Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sun Hero: Caricature Commission

   Last month I was commissioned to do a caricature in honor of a friend's retirement who has long been been a guiding presence in the Interior Alaskan community through his work in sustainable and renewable technologies. Normally I shy away from these sorts of gigs, as I tend to reserve caricatures for politicians and editorial cartoons, which mean I don't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings. Portraiture is always a challenge, sometimes fun, but doing a friend always seems to be the hardest for me, and working off of memory and photographs makes for an even riskier proposition. One reason is that this is the weak link in my repertoire of skills, so when it does come up and I realize I'm saying "no" out of fear it means I should tackle it head-on and get out of the artsitic comfort-zone, which too often turns into a creative rut.

   I wound up doing a black & white version off a scan of the linework (ostensibly as a back-up in case I botched the coloring on the original) that became a card for folks to sign, plus the watercolored original. It took a few rough sketches to come up with all the assembled elements within a workable composition, including catching little details like if the symbolic sunpath is arcing over that would be the winter solstice, and  at that time of year, at least out-of-doors, would probably not be such a harmonious scene of beatitude, at least for the cat.

   This commission had a couple speed bumps, mainly when it was discovered the day after finishing the inked page it was on the wrong paper. A good artist always blames the materials, and this was off an unlabeled pad left over from an earlier battle with bad supplies. Other issues were things like how freehanding perfect circles will forever be beyond my ability, but, eh, that's the charm of an original.
   Speaking of charming originals...

Pic by Sarah Seifert


  1. Most people would just be tickled to get an original piece of art by you, especially commemorating them. Maybe not so much the skewered politicians.

    My biggest problem is drawing women.I haven't mastered a sort of generic female like Thurber and so many other cartoonists have done over the years. Every time I draw one it's a trip over the tightrope with no net.

    Portraiture has a lot of aspects of caricature, just toned down. I got a picture I really liked of a friend of mine in college. It started out making fun of her nose, but a later version brought the other features into proportion while still not minimizing her distinctive nasal apparatus.

  2. Thanks for the comment: it reminded me that there's a few earlier posts scattered about the blog from when I'd use caricature as a less-intimidating approach towards portraiture in the Beginning Drawing classes. Still, for myself and many others, the closer to reality things get the more stressful everything becomes...