Q: I’m looking for an efficient method of coloring live caricatures. I’ve seen many different ways to do this, what method do you recommend?
A: That’s a tough one because, as you point out, there are a lot of different ways to do it. I’ve seen live caricaturists use colored chalk powders and a cotton glove as the “brush”, pastels, prismacolor stix (which are sort of crayon-like but really more like the stuff inside colored pencils), watercolor and many other techniques including the one I use, airbrush. I’ve seen them all used to great effect, but I prefer the airbrush simply because I have used it for 30 years.
What method is best is really a function of your needs and tastes. I use airbrush in my theme park locations because we have a permanent location so it’s easy to have an air compressor and the needed hoses and hardware set up for daily use. I have also used an airbrush with a portable compressor at fairs and festivals because, although it’s a pain to haul the hardware about, I only have to set up up once and then use it throughout the fair. Also, I usually have the electricity I need for the equipment (although is one uses a compressed air tank no electricity is needed for the air source). Finally it’s also outdoors like the theme park locations, which makes the overspray paint clouds a non-issue.
I would not advise using airbrush for gigs or short term events because of the hassles of set up, the electrical and space needs, and the potential mess of the airbrush overspray. If your main target for work is event/gig caricature or indoor trade shows, etc, you’d be better served to go with a “dry” technique like the prismacolor sticks, or maybe copic markers. They are much more portable and less messy. You’d need to learn to use whatever you do efficiently and quickly, and well of course. That’s the trick.
Thanks to Thomas Vetter of Zeitz, Germany 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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