Q: Has it ever occurred to you that you might draw a caricature of someone’s face which already looks like a “natural” caricature? How to you manage an already exaggerated face? I am mostly referring to live caricature.
A: There is really no such thing as someone who already looks like a caricature of themselves. The very definition of caricature is to exaggerated someone’s features and “look”. That means you start at what they really look like and go from there. If a person is already funny looking you just have a different starting point. Some people have more obvious features for you to exaggerate, that is true, but you still exaggerate them further.
When I explain to rookie artists about developing their “eye” for caricature, I talk about how some faces really jump out at you as having obvious features to exaggerate while others just look “normal” and it’s a struggle to find something to exaggerate. Why do some faces seem easy and others seem hard to caricature? It’s not really the physical measurements of the features. If you took a ruler to the faces of an “easy” and “hard” face, the differences would not be all that dramatic. It’s mostly about your perception of their features, how they relate to one another, and how sharp you caricature “eye” is. It’s really all about you, not the faces in front of you.
The more you develop your eye for caricature, the more subtle and small things pop out at you. I tell rookie artists at the theme park operations that, at the beginning of the summer, only maybe 5% of the faces you see will be of the “I know exactly what to do with this face” variety, and the others will take some hard looking and decision making to find a caricature in. By the end of the summer, that percentage of “obvious caricature” faces will be more in the 10-20% range, and the others will take less labor to find what you want to exaggerate in them. The more you develop your eye, the more faces become obvious to you, and the fewer “there is nothing here” faces will vex you.
How do you develop that “caricature eye”? Thousands and thousands of drawings of different faces. There is no shortcut. Yes, some innate talent is involved but it’s mostly hard work and a lot of looking.
Thanks to ???????? 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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925 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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