Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sean Gardner

Over the summer, I remember avidly looking at the archives of Sean Gardner's blog on mornings before work to inspire myself, and it never failed to get me hyped up to go out and draw.

Sean does some of the most outlandish exaggerations I've been lucky enough to see in live work, and his technical ability with Prismacolor Art Stix is unparalleled. He can get some really amazing modeling out of those little things, and it still baffles me how he's able to do it. He clearly puts a lot of thought into color, and uses a much broader palette than most of the caricaturists I know, capturing blues, greens, purples, and yellows people's flesh that many people don't bother to spot when working quickly.

He also specializes in zombie caricatures! This is a self-portrait.

See more work by Sean at his blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tomokazu Tabata

In a little under a week, I'm going to be journeying to Sandusky for the annual ISCA convention, where caricaturists from around the globe will be gathering to participate in workshops (held by the likes of Jan Op de Beeck and Jason Seiler!), challenge one another in various competitions, and basically just hang out, have a good time, and get to know one another.

So, in the time leading up to the event, I thought I'd talk about the work of some of the artists I admire most and will hopefully meet soon.

I've loved Japanese artist Tomokazu Tabata's art ever since I first saw it in Exaggerated Features magazine. He's got a totally unique style--incredibly perceptive and always capturing great likeness, but extremely simplified and abstracted. His live drawings are some of the most creative and laugh-out-loud humorous I've ever seen. In addition to markers, he uses watercolor and watercolor pencil for his live work; an unusual choice that leads to great results.

His abstractions are always new and different and can be a great source of inspiration for how to handle various facial features.

See more of Tomo's work at his website.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's just really bad

During live caricatures, I'm occasionally asked if I have any good anecdotes about my job and the people I've drawn. While there are a handful of stories that I'll occasionally relate--the incident with the drunken twin strippers from New Zealand is a good one--I think my favorite involves my last "reject" of the season.

Those of you familiar with retail caricatures will know that on rare occasions, a customer will just be unsatisfied with their portrait for any number of possible reasons--they don't see the resemblance, they think it's too exaggerated and are offended, they don't think it's exaggerated enough and don't think they've gotten their money's worth, they don't understand what caricatures are, they are in a grouchy mood; who knows. We call these unwanted orphan drawings "rejects." This happens even to the best of us; master caricature artist Joe Bluhm has an entire book filled with amazing drawings that various philistines didn't appreciate.

When business is slow at the Zoo, we often try to attract customers by doing sample black and white drawings of willing passers-by so that people can see the quality of our work. One day in August, I convinced a random man with his family to come sit so that I could do a free demo of him. His family moved along to the carousel while he sat. When I finished, he took a look, laughed, tipped me a five and asked if it was ok that he leave it in the booth and come pick it up later on the way out. No problem.

Later that day, he swung by with his family (while I was drawing somebody else) to get his drawing. Though I was preoccupied, I'm told by a co-worker that he and his wife stood somewhere behind me for about a five minute period looking at the picture, then looking at me, all the while talking under their breath. Finally, the wife approached my co-worker, at the time standing directly next to me and the customer I was drawing. "Excuse me," she said with a sour look, "We don't want this. It's just really bad." Then she and her family left the zoo. I've always wondered what it was about the drawing she found so offensive enough to compel her to embarrass all of us in front of paying customers--especially since her husband was apparently pretty happy with it.

We took satisfaction later in hanging it up in the booth as a black and white sample image, enshrining it for the remainder of the summer as an ode to the capriciousness of retail caricatures.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why her mouth all like that? Why her head so big? How long you been drawing for?

End of the season and I'm emptying out my camera one last time. This is going to be a big one!

This was from a photograph that Dad brought in. As I recall, this is a birthday present for the girl in question. Drawing live caricatures from photographs is pretty awful, though fortunately it doesn't tend to happen particularly frequently. Inevitably the pictures are group shots that somebody took with a digital camera and printed at 72 dpi on their home printer (and probably when the cartridge needed to be changed). Getting an accurate likeness is next to impossible.

Wish I'd added the bill of the cap on the back there. Gotta tie a string around my finger for that one.

My animals still need work. I curse the day my iTouch died for all sorts of reasons, not least of which that I can't google reference images on the fly.

Wish I'd handled this one much differently, in retrospect.

She found a hair in her cheesy fries (gross) not too long after I'd finished, and it was irresistible to me.

I find it really, really difficult to quickly draw really good likenesses of children under a certain age because their features are so similar. Unfortunately, there's a "stock" baby image that I tend to use for most of them that tends to have minor variations based on hair, clothes, eyes, mouths, and noses. This is one of the ones where I tried to break away from this a little. I'm going to need to practice this. Babies are actually really, really enjoyable to draw for whatever reason. Well, probably because parents inevitably fawn over how outlandishly adorable the drawing of their little angel is and it makes me feel good.

I feel like I've gotten noticeably better at handling multiple people in the same image over the past couple months. I used to dread doing more than one person, but now I'm ok with the results as often as not.

Cigarette was a special request. I don't ask questions I just draws the pictures.

Probably my favorite multi-person drawing of the season, and a good image to go out on.

Caricature season is over at the Zoo for the year, so this will probably be the end of the live caricature updates for a while. I had a great time working with a really great group of people. Not only was it fun, it's been great to be pressured to draw fast, to observe, to make confident artistic decisions on the fly, and to work and interact directly with so many people. Even the crazy ones. Hell, now that all is said and done, especially the crazy ones!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Stargazing in Savannah

Pick up the most recent issue of The South magazine for an article by Ron Higgins listing 25 little-known facts about Savannah's film history (did you know five prop benches were made for Forrest Gump?)!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Dog days of fall

Character sketches for a long-term project prominently featuring a great dane with a wonky left ear. Still working on consistency--drawing dogs all day really makes you conscious of all the "tricks" and measuring devices we're used to using on human anatomy. Getting used to another animal's body is taking time!