What is Caricature Drawing?

The caricature drawing is a form of portrait drawing where some of the subjects unique features have been greatly exaggerated or oversimplified while still maintaining a recognizable likeness. In literature, a caricature is an exaggeration or simplification of a persons general characteristics.


Caricature art is absolutely everywhere. It's used in advertising, editorial pages, television shows, and all sorts of different things. It's used in movies, magazines and to make fun of your favorite celebrities when they do something stupid …or just whenever.


You can usually see a caricature artist at work at your local county fair, kid’s birthday party  or for me, in my hometown, anywhere you look on the famous Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street Experience.


Caricature drawings can be mean spirited or fun, depending on the artist's intentions and the subject’s sense of humor. Some caricature art is intended for political satire and others for strictly entertainment value. So caricature art, therefore is intended to either make a serious point or lampoon.


Celebrity caricatures are typically found in entertainment magazines or web sites and political caricatures are used for editorial cartoons or are sometimes found in the opinion section of the newspaper or news websites and blogs.


Caricatures, derived from the Italian wordcaricare defined as to change or load, can be created in any medium ranging from pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, paint, digital drawing or painting software or by any other medium you can possibly imagine. Most recently, caricature apps have been created so you can create a caricature from a photo you take with your smart phone.


The basics of a caricature drawing can be flattering to the subject by exaggerating his or her best qualities or it can be quite insulting by exaggeration of what the person might consider their worst flaw. A good caricature artist can capture the recognizable likeness by exaggerating a feature that is not as noticeable.


Some early history of the caricature dates back to some early works of the great artist Leonardo da Vinci who chose models with deformities to practice his art. His goal was to challenge himself to create a drawing more striking than the portrait was originally.


Caricature as an art form became popular in early French and Italian aristocratic culture when people would pass around caricature drawings of popular politicians such as Napoleon.


Caricature depictionexaggerated Napoleon as being a short man and was typically depicted and assumed as being shorter than he actually was.


The first book about the art of caricature was published in 1762 titled A Book of Caricaturas by author Mary Darly. It featured some caricature art by Brigadere General George Townsend who created caricature art during theBattle for Quebec. Most of his drawings were of his fellow soldiers.


James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson were gaining popularity as caricature artists as well as reputations of hitting the local pubs together around this same time. Rowlandson, a more serious artist, focused his caricature art on subjects he discovered in and around the general public whereas Gillray was particularly harsh on the politicians of the era.


The caricature meaning is like any other form of art, it's defined by what is considered art and constrained only by what the viewer feels is art. Caricature meaning is a form of simple entertainment but can also take on serious social or political atmosphere.


The caricaturist draws from the natural characteristics of the subject albeit a flattering or sometimes not so flattering characteristic such as large eyes or a jutted chin. They will also pull inspiration from a subject’s signature clothing choices, hair-do or a stance or walk.


Three specifics that make up a great caricature are statement, exaggeration, and recognizability.


Statement: communicating of an idea, position, mood through something other than words. In other words, capturing the personality of the subject as well as just shapes and values. Is it Rihanna or your grandmother’s vase?


Exaggeration: to magnify beyond the limits of truth. The key to exaggerating a portrait to create a great caricature is what feature to choose. A good caricature artist will pick the obvious large nose or ears but a great caricature artist will choose the more subtle feature that captures the subject’s personality.


Recognizability: to identify from knowledge of appearance or characteristics. A caricature must be instantly recognized or it is just a cheapened likeness. Facial features such as teeth or nose can be the most recognizable but other times it can be something else. Sometimes signature accessories can be used such as specific article of clothing or glasses.


The goal with a caricature drawing is to have someone instantly recognize who the caricature drawing is supposed to be, not just a vague resemblance.


A great caricature must be recognizable based solely on features otherwise it is not a successful caricature. In which case it will draw, at best, a shrug from people who view it and a groan and a “really?” from the individual who has had their caricature drawn..


A portrait artist will draw what the face looks like, everything they see. They see shapes and values and put them down on the paper or canvas recreating the individual.  The goal being an artist’s rendering of the real person.


A caricature artist sees something different in every person. They see, perhaps, a squirrel hanging from a man’s face instead of a beard or a bath mat instead of a woman’s hairdo. But the important thing is to create this into something everyone will recognize.


A caricature drawing isn't merely a distortion of the individual’s features but an exaggeration of that subject’s actual features for a reason. If the caricature artist simply enlarges the nose or the ears, it would just be considered a distortion of that person. Caricature is exaggeration for the purpose of capturing a person’s personality as well as their recognizable likeness.


Learning to draw a caricature isn't as much about the artist's drawing skill as it learning to recognize the person’s features. To recognize features begins with recognizing basic human anatomy. Caricature drawing, and drawing human’s in general, begins with understanding how the musculature beneath the skin affect affects the features on the outside of the skin. This is true of realism portraiture as well as figure drawing too.


A good caricature artist must know what other features should stretch when they decide to stretch a feature. The same goes for what will pull and what will push. Once an artist learns how the face or body works, then he or she can develop a sense of style.


Some caricature artists who draw face after face at a busy location such as a fair or amusement park become lackadaisical in their drawings and end up drawing the same thing over and over. They find that one feature that seems to stand out for them and apply it to everyone.


The development of seeing the caricature before starting to draw an individual is as important or more important than the learning to draw itself. A good caricature artist has destroyed many caricature drawings before ever becoming good at it.


Some features on an individual may never seem unique until the artist starts to think like a caricature artist. We’ve all seen a million different ears in our lifetime but never thought about just how unique they are. Some may seem bigger or smaller but are probably not that different in size from another person’s ears if we actually measured them but combined with that individual other features, they are vastly different.


Drawing caricature portraits is about the artist’s perception of what feature to exaggerate. When the artist perceives an individual as being incredibly unique, then a successful caricature comes somewhat easily. When a caricature artist realizes that everyone has that unique feature, because after all, we are all individuals, the artist can then begin to realize a caricature in every subject.


Some exceptional caricature artists who have and continue to influence are as follows:


Mort Drucker, one of my personal favorite caricature artists, was well known for his caricature and parody drawings and artwork in the legendary Mad Magazine. His comic strip style caricatured film actors and politicians alike. He has had artwork published on the cover of Time Magazine, recognized by the National Cartoonist Society and won the Reuben Award. Pretty much anyone who has worked at or is currently drawing for Mad Magazine has been a great influence.


George Trosley, not your traditional caricature artist but someone who influenced me significantly. He created the cartoon strip Krass& Bernie in the magazine CARtoons. CARtoons was a comic book dedicated to the caricaturization of cars. He created an instructional series called “How To Draw Cars” which I wore out as a kid.


Sebastian Krüger, my undisputed all time favorite, is probably the most prolific active caricature artist, in my opinion.His caricature art, as well as his new pop realism, is known worldwide and is collected by celebrities and famous musicians as well as the average collector. His portraits and caricatures of The Rolling Stones, especially guitarist Keith Richards, are known the world over. His work can be seen frequently in Penthouse, Playboy, USA Today and many others.


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