10 Tips for Drawing Crowds in Caricature- and Cartoon-Illustrations.

Sometimes, a search-string catches your eye and brings back memories of an assignment that you did a while ago.

“Drawing Crowd Scenes” is the search-string that led to this post.

O’ dear searcher, I understand your confusion and your anxiety. If you’ve landed an assignment that requires you to draw a crowd and you’ve never done crowds before, your anxiety is natural. It happened to me last year. Most of my work comprises creating portraits and caricatures, and most political and business compositions don’t happen outdoors; so the requirement of drawing a scene with a cheering crowd made me somewhat anxious. I am sure I must’ve searched for drawing crowd scenes then…and most of what I saw in the resulting images was a slurry of heads and shoulders. I am a detail-oriented artist. I like my work to have nuances that make it more interesting with every viewing (or so I hope :)), so I didn’t want a nondescript crowd for the magazine spread I was doing. I wanted my crowd to have character and life.

Let me first share what I ended up painting:

How to draw crowds and crowd scenes for cartoon and caricature compositions.

Two-Page Spread painted for Talk Business & Politics Magazine (Issue Sept-Oct 2014.)

 

As you can see, the crowd here is composed of the spectators who have gathered to witness a jousting match between two political rivals. There interest in the match is a clear indication that they support one or the other candidate and this is why some have brought banners along. The excitement levels are fairly high here.  In medieval times jousting events were one of the few forms of entertainment available for families of the bourgeois – so I thought of including families in the event. A closeup will reveal this connection shortly.

Let us first look at the closeup of the bottom-left of the painting.

Closeup of the spectators on the left-side:

How to draw large gatherings, crowds, people, spectators for events.

 

These are Mike Ross’s supporters, so they carry a banner of his name. They are excited about the match and fairly optimistic that their candidate will win. They are here for a picnic-match combo and hence the attire. Nothing much to see here, except the body language, the expression and the attire.

Closeup of the spectators in the middle:

How to draw large gatherings, crowds, cheering crowd, spectators for events.

Here, the spectators present a cross-section of society. Political illustrations must be politically-correct at times, and your publisher would usually draw the line for you. However, as an illustrator, you too must take some decisions. The crowd here cannot be “all men”, “all women”, “all white” and so on. The crowd should be inclusive. So you see different races represented here…The woman at the bottom left corner (in orange) actually has in infant in her arms (that’s why she’s sitting sideways), the man in yellow who is sitting on the grass as brought along his dog. To add some humor for those who revel in detail, a man is trying to climb over the heads of two guys (top-left) and in the process, incurring their wrath. Overall, the crowd is happy and excited, and comprises of individuals who have their own personalities, should someone decide to look.

Note that I could have added nondescript heads in the background, but I thought that it might take the attention away from the main crowd and so I used my artist’s license and did away with them – keeping the focus on the main crowd.

Closeup of the spectators at the right:

How to draw large gatherings, crowds, cheering crowd, spectators for events.

These spectators are quite like the spectators at the left. They round off the picture quite nicely, and also add an illusion of continuity beyond the left and right borders of the image.

Now, after one run, I feel that I can create crowds of all kinds – it’s a mammoth task, I admit, but once you are done with it, you get a strong sense of accomplishment too. But all that cool talk aside, it isn’t easy.

10 Tips for Drawing Crowds:

Here are a few pointers for the first-time crowd painter.

1. Decide upon the importance of the crowd. Is the crowd there to merely represent a locale and is distant from the actual action that you are illustrating? If so, you may have generic heads, hands, and shoulders without closing up enough to show their expressions. If your crowd is there to play a part in the composition, then expressions and faces become important.

2. Don’t make all the faces round/oval. People have different types of faces – long, squarish, pear-shaped, pentagonal…work in different face-shapes.

3. Work with different hair-styles and colors. They make people look different. Have some bald characters too (unless its a crowd of all kids/all women.) Don’t work too much on the details of the hair (you don’t have to capture all the lights falling on everyone’s head) – you can work with the outlines to show curly hair or a bald head.

4. Don’t make everyone look in the same direction. It’s humanly impossible for a hundred people to be looking in the same direction at the same time, even if they are watching an opera. Some look at others, others look at their finger-nails, a few look mesmerized…work with expressions. Remember that they are a crowd, so you don’t have to bring out every feature and paint the whole set of teeth, a couple of upward curves would make a smile, and if you fill the gap between the curves with white, you’ve got a laughing spectator.

5. Bring in different skin-tones – depending upon the region that you are illustrating. It also helps your drawings stay inclusive.

6. If your crowd is shown standing, work with different body-types. Some would be pot-bellied, others reed-thin; some would large, others really small. When you add these little details, your crowd comes to life.

7. For large crowds and gatherings, allow people to spill over the edges. It helps the illusion of continuity, thus making your crowd appear larger than it is.

8. Some artists gray out the crowds so that focus stays on the main artwork (the jousters in this case.) I think that the treatment works better in case of cartoon-illustrations. Caricature-illustrations (my kind) require a more realistic treatment of the crowd too, and graying them out completely doesn’t work. You may want to cool the tones of the crowd a little (if the crowds are in a distance.) I didn’t, because I like working with bright colors and I also thought that the size-difference between jousters and the people in the crowd will automatically result in a sense of distance.

9. If you really want to pack people in, draw more details on those in the front (and nearer to the foreground,) then reduce the details over a few rows (the rows must mix for a standing crowd, but for a crowd that’s watching a stage-show, they’d automatically be clearly defined.) Farther away, circles could replace the heads.

10. In the end, don’t begin drawing your crowds without researching the region for which you must draw the crowd. American crowds look different from Indian crowds, which look a lot different from mid-eastern or Japanese crowds.

 Happy Crowd-drawing 🙂

 

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Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson Joust on the Pages of Talk Business & Politics (Arkansas Gubernatorial Elections)

Recently I had the opportunity to illustrate a medieval jousting match between Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson in Present Day Arkansas. As you can see this is a fairly detailed scene that has three important points of interests. 1. Knight Ross on his horse, 2. Knight Hutchinson on his horse, and 3. The Capitol Hill Building in the background. However, it was the crowd in the background (yep, I know, you never noticed it,) that made me lose my sleep. I had once read Tom Richmond’s article on painting crowds, and I had since been wondering if I too would ever be asked to paint a crowd. Friends, with this artwork, I can now proudly claim to have worked on a crowd scene.

Here’s the artwork that I did for Talk Business & Politics, Arkansas:

Political caricatures cartoons illustrations - Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson as Jousting knights - Governor's Election Arkansas - Illustrated for Talk Business and Politics Magazine.

Click to view larger image.

Arkansas’ Gubernatorial Elections, in which Democrat Mike Ross fights Republican Asa Hutchinson, are scheduled for November 4th, 2014.

The experience of illustrating this scene oscillated between being challenging and entertaining. When the Art Director first explained the idea to me…honestly, it sounded slightly intimidating. The gubernatorial candidates in armor riding their horses, carrying lances, charging at each other, with a crowd watching the joust, and the Capitol Hill Building in the background. Sure! No Problem. Except that there was no reference images of these two guys looking angry/charged up…anywhere on the web. Always with honey on their lips, always with a twinkle in their eyes – they are the sweetest two guys you can find anywhere on the planet! Next, their jousting gear! Guess what – Knights wear helmets that cover their faces. Here the whole idea was to create the caricatures of Ross and Hutchinson – and if I had stayed true to the actual helmets that knights wore, then short of labeling them, I’d have to no way to tell who was who.

But then, I had my own knight in the shining armor, known elsewhere as the Art Director, who did a quick composition of the scene and sent it across. That was super-sweet of him and the composition really charged me up. I am rather good at putting expressions on people’s faces…so I got down to work and sent the facial sketches over to the client…and of course, some little ideas of mine (the helmets, the feathers, the laughing horses, and those banners that are being held up by the crowd.) I also did a full-sketch, which got approved and I was set to go.

When I started painting, considerations of light and the amount of details cropped up. I also had to decide about the right amount of shine on the armor. (If you stood in the crowd, you’d be pulling out your RayBans.) I played around with the idea of giving them an armor that didn’t shine so much (more like the fantasy art thing I used to do many years ago) but then I thought that for this battle, they’d sit up the whole night burnishing it…won’t they?

I also took these passport-sized closeups of the two knights – just in case some of you are interested in a closer view.

Caricature, Cartoon of Democrat Knight Mike Ross for Arkansas Governor Elections November 4 2014,  for Talk Business and Politics Magazine - Illustration of the Jousting match - Details of the face.

Mike Ross (Democrat)

 

Caricature Cartoon of republican knight Asa Hutchinson - Jousting match for Arkansas Governor Elections 2014 - Illustration for Talk Business and Politics Arkansas.

Asa Hutchinson (Republican)

I wish the these two gentlemen the very best for November 4th, 2014.

How to Draw Caricatures?

On a different note, I’ve been receiving queries from artists and art-students on how to draw caricatures. Some of you have inquired if I conduct any online/on-ground classes for caricature art. My answer, while not totally affirmative, could result in a more inexpensive and quite effective learning possibility for you.

In the beginning of this year, I had written a book that could actually help you create excellent caricatures. The book assumes that you like drawing and now want to learn the fine art of caricaturing faces.

Check it out on Amazon.

Evolution of a Caricaturist - How to Draw Caricatures by Shafali Anand.

 

I hope it helps 🙂

Important Note for Hobbyists who wants to create terrific caricatures without drawing:

In a few days, I’ll be announcing an iOS app that I’ve helped develop, and which when used to apply the principles given in the book can help hobbyists create very interesting caricatures.

If you have an iPhone or an iPad and are interested in hearing about it, use the contact form and send me a message with the subject “Tell me about the Caricaturing App,” and I will send you a message when the app goes live for downloading.