Sunday Mailbag- Uncomfortable Requests?

September 24th, 2017 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: What is the strangest thing you’ve been asked to draw, and did you actually do it? How do you handle a request that you just flat out feel uncomfortable doing? The reason I ask is because I got a request for a commission of a deceased person. While this is a bit odd (for some reason a few people a year request these-either at a party job or as a commission), I generally oblige on a case by case. What makes this one super odd-probably in my top 3-is that a woman wanted a gift caricature drawn of a family member’s baby who died at birth. She had professional photos taken as well, which I was to use for reference. Long story short, after a few emails back and forth, I declined the project. Have you ever gotten anything like this back in your private commission/live caricature days? If so, how do you handle it?

A: I’ve been asked to draw deceased people. One of the artists who did one of my recent workshops told me about how she was also asked to draw a baby that was stillborn, from photos. Talk about uncomfortable. Why would you want a caricature of a stillborn baby? They had no personality, nothing to caricature or exaggerate. There is nothing funny about that.

It is definitely a case by case sort of thing. I can understand where someone who was a fun, energetic person and who would have loved a caricature of themselves could be remembered with a caricature. In that sort of case I’d be happy to do it. But doing a cartoon of someone as a serious remembrance? That’s a job for a portraitist. If they asked me to draw the deceased looking serious or ask me to be “more realistic” I will decline to do it. It isn’t what they want and I would suggest they find a portrait artist to do something more appropriate.

Thanks to Joey H 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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