Sunday, January 20, 2013

Caricature Commission: Pugs & Process

I was commissioned to do a little drawing of someone's son, plus their Lab and a Pug, all riding a motorcycle. It was a challenge, having never met any of them in person and using just a couple snapshots for reference. But after a series of roughs - really rough roughs as seen above - it finally pulled together enough to make a decent inked final piece, which was then lightly washed with some watercolor. Here's a pic of the original + the digital color version (sort of a warm-up to the final piece, and doubling as backup insurance should anything horrible happen):

Much like the last caricature I did earlier in the year, there was a lot of preliminary work done behind the scenes, mostly in the form of seemingly endless attempts at somehow simplifying the characters without losing crucial attributes. In the case of the Pug, I just about had a nervous breakdown trying to keep it from looking like some horrid little wrinkly alien, but then again, that's pretty much what they really look like anyways*. Other People's Children however, are a cartoon minefield of prudence to tiptoe around until something not too ridiculous is achieved. Once again, I have nothing but absolute respect for those ubiquitous caricaturists who set up kiosks in malls across America and work on the spot and in the trenches.

*And then there's these animals called "Pugs": previously I always had nothing but disdain and pity for these freakishly funny furballs. Then not too long ago I personally met one, and have since theorized the psychological basis for my instinctual revulsion to them: there's a sort of a resentment at being forced to feel so damn sorry for them, coupled with their desperate, insatiable need for affection. Also, as it tried to hump my leg while I was conducting a phone interview with a search committee, I discovered another trait for this species - the absolute impossibility of "calming one down." As in any attempt to shush up a Pug starts up an exponentially escalating feedback cycle not unlike the meltdown of a very small and hairy nuclear reactor core. The main lesson I took away from that experience, and from this drawing, was to approach Life in the same manner as a Pug: have fun and hump away no matter how ridiculous the world thinks you look doing it.


  1. We have one and a half pugs -- a pug and a puggle -- and they are too much fun.

  2. Okay, I had to look that one up - that's too cute. Learn something new every time I log on (two things actually - that's a "portmanteau"). Thought it was crossbred with something from Harry Potter...
    Now what we need to see if your drawing of it!

  3. Quick note: Check on avulsion. You may want a different word. Avulsion is really pretty gross.

  4. Caricature is truly difficult. Drawing them isn't that hard, but drawing one you don't think you'll be hated --if not beaten up -- for is extremely difficult.

    Mort Walker wrote a bit about public caricature events in Backstage at the Strips. He noted that at one of them where he was taking a serious beating from a woman he was trying earnestly to draw, Milton Caniff drew all the women looking like the Dragon Lady and Dik Browne drew them all looking like Raquel Welch. Mort returned to his easel and gave all the customers after that a picture of Beetle Bailey.

    "I never consented to draw caricatures again," he wrote. "Anyone who does has a death wish."

    I can't draw people I like. It constrains me too much. Get on my bad side, however and you're MINE. Ha ha haaaaa!!!