How to Paint a Caricature

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In order to paint a caricature, the artist must learn to observe as well as draw.

Drawing is learned through study and repetition, although some students will learn more easily than others will.

Drawing lessons help the student develop the skills necessary to create a reasonable likeness of a subject. He must understand the anatomy of the face, normal proportions and how to translate the three dimensional head into a two dimensional image.

A caricature takes the distinctive features of a subject and comically exaggerates or distorts them. In creating a caricature, the artist must study the subject’s features to determine which should be highlighted, ignored or minimized. This is a learned process, requiring practice to render a convincing drawing of a human face in general, and a likeness of the subject in front of you.

How Big Are Mick Jagger’s Lips?

Painting a caricature starts with the drawing. Assuming that the artist has learned to make a reasonable likeness of an individual, he is ready to push it to the edge. He studies the subject, looking for features that are outside the normal range. A receding hairline may encourage an oversize forehead. A large or oddly shaped nose is an easy target. Are the lips small and pursed or large and protruding? Bushy eyebrows, glasses or ornate hairdos are all fodder for the artist’s brush. A long neck, strong jaw or close-set eyes can be easily exaggerated.

The student should spend time observing people. Sit on a park bench and sketch away. It need not be a full portrait. Pick a feature for the day, and practice drawing just that feature from as many people as you can. Ears, eyes, nose, lips have so many variations that a student can fill whole notebooks with just those elements.

Key Elements In Black And White

It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. It is also true that the eyes are the most critical element to portray correctly in a caricature. If the eyes are not similar to the subject, the whole picture will be a failure. Begin the portrait with the eyes, eyelids, area under the eyes and the bridge of the nose. When this area is drawn satisfactorily, it is time to move on to other areas of the face. When the nose and mouth are complete, lay in the shape of the face, chin and jaw line. Add hair, ears and whatever portion of the body that will be portrayed in the drawing.

Since a caricature is more a cartoon than an earnest work of realism, it works very well as a pen, ink and watercolor sketch. A student may have to begin his work with a pencil, so that errors can be erased. When the drawing is complete to the artist’s satisfaction, it can be inked in with permanent India ink, permanent marker or black acrylic paint.

Some of the pencil lines may be indicators of shadow, and will eventually be painted over. For those lines that express the face, bold simple lines will be more effective than thin tentative marks. The lines separate one facial area from others, and should stand out.

Painting The Drawing

When the drawing is dry, color can be washed onto areas or dry brushed for a more textural effect. The student should not attempt to add much detail in color, as the focal point is the comic drawing. It is treated in the genre of a comic, which does not require advanced painting.

A caricature generally does not contain an elaborate foreground or background, but it may be appropriate to include sketch-like elements that describe the character portrayed in the drawing. A sailor may be seaside with a ship on the horizon of an ocean. Sunflowers may surround a gardener as he hoes a weed. A baseball player is sliding into home base. These elements are not necessary, but makes for a more interesting portrait. In the foreground or background, the color would be a suggestion to give a sense of weight to the work. If the portrait is done on paper, it should be matted before framing, as this will give more substance to the piece if there is no background.

Tools Of The Trade

Caricatures may be created using many mediums, but since these are usually quickly completed paintings, it would be wise to use acrylics, watercolor and waterproof India ink or even permanent markers. Minimal, primary colors and a few select secondary colors, black and a few brushes are all that are needed for caricature painting.

The support used may be watercolor paper, heavy drawing paper, board or canvas. If the painting is done on paper, it must be mounted under glass to protect it.

Many classes, books and websites teach drawing. This article does not attempt to instruct the student in the intricacies of portrait drawing, but encourages artists and students to have fun with their art.

Caricature is a creative and personal exploration of the portrait, and is a great way to learn to observe and translate those observations into art.

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