Sunday Mailbag- Critics?

September 27th, 2015 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q:  Is there someone who evaluates your caricatures? Currently with your experience, do you have bad reviews and do you have to redo caricatures?

A: Yes, they are called art directors/clients/customers, and I do and do.

Art directors/clients/customers only care about your reputation, experience, accomplishments, track record, longevity, awards, or any other phantom hook upon which your hat hangs insofar as those things may have helped get you the job with them. Otherwise they only care about the piece of artwork you are doing for them. You may have have drawn ten thousand really awesome caricatures, but if your ten thousandth and first is a clunker, they won’t be happy with it and will ask you to rework it.

From your wording of the question I assume what you are really asking is if I (or anyone) ever reach a point in experience and skill where they no longer get negative critiques of their caricatures.

Absolutely not.

This is especially true when it comes to drawing caricatures. Caricature is a very personal art, where you are presenting your own perception of the subject in question. What you see in someone’s features and character might not gel with what someone else sees, particularly if that someone else has a completely different perspective on the subject i.e. they are familiar with them in ways you are not. That’s why personal caricatures from photos can be a tough thing to do… you are working from a couple of two dimensional images and trying to please someone who has been close with the subject for a lifetime. Your caricature might be spot on from the reference, but miss the things that your client takes for granted as the essentials of the subject. That can be frustrating.

With regard to commercial work, it is ultimately your job as a freelancer to please the client. I’m working on a job right now which contains 15 or so caricatures of famous athletes, and the art director wanted me to redo one of the caricatures and “tone down the nose”. That’s their choice (the subject has a pretty big schnozz) so I comply. That’s the job. The editors at MAD sometimes ask me to “check the likeness” on some of my caricatures (that’s code for “these caricatures suck, do better”), so I will step back and have a look, maybe dig up some new references to see if I am missing something, try and approach it with a fresh eye.

The Lovely Anna is a big help in this regard. I will sometimes take a caricature to her and ask her opinion. Sometimes I’ll just ask “who is this?” If she gets it right away, I’m golden. If she has to look hard at it or think about it, even if she does get it, I go back to the drawing board.

I do bad drawings all the time. I can usually tell when something I have drawn isn’t really working and police myself in that regard, but not always. Not all my caricatures turn out as good as I want them to. That’s why you keep working on improving and getting better. I hope that never stops.

Thanks to Gustavo Rivas 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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