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You Too Can Draw Caricatures

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/23/2006 | Arts and Culture
Youve seen them at amusement parks, corporate trade shows and even wedding receptions - the caricature artists who sketch a lovely rendition of your pronounced chin or schnoozola. These freelancers arent just drawing cartoons. It takes some talent and skill to draw caricatures. Whether or not youve always aspired to become a caricature artist or are just now, for the first time entertaining the idea, once you understand a few of the basic keys, you too can draw caricatures. Then maybe you can spend your summers in amusement parts earning money for your renditions of extra large foreheads and Dumbo ears on the vacationers.

There are certain factors to keep in mind before you get out your pencil or chalk and start drawing eyes and noses. Clearly you want your portrait be a reasonable likeness of your subject. You can tell immediately the color of eyes and hair (or lack of hair) and well-defined features. These are the traits you definitely want to bring out in your caricature. Its also important to capture your subjects personality. Ask them what they like to do for fun or passion. Does this person seem bubbly or more laid back? What kind of expression would best suit him/her?

If you want to be a portrait artist, youll need to recreate features as close to realistic as possible. If you want to be a caricature artist, it is not necessary to be that realistic. Some caricature artists over-exaggerate facial features to the extreme. You need to decide on your style. Are the pointy chins and large cheeks that you draw going to be simply slightly over pronounced? Or will you create them of gargantuan proportion? One other important key element that may set you apart from other caricature artists and wanna-bes, is that degree in which you vary your lines. Mix it up with a combination thin and thick, dark and light. Dont make your caricatures flat and boring.

If you are going to draw more than one subject on a page, start with the shortest person and rather than draw horizontally, stack them vertically on your paper. When you first started drawing in school art class, what was almost always drawn first? Circles for the head, then you filled in the eyes, nose and mouth, right? When youre sketching caricatures you will want to draw the insides of the face first. You may mentally get an idea of where the cheeks and chin will fall on the paper, or even lightly sketch some boundaries, but leave those finishing touches until your drawing is nearly completed.

Start with the eyes, in particular the top eyelids first. Pay attention to how far apart the eyes are, how big or narrow they are and what shape (oval, rounded or other). Generally you will want to move left to right unless youre left handed. Doing so will alleviate smudges. After the eyes, draw in the outside nostrils. Focus on the relationship between the eyes and nostrils. Nostrils are a good place to exaggerate if your subjects nose openings are rather large. This is also a good place to vary your line thickness. The nostril lines are thick but the structure on the tip of the nose requires softer lines.

Next draw a mouth; continue to pay attention to the distance from the nose to the mouth. Study his/her top tip. Is it thin or pouty? Does the person have a wide mouth? This is another good place to over-exaggerate. Up to this point youve drawn in the face in a top to bottom order. Now youre ready to draw in the chin, cheeks, and jaw in that particular order. If you draw the chin first you will know when to end your jaw line. This is another good place to exaggerate here. Exaggerations dont always need to be on the large scale either. If you are drawing a small chin, then fold the bottom lip over the chin! After the chin, draw in the cheeks, if the person has distinct cheek bones and then finally the jaw.
Now youre ready to draw in the ears, then hairline. Your finished caricature will clearly reflect if they have a big forehead or not. Finish up the basic foundation of the caricature by drawing in the hair/head. Give them big hair, if they have it. The outer perimeter of the head is an edge. Therefore, it needs a thick line. Next draw the eyebrows. Do they have thick, bushy eyebrows, or Mona Lisa brows (none)?

Once youve completed the eyebrows, go back and draw in the bottom eyelid and the bags, too, if applicable. Add the eyeballs at the tail end. Move back to the nose and sketch in the bridge of the nose. Then draw in cheek structure. Some people have more than others especially depending on how much fat is on the cheeks. With the exception of the minor details such as freckles, scars, and facial hair, your caricature is almost complete. Add finishing touches and viola!

What do you think? Need more practice? Have at it! Youre on your way now!