Q: It is essential, that your customers like your drawings. But whom else do you want to like your art (yourself, family, friends …)?
A: Everyone has an opinion, but fortunately we can decide which ones actually matter. One of the things I try and teach rookie theme park artists is that the opinions of your customers are only important insofar as they are happy with the drawing and they purchase it. Beyond that, you should not take their opinion of your actual art with anything but a grain of salt. Many people are “visually illiterate” and cannot tell the difference between a good caricature and a bad one. Most are impressed by anything looking vaguely human and having any form of mild likeness. In fact, if your goal in life is to be a really successful live caricaturist, doing real caricatures is not the best way to do it. You’d be much better off doing some generic, flattering, fun and energetic looking cartoon faces with a tiny hint of likeness. 90% of customers would be really happy with something like that. It’s not really caricature but more of a cartoon product, and as benign as it gets. It’s also usually a very fast way to draw as you don;t have to worry about annoying things like really looking at the subject or making any decisions. As are artist you’d be bored out of your mind, but you’d be commercially successful. I do not recommend that approach unless you do not care about your actual art, but only the commercial aspect of live caricature. It’s entirely possible to do both good caricature and please the crowd. It’s a challenge but what’s worth doing if it doesn’t take some effort?
If your customer tells you that they think you are the new Picasso just smile and say “thank you, have a great day!” If they tell you that your work sucks as they return your drawing, just smile and say “thank you, have a great day!” Both opinions carry equal weight since you do not know if they have any eye for art or caricature, or any visual sense at all.
The opinions you take to heart are from your peers or other artists whose work you respect and whose critique or praise matter to you. Those opinions you want to use to help shape your development as a caricaturist.
Thanks to Dominick Zeillinger 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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