Sunday Mailbag- Turn Off Artist Mode?

October 30th, 2016 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!Q: Is it hard to turn off your “artist mode”? That is, do you encounter new faces on TV or in the newspapers or even during real-life conversations and find yourself calculating angles and shapes and relationships as if you were going to draw them?

A: It is impossible to turn that switch off once you have it going, or at least I find it impossible. I do not go around seeing EVERYONE in caricature, but sometimes I become fascinated by a person’s face or some aspect of their appearance and am driven to distraction by it. This can happen when I am watching a movie or TV show, walking down the street, in a restaurant… anywhere.

I tell this story sometimes to illustrate this phenomenon:

The Lovely Anna and I enjoy musical stage shows. We have had season tickets to Minneapolis’s Hennepin Theater Trust for over 20 years. We’ve been to hundreds of shows over the years, and on the drive home we always discuss the show… what we liked, didn’t like, performances, etc.

One evening on the way home from a show that I cannot remember the name of, Anna was talking about it and noticed I was strangely silent. She asked me what I thought about the musical. My response:

“There was this chorus member that had the biggest forehead I’d ever seen. Every time he was onstage I couldn’t stop staring at that forehead. I can’t remember anything about the show–none of the songs, the plot… nothing.” That’s happened to me more than a few times.

Once I was watching a movie with a young John Travolta in it with a bunch of friends. During the show I mentioned that I thought Travolta’s chin dimple looked like someone had driven a nail into his chin and buried it down deep. I was then told by the group that I had ruined John Travola for them, because now they couldn’t ever look at him without thinking about that nail. Of course now they have probably gotten over than since his bizarre plastic shoe-polish hair is far more distracting than his chin dimple these days. Anyway that’s what it’s like.

Thanks to Dave Morefield 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. Ha, ha, I thought it was just me, I’m in artist mode all the time. Some people think I’m wired. And no I can not turn it off.

    Garland Washington

  2. alex in San Jose says:

    Well, isn’t someone who’s into sailboats going to notice things about them on TV shows etc? I grew up surfing, and I can tell you, that trope of the person surfing on TOP of the wave never fails to annoy me. That’s now how it works! An artist went from “zero to hero” drawing/painting cartoons and posting them on a site called Reddit, and he seems to have honed in on a personal “style” of drawing people as … sloths. All well and fine, learn to draw a sloth-face and you’re good. But he did some person, as a sloth naturally, surfing and he got it right, *not* on top of the wave … but still the board is placed/angled all wrong, you’ll fall head over heels in about a microsecond if you do that in real life … aargh!

    Maybe a sloth will weigh in now …


Sketch o’the Week- Julie Newmar! #batman #batman66 #catwoman #julienewmar

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: