Monday 24 January 2011

Technique part 3 - Brian Cowen (stage1)

OK, I've had a few emails recently asking about improving caricature skills, etc. so I thought I'd re-iterate here a point I consider very important. And that's if you don't get your basic morph (exaggeration) correct then all the fine digital painting or finely hatched pencil work is not going to make a successful caricature. Ever.

If you're not getting a successful caricature at the line stage then you will never improve on it by rendering it to death in whatever medium you're using. The above line drawing of the exiting Irish Prime minister Brian Cowen hopefully illustrates how, technically, if you've got the line right then you can stop right there. Job done. Also, good lines in a good line drawing will have body and weight to them and will suggest the volume of the character it describes. A good place to see this is in the line art of the great Marvel artists of yesteryear.

The purpose of fine hatching (or the painting in of every blood vessel and liverspot) is to add the 'Wow' factor, and never to make the caricature more 'successful'.
Therefore, your succesful caricature relies on two things: great morphing and great rendering of medium, but only great morphing can stand alone.

Now I'm off to add a load of furious cross-hatching to the above, ha, ha!

Keep on creatin'!


  1. Sound advice,thanks for that...

  2. You're welcome, John.
    Thanks, Rodney!

  3. Brilliant Russ! Looks great.

  4. This is precisely what I tell my students.

    There are numerous examples of caricatures that are rendered to extremes, but the likeness is lost.
    [A good caricature shouldn't need a title with the name - you should recognize the face even if you don't know the name.]

    In fact, I tell my students that, at even the most base level - when you are laying out the placement of the features, but haven't even drawn them in - it should begin to show a resemblance.

    The importance is in making numerous simple, clear decisions, and making a strong visual statement. That statement should underlie all the subsequent drawing and painting.

    I have my students do a caricature using only three basic types of shapes: Oval, Rectangle, and Triangle - and using size, placement, angle, and stretch/squash, create a caricature with a recognizable likeness.
    It's not surprising that the task is a challenge. What is surprising - and rewarding - are some of the brilliant and hilarious caricatures created with just those simple components.
    On top of that solid foundation, you could use any medium, technique, or style, and it will work. Simple, complex, fully rendered photo-realism, paint spatters, or even cut-out pieces of paper will work over a solid foundation.

    If it ain't happenin' at that initial stage, it won't be happenin' after the 50th layer of rendering, no matter what the medium or technique.

    Great work, mate - and kudos for the advice and tips.

  5. Thanks, Mikey - sounds like your students are getting some sound advice.