Q: At a workshop you mentioned you use multiple photos for each caricature you develop. Can you explain how you analyze multiple photos and bring them together into one drawing?
A: Not for each caricature, but for important ones, yes.
Photos lie to you. They are only two dimensional and factors like lighting, focus, angles, and even odd expressions can give you the wrong information when trying to really capture a subject. You can’t really do a caricature from a single picture of someone you are not already familiar with. What you are really drawing is a caricature of a photo, not a person. You are hoping that photo is showing you a true representation of the subject, but you really don’t know.
A photo taken from straight on or even slightly three-quarters will not give you an accurate description of elements of the face that protrude, like the brow, chin, and especially the nose because it has no depth of field. If the face in the photo is at an angle, say with the head tilted back, you will be falsely shown a person with a smaller forehead and larger jaw because of foreshortening, not true physicality. Photos in mainstream publications are often manipulated with software to be more appealing and flattering, and expressions are posed and artificial in those as well. There are many other examples of how a single photo can be misleading.
I usually base any caricature I do on one main picture, but I look for other references of the subject as well so I can identify and adjust for any misleading elements from that main picture. A profile shot is ideal to have, along with a 3/4 view and a full face shot. With those three references, I can interpret the features correctly at any angle I am drawing the face at. I can see how the end of the nose works in the profile, so if my base reference is a full face picture I don’t have to wonder how the end of the nose is shaped, how prominent the brow really is, or if the chin juts out or is more subtle. I look for how the face and features are constructed as a whole, and for where my base reference is trying to steer me wrong. Then I apply those observations to my caricature.
One photo almost never tells the whole story.
Thanks to Ed Murr 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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