Drawing Tutorial – 5 Ways to Generate Likeness in Caricatures

I happened to look at some caricatures today. These caricatures were executed with a high degree of finesse, and the technique used was perfect. However, something was amiss. The caricatures didn’t “belong” to the personality that was caricatured. The artist, I am sure, believed that he was caricaturing that specific celebrity, and through the eyes of his mind, he saw the face of that celebrity morph into that caricature; yet, if you looked at the caricature – even after knowing whose it was – you couldn’t see the likeness.

Likeness is possibly the most important yet the oft-ignored characteristic of a caricature.

“A Caricature is a humorous likeness of a person, created through selective exaggeration of his/her physiognomy (facial features) and other physical attributes.”
 Source: Evolution of a Caricaturist – How to Draw Caricatures (Chapter 1)

Note that likeness is important. Without likeness, the caricature doesn’t belong to “a person”; without likeness, the caricature might as well be a cartoon.

Likeness isn’t easy to achieve, especially in caricatures, because you go about distorting the person’s features, and with every little distortion, some likeness is lost – unless the distortion is done selectively.

Here are a few pointers that may come in handy for generating likeness:

  1. Before you begin a caricature, remind yourself that likeness is primarily based on the structure of the face. Great technique could change your caricature into a masterpiece, provided you had built in the likeness when you were sketching it. No technique can compensate for the lack of likeness.
  2. Remember that you don’t have to exaggerate everything. Recall the Gestalt theory of Figure and Ground. It applies to faces too. In every face, some features stand out; others recede.

    In every face, there are features that standout – that make that face the face it is. Identify such elements and focus on them for exaggeration. Try to limit the number of features you exaggerate to 4. It should help.

  3. According to the Geon Theory by Dr. Biederman, “we recognize faces (and other objects in our environment) by breaking them (figuratively speaking) into geometric elements.” So, focus on the shapes of the characteristic features. Is Morgan Freeman’s nose spherical, are Rowan Atkinson’s eyes elliptical? Exaggerate not just the size, but also the shape. Don’t meddle with the eyes. Repeat. Don’t meddle with the eyes – unless:
    1. you think that the eyes are extremely important (figure?) or
    2. you believe that you can really caricature them without letting them lose their character.
  4. Remember that it’s easier to learn the sum of all the art-techniques, than to learn how to draw the eyes with true likeness, let alone exaggerate them. In most cases, if you don’t exaggerate the eyes and instead you draw them with complete fidelity; irrespective of what you do with the other features, your caricature will maintain the likeness.
  5. Let someone else look at your drawing, before you shade it in or color it. This might save you a lot of heartache later. It’s good to remember that all caricaturists go wrong sometime or the other…but if you get another “brave” opinion from someone who doesn’t really care a lot about how he’d (or she’d) end up in your bad books by criticizing, you could end up being the caricaturist who seldom goes wrong 🙂

I hope this helps all those fabulous artists out there, who make beautiful portraits and who have great technique, but who wonder why likeness eludes their caricatures.

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How to Draw the Caricature of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

How did I draw this Caricature of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of Caribbean fame?

Look at the caricature closely, and then scroll down to read how it was drawn.

Caricature of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.

Where is the cheese...Captain Sparrow?

This was an easy caricature to do. Let us see why.

When you are trying to create a caricature of an actor in a persona that has several distinctive features and accessories, then if you focus on the accessories, you can create a likeness of the persona…and because the persona (in this case, Jack Sparrow) is recognized by every human, cat, and dog; you can rest your brush and sleep in peace!

Take the example of Jack Sparrow. Here’s a list of his distinctive features.

  • The head-cloth/rag/band tied at one side,
  • The long matted hair,
  • The beard plaited into two,
  • The beaded hair-rings (!)
  • The blackened teeth,
  • And of course, the kohled eyes!

If you just drew the first three and left everything else blank, I believe most of the humans at least would readily nod their heads and tell you that you’ve indeed sketched Jack Sparrow.

But then, that would be an average attempt, and you don’t seem to me a person who’d accept anything that’s not classy! So next, you’d need to create a likeness with the actor too. So look for the features that the makeup-man didn’t mess with – so what you have now is the nose and the mouth (notwithstanding the blackened teeth.)

Here’s what I did to create this caricature.

Studying Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow Pictures:

I first studied some Jack Sparrow pictures and then some Johnny Depp pictures. The Jack Sparrow pictures helped me see the details of his accessories and told me a lot about his personality, and the JD pictures gave me a clear picture of his nose, his mouth, and the shape of his face.

Caricaturing the Eyes:

The eyes grew bigger than actual to accommodate the effect of the kohl and the expression of surprise (at the audacity of the mice, of course.) You can read about caricaturing the eye here.

Caricaturing the Shape of the Face:

I’d classify Johnny Depp’s face as pentagonal. So when I did his jaw-line, I pulled out the mirror points to exaggerate the pentagon. Read about caricaturing the shape of the human face here.

Caricaturing Jack Sparrow’s Costume, Accessories, and Overall Persona:

As I said earlier, the accessories become extremely important in characters such as these. Other examples of such characters are: Captain Hook (with the Peter Pan connection) and Agent Smith (of the Matrix Trilogy.)
So…
The head ornament became a butterfly (it brings in a humorous contradiction with a pirate’s personality,) and a huge nut got added to the string of beads that hangs from his matted hair. The twin beard plaits became thicker and more prominent too.

The Joke in the Caricature:

Remember that a caricaturist need not stop at creating a visual caricature. Use words to your advantage. Also remember that a story makes a caricature more interesting and lively.
The concept that mothered the joke in this caricature was the slovenly (and unhygienic) look of Jack Sparrow. Such a man would be quite capable of hiding his cheese behind his ear and the mice would be his constant companions. Voila, two cute little mice jumped out of my pencil and began climbing his beard!

So, that was how the Johnny Depp – Jack Sparrow caricature came to be.

Next in this Series >> How to Draw Tiger Woods, his Women, and the Devil!

If you want to learn the nuances of creating caricatures in a fun and easy to learn way, you would like to read, “How to Draw Caricatures – The Evolution of a Caricaturist.

The Zen of Finding your Lost Love Makes Tom Hanks Disappear!

I was going to post Tom Hanks’ caricature today, but a comment on my book made me change my mind. (Updated: March 15, 2010Tom Hanks’ Caricature Posted:-))

The gentleman who commented, is an authority in the field of information technology, and he (as he says in his comment,) is only a few years away from retirement. Long time ago when he was younger, he used to draw. It was his hobby. Then many years passed and the hobby was forgotten, until recently, when he rediscovered it. Now he hopes to start again:-)

He made me think about the years we do things that aren’t driven by our passion. He made me think of all that we leave behind, in the race to become “respected citizens” of this world. He made me wonder about the value that we place on life’s precious moments – in a currency chosen by others, and in a manner guided by our social norms.

Do we have to leave and forget what we love…forever?

There’s this one life that we’ve got. It was given to as an empty basket so that we could fill it up with moments that either fell into it or that we chose consciously. We can’t do much about the moments that destiny drops into our basket, but if we relinquish our control over those moments that are ours to choose – we suffocate ourselves, into a slow death. We make ourselves an airtight chamber and we sit in it waiting for random moments to fall into our basket – waiting for the time when our empty gasps would end and the searing, burning pain in our chest would stop!

Pull yourself out of that dark, lonely chamber – stop waiting for the continuous patter of random moments – get a life that you love. Close your eyes for a second and think.

What did you love doing, what did you dream of becoming; before you were blinded by the blazing lights of practical needs?

Here are some choices. Pick yours.

  • You loved to draw people, animals, buildings, trees, cartoons, caricatures…
  • You danced for hours…you loved swinging to the music…
  • You played the piano, the keyboard, or the guitar…
  • You liked to write stories, poems, jokes…
  • You enjoyed creating puzzles, designing games…
  • You loved to make things out of wood, paper…

This list, of course isn’t exhaustive. Take a moment, and a slip of paper. Now write down your “lost” dream. If you are here, there’s a strong possibility that you too are chasing a lost dream.

  • You may be here because you aren’t working as an artist, but you loved to draw or sketch, once upon a time.
  • You might also be here looking for references or for pictures to alter, you are probably someone who’s straitjacketed into the role of an artist or a graphic designer, but it isn’t your true calling. You dreamed of being someone else, once upon a time.

I don’t recommend that you leave what puts bread on your table – but I strongly advise you to spend at least an hour a day following your true love. One day, it shall become yours – but until then, the sweet memories that you collect in that hour of the day, will fill your basket of life with happiness and satisfaction.

And yes, if your lost dream is drawing people (cartoons, caricatures, or otherwise,) “The Evolution of a Caricaturist”, a book on how to draw caricatures, may help.

Cool Caricaturist – Jan Op De Beeck

Jan Op De Beeck is a Congo-born Belgian Caricaturist. He has written five caricature books and had won several awards. Find his portfolio at:

http://www.opdebeeck.com

I agree with De Beeck – Sketches are Swell to do. I quote him.

In a sketch you can discover lot of an artist’s abilities: how he makes the proportional deformations, how he draws a line, how he prepares his drawing for volume rendering.

I’d like to add that sometimes a sketch progresses to a level where it transforms into a complete work of art.

De Beeck’s caricatures have an astounding level of detail. He too isn’t afraid of breaking the templates! The characteristic features of his subjects swell or shrink at his command!

Here are some links to help you explore his art.

Shafali’s Caricatures…The Story So Far!

It’s been quite a journey. I started this blog on December 11, 2010. The reason was simple – It had been a while since I had felt happy…and so I picked up the pencil and began to draw. I drew and smiled…and then I drew some more…and then, someone who I’d trust with my life said that I should share what I drew.

So I did, hoping that when people visited my blog, the smile on my face would hop on to theirs:) I think my wish is coming true.

The first caricature that I had created for this blog was of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean fame. The two mice climbing his braided beard, trying to find the cheese that they hoped to find hidden behind his ears…they just happened. And then, the jokes went on happening. I’d look at face and read about the person behind the face – and the story would emerge.

I’ve been drawing ever since I remember. I’ve been having this light-dark kind of affair with drawing for a long time…and I often wonder whether this is my calling.

Until tomorrow then, when I shall post the other half of Brangelina, Ms. Angelina Jolie. (View the caricature of Mr. Brad Pitt as Achilles here.)

The Evolution of a Caricaturist – A Book on How to Draw Caricatures (a Google Knols Collection)

Dear Readers,

This post may be of interest to you if you want to learn how to create caricatures:–)

I aim to add at least one chapter a week to this book (more if possible,) and hope that you won’t just find it useful but also interesting to read. Find “The Evolution of a Caricaturist” at Google Knols. This short and sweet book will have about 15 chapters (did I hear you say, “Thank God!”), and I hope that it will help you start you on your way to becoming a Caricaturist Magician!

Your visit will be inspirational:) Feel free to drop me a line or post a comment here.

Smiles,

Shafali