Q: Sometimes I get requests to draw fat women who had wanted to look slim on drawings. More often than not, I offered to draw only their heads and not the body unless they accept what I see, meaning I had to take the risk for no payment. How did you deal with such request in your line of work?
A: I assume you mean when drawing live caricatures, since this rarely comes up when doing publication work.
With studio work, meaning a commission where the subject is paying for the art, I do not honor such requests. I draw the subject as I see the subject. I draw them age, weight and feature appropriate, and I tell them so up front.
That said, I do not necessarily have to exaggerate the wrinkles, fat, buck teeth or whatever else the subject is concerned about. I can make other exaggeration choices and still get a good likeness when drawing an overweight person without having to make them look like Jabba the Hut. I just don’t make them look like Keira Knightley. If they have a double chin in real life, then get one in my drawing… but I don’t necessarily have to exaggerate it.
Live caricatures are different. These are supposed to be quick, spontaneous drawings and while they can be great art and really well done they aren’t meant to be hung up in an art gallery or the Lourve. They are meant to make the subjects laugh, commemorate their moment at wherever they are, and maybe get hung up in a rec room or at the cabin or something. In other words, they are lighthearted drawings and not to be taken too seriously.
In that situation, you have three choices:
- Do what the customer wants and make them look thin.
- Draw them the way they look but play down the heaviness by emphasizing something else like their eyes or smile or whatever.
- Refuse to draw them anything but fat and have them walk away complaining.
I usually pick the second option, and I’ll say to the customer “I won’t do anything to change your face because otherwise it won’t look like you, but I won’t emphasize your weight.” Then I’ll give them a curvy but still stout body. Usually all you need to do is give them anything resembling a waist and they are happy.
Another approach is to go with option one but make it a joke by giving them their big, round face but with a ridiculously hot supermodel bikini body. They love it but anyone with half a brain realizes what you really did was satirize their vanity.
Option three is for people that either don’t care about doing a sale, or who think their work is a lot more important to the world than it really is.
Thanks to LEE F.H. from Singapore 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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