (or rather shouldn’t) start drawing live as a professional until you get the hang of it. It’s something you have to develop an eye and instinct for, and no amount of studying will accomplish that.
With new artists that work with us at our theme park operations, I or one of my artist/managers spend about two days working with them, teaching them theory, techniques and that kind of thing. They get to draw the other new artists for practice and to try out the things they have learned. Then they spend the next week or so doing practice live drawings from volunteer theme park visitors who are willing to sit for 10 minutes or so knowing the drawing is just for practice (they don’t get to keep the drawing unless they want to pay for it, however). I estimate they have to do about 100 live caricatures over 4-5 days before their lines and the confidence in them gets to the point where they are doing a “sellable” drawing. Then they can start doing them for money and continue to develop their abilities as they move forward.
It’s easy at the theme park, because there are always people coming by who are willing to be a guinea pig for a rookie caricaturist, so there is a constant flow of volunteers for practice. On your own it’s not so easy. My suggestion is to volunteer to draw at charity events about town, at local schools at their homecoming or other events, or just set up in conjunction with some festival or fair… anywhere there is going to be a crowd of people. Even at the local park or mall will work, but it’s best to align yourself with some specific event or charity so you have an excuse for giving them away. Then get as many drawings under your belt as you can, drawing them in the way you want to do your live work. After half a dozen of these events, you will get comfortable and confident, and your instincts and eye will begin to develop.
If you want to know the absolutely best way to learn to do live caricatures, get a summer job at the nearest theme park caricature operation. As long as the owner actually spends time preparing you to draw live, you’ll have a chance to learn a few things and then 3 months of boot camp-like constant drawing develops your skills like no other experience does. By the end of a summer of theme park caricatures, your drawings will be light-years ahead of where they were at the beginning. Not everyone can just drop their lives and do something like that, but it is an ideal way to do it.
Thanks to Kyle Maloney 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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929 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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