I often get asked, “How did you get into doing Caricatures?” Well, the easiest answer is, “My father is a Caricature Artist.” When I say that, people almost inevitably say, “Oh… That’s it then. You got it from him.” Well, I believe there is some truth to that, but it’s not so cut and dry as it sounds. It’s not like I just woke up one day and suddenly I could draw caricatures because my Dad could.
Growing up with a father who was a full-time Caricature Artist was certainly interesting and never without an adventure… I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity of watching him work at fairs and different retail spots around the country. Those experiences provided a good foundation from which to build my own career as an artist.
My first experience with drawing caricatures was when I was 14 years old. We were living in Wisconsin Dells for the Summer because my Dad had a good spot there. One day he challenged me to go into a restaurant close by and try drawing people for tips. I decided to give it a shot and somehow ended up making $70 in just a few hours. People must have felt bad for me. It was pretty exciting to make all of that money, but deep down inside I knew my drawings were terrible. I had no idea how to draw caricatures so I decided I would just stick with drawings other things for a while. As I got older, I got a little better at drawing and people started telling me I should do caricatures like my dad. I decided that maybe I should give it another shot and see how it goes.
The Adventure Begins
I began doing retail caricatures back in 2005 sitting in the lobby of a busy restaurant in downtown Phoenix (The Old Spaghetti Factory) Working in a retail environment forced me to get out of my shell and learn how to talk to people as I drew them. It also allowed me the opportunity to develop my own style while making good money. Eventually I branched out into the corporate world and started working with a variety of different party & event planners.
In 2011 I started my own business, Phoenix Caricature Company, with the goal of providing top quality artists for parties and events. That same year I also began pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from The Art Institute. I graduated from the Art Institute of Phoenix in 2014.
I also joined the International Society of Caricature Artists (ISCA) in 2014 and attended my first convention in Reno, Nevada. I had a great time and met some amazing artists that not only inspired me to do better, but also motivated me to do more with my art and my business.
But wait, there’s more…
That all sounds pretty sweet ride, right? Well I can assure you it wasn’t. Not at all. I failed to mention all of the times when I worked an 8 hour day at my regular job, and then spent the evening sitting in a crowded lobby full of people who couldn’t care less about getting their caricature drawn. It was pretty discouraging.
I always thought I was pretty good at drawing when I was a kid. Drawing actually came easy to me, so none of this made any sense. Why weren’t people jumping at the chance to have me draw them? I started thinking to myself, “I must be terrible at drawing”. And with that, my self-esteem really began to take a nose dive. I’m not kidding when I say that I couldn’t even get people to come over and get their face drawn, for free! That’s when I knew it wasn’t enough just to be good at drawing things, I needed to learn how to draw caricatures if I wanted to start making good money.
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery?
I began searching for books on how to draw caricatures. I watched videos on YouTube and tried to get inside the head of the artist and see how their minds worked. I picked up a few tips and tricks that helped, and slowly over time I saw that my work was starting to look better. I also searched for artists who had a really amazing style, like Tom Richmond. I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes I just flat-out copied his drawings to practice. I wanted my drawings to look nice and polished like his. I would spend hours studying the lines and then try to draw them exactly like he did. The only problem is, when I was drawing someone who was sitting right in front of me, it never looked as good as the ones I had practiced. I knew something was still missing. Then one day I discovered that Tom had written a book called “The MAD Art of Caricature” so I ordered a copy and it honestly changed my life. It actually taught me how to start thinking like a caricature artist. This is when everything changed for me.
Slowly but Surely
It was still an uphill battle for many years, and really didn’t pay that well, but I was seeing progress in my drawings so I knew I was getting better. Some nights I barely made enough to pay for my gas and get something to eat. Most nights, I only made $50 or $60. Still not great money but the value was in the lessons I was learning. I guess what I’m saying is, it isn’t as fun and exciting as it might look. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, good attitude, thick skin, and maybe even a little bit of talent. Maybe it’s easier for people who have just loads of natural talent, but for me it’s been a tough road.
I’m at a point now where I really enjoy drawing caricatures and love interacting with people at parties and events. The money comes much easier now, but I’ve worked really hard for it. If you’re an aspiring caricature artist and you’re reading this, just know that it won’t be easy, but the journey will really push you to grow as an artist if you are honest about your work and always try to remain positive but objective. You won’t get better by being easy on yourself. Push yourself until YOU are happy with your work, and then keep pushing. Try something new and notice how your perspective begins to change gradually over time. I’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to email me or leave a nice comment if you would like.
I recently read a quote from the late/great Orson Wells where he said, “The Enemy of Art is the Absence of Limitations“. I’ve been pondering that all day, and I love it.
Go create more good in the world.