Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Portraits and their value to the caricature artist

Although I’m a caricature artist, I’m an artist first and foremost.

Sometimes I think Caricatures are seen as cartoons and there is a general snobbery about cartoons not being “proper art”. I think the barriers are dissolving but anyone who’s ever tried to do a caricature will realise there is more to a caricature. Cartoons simplify, they are based on reality but one which has been distorted to a humorous extent. The more the distortion the greater the comedic value. But the item must be recognisable to allow the humour to work. e.g. a flying telephone wouldn’t be funny if it look like an aeroplane!

The best cartoonists know that the real skill is paring down the drawing process so that every line counts, none is superfluous. I use the example of Peanuts here – Snoopy the dog is the epitome of minimal lines of good  quality.  Another good example is Simon’s Cat

So it is with caricatures. It helps to be able to draw people and achieve a likeness, before the distortion. There is always a trade off between recognition and comic element with a caricature. I’ve always preferred to achieve a good likeness, that’s my style.

Which is why I did a portrait drawing class yesterday. So glad I did. It helps hone skills and experiment with new ideas.

Normally with drawing classes I attend we do warm up exercises to help loosen up styles and get over the initial fear of drawing in front of other people.

We started off with conventional quick sketches like this…

Quick pencil sketch of a man

Then we tried a novel exercise of drawing looking at the model…but not the page. Here is the better of my attempts. There’s a bit of a Picasso Feel about the whole thing!

 Pen drawing of man done without looking at paper

What really impressed me about this one was how there is a likeness, even though so many lines are “Wrong”

Next we did tonal drawings in charcoal and chalk. Like so!

Tonal sketch of a man

Fairly straightforward, reassuring almost.

Finally we did colour mixing in tonal areas – concentrating on shading but not detail. The plan being to complete the details in the afternoon. However, I only did the morning – curses.

My final attempt looks a bit like The Bird’s eye man spent too long on a sunbed before applying mahogany woodstain! I might post him, when he’s finished…

BTW -The model might look familiar as he’s been an extra in quite a few T.V series and films. He mentioned Lewis and The Duchess… amongst many! Not that he was name dropping! But he was very charming.

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