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For Those About to Offend

January 11, 2010


Caricatures are, at the same time, humorous and dangerous. The most successful caricatures are like guns loaded with stylized, emotional truths. I have approached the art of caricature a couple of times, and still find myself holding back. The tricky part of caricature (particularly when you are commissioned) is to exaggerate the right features and at the same time not offend the ones that have asked you to draw them in a fun and humorously exaggerated way.

One might ask “Why not create a cartoon style portrait and leave the poignant exaggeration out?” And that might be safe. In fact, until you get comfortable with the art of buffoonery for hire, you will probably find yourself doing more conservatively stylized portraiture. Your client might be looking for something in that vein as well. Keep in mind your client may not receive their unique qualities the same way you, as an avid observer, might.

There is a lot of great caricature art out there. If you’re so inclined, check out these artists: Jason Seiler, Paul MoyseChristian Stellner, Dominic Philibert, Patrick Strogulski and Neil Davies(Thanks to Jason Seiler for the permission to use the images) or just search the term “caricature” in your favorite browser. These guys really know how to let someone have it and they are also capable of holding back when it is appropriate, which ultimately makes for successful caricature.

It is with these heartfelt words, dear reader, with which I leave you. Before you offend, make darn sure that is what your client is looking for. There is safety in subtlety, but when you do find yourself in a position to let loose then tell the stylized truth as painfully honest as you can.

– J. Hall

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