My approach to drawing live caricatures is to give each person the highest quality drawing, in the least amount of time. To achieve this goal, I found that I really need to have a routine I follow.
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the caricature industry or the International Society of Caricature Artist (ISCA).
What that means is: I don’t claim to have the best method, this is just what works for me, so please, proceed with caution! 🙂
Alright, so now that we have that out of the way, there are basically 4 steps to my process when drawing a face:
I almost always begin by doing a quick under-sketch in pencil. This step takes about 15 seconds, but it’s totally worth the time spent if it means I have a more polished drawing when it’s finished.
In this beginning phase, I’m not worried about details, I’m simply looking at the structure of the face and then putting that down on paper. I use the large masses of the face as “guidelines” that I can work from in the next phase. Since I’m just looking at the structure of the face, it’s much easier for me pinpoint where I want to exaggerate while it’s still very early-on in the process.
After a few months of forcing myself to draw this way, I found that I started to be able to see where I should exaggerate much faster and my likenesses also began to get stronger.
Tip: The pencil sketch can also be used to make a few “key” observations about the subject’s likeness, personality and facial expressions.
For example, let’s say that a guy has a grin that goes up a little higher on one side, but only when he holds a smile. You can make a quick note of that by simply penciling in a few lines to show what his smile looks like when he grins that way. Don’t draw it the way you would with pen, just get the general idea down quickly and then move on.
You might also notice something he does with his eyebrows that looks interesting, and you can sketch a few lines to show how the eyebrows move when he makes that expression. People’s expressions tend to change quite often as they are sitting for their picture, so using this trick will help you to remember what their smile looked like even when they aren’t smiling.
Time is money
Remember to sketch just the structure and a few key observations about the likeness and then move on to the next phase. Don’t get hung-up on too many details early on or it will slow you down and your drawings wont look as fresh or spontaneous as they should.
Now I’m ready to grab my pen and look a little more closely at the details of the face. I always start with the eyes because I want to make sure I have the spacing and the angle right. If the relationship of their eyes is off, it’s almost impossible to salvage the drawing later.
Next I move on to the nose, then the smile, and finally the outline of the face and hair. During the “inking” phase, I use my under-sketch as a guideline but I’m not 100% committed to it. Sometimes our initial observations are a little off and need to be adjusted. The under-sketch is there to help me out but only if I need it. The pen lines are what really matter, since they are all that is left when I erase the pencil, so I try to concentrate on making each line as perfect as I can.
I’m constantly thinking about how I can use my lines to capture the essence of the person sitting in front of me, while also making the drawing as visually pleasing as possible. It’s something I’m always trying to improve upon. I’m discovering that it takes a life-time of practice to really master.
Tip: Smiling is contagious – When you want your subject to smile for you, start smiling yourself. Make sure it’s natural and you will find that most people
will begin smiling back at you simply because you are smiling.
I’ve found that this method works much easier than telling the person it’s time to smile.
It can also be entertaining for them because they are wondering what the heck you are smiling about. (Don’t be creepy.)
Remember your lines
Practice your line work as often as you can, and experiment with different line-weight (thick & thin lines). This is key to making your drawings look more dynamic.
Now I erase the under-sketch (pencil lines) which takes about 5 seconds. I prefer to use a kneaded-eraser because it really picks up the pencil easily and doesn’t leave any “eraser mess”. It also doesn’t wear down the paper like traditional erasers do.
Lastly, I add some shading. I started using shading in my drawings a few years ago because I felt like I need something to help take my drawings from a flat 2-Dimensional feel to more of a 3-Dimensional one. I think it adds a nice touch and really helps the drawings to come alive.
If you want to know more about my method, feel free to reach out to me and I’m happy to help if I can.
If you’re an artist: Hopefully something I shared in this post will help you out.
If you’re not an artist: Now you know more about what’s going on inside an artist’s head when they’re drawing at an event. (We really are crazy)
I read a quote recently that said “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong”. I’ve been thinking about that today and I love it.
If you want to be great at something, concentrate on it all the time. Stay focused on it until you feel you have mastered it, but then keep going. Always try to be a little bit better than you were yesterday and in time your abilities will increase exponentially.