Learn to Draw Caricatures - What is caricature?




What is Caricature?

A portrait of Mr. T

A caricature of Mr. T

What is a caricature? The key difference between caricature and drawing a portrait of someone is the intentional distortion of the subject in caricature. This distortion is difficult because the features of the subject are what makes the subject recognizable, when you start fooling around with these features, then you run the risk of losing the likeness of the subject. So in order to keep the likeness you should understate features that are minimized on the subject and over-maximize the features that are maximized on the subject. If you go against the grain and minimize a person's large mouth you will loose the likeness. Who ever heard of a drawing of Mick Jagger with small lips and mouth? Or Jay Leno with a small, little baby chin? It just wouldn't look like Jay or Mick.

What is caricature?
Here's a dictionary definition of caricature:
car-i-ca-ture (care-E-kah-chur, -chr) n. 
1. A representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect. 
2. The art of creating such representations. 
3. A grotesque imitation or misrepresentation: The trial was a caricature of justice.

Being able to draw portraits of people and knowing and understanding the human face is pretty central to being able to draw a caricature of someone. All the techniques taught in the DRAWING PEOPLE section of this website can be applied to caricature with some additions to the technique. For these caricaturing lessons, I'm going to assume that you already can draw a portrait, or at least, that you've looked at the DRAWING PEOPLE section of this site.

We're pretty much concerned with the "artistic" definition when we say caricature on this website. Let me say a few things about what I see a caricature as:

First, let's learn how to say the word caricature. It's pronounced CARE - ick - ah - chur. Or if you're British: CAR - ick- ah- chah.

Click to see Basketball Lincoln

I think caricatures and cartoons are the same thing. The difference between the two that I see is this: a caricature is simply a cartoon of someone or something that the viewer can recognize as a specific someone or something. As soon as someone known by the viewer is seen in a cartoon, it becomes a caricature. Here's an example to the right. This is a cartoon of a basketball. If you take that basketball and draw a stovepipe hat on it and give it a beard, it goes from a cartoon of a basketball to a caricature of Abraham Lincoln. It's recognizable as Lincoln even though it doesn't have a face. But the addition of "Lincoln-like" props give the basketball a recognizability as Lincoln.

To confuse the issue, a caricature doesn't necessarily have to be a cartoon, it could be a painting, or a sculpture, or even a photograph. You could draw what you thought was a portrait, but if the proportions are incorrect, but it was still recognizable as the person you were drawing, then it could be seen as a caricature. I think a caricature is a caricature if the artist intends it to be a caricature regardless of how it was made.

This website is going to show how to create caricatures. So the definition of caricature that will work for this website is the one that says that caricatures are intentionally skewed portraits of people drawn in a somewhat cartoonie style, because that's how I do it.

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