Thursday, August 24, 2017

There are two approaches, for drawing a live caricature, and I guess it would apply to other things too. There's the severed thumb approach. This is referencing the little trick you can do to make it look like your thumb is dissattaching and reattatching. Tou know the one. I imagine a little two year old being difficult at a family reunion or something and the silly old uncle sits beside him and shows him this trick and he sees it for the first time and is amazed and the uncle manages to keep the little rascal occupied for a while but this is more about how a fun older person is able to keep a young person entertained and engaged and occupied by staying ahead of their expectations. It's kind of like when one person can consistently beat the other at rock scissors paper. Anyway, we'll call it the severed thumb approach.  And it's a type of approach to entertainment. The other type I will call the Don Quixote approach. This approach you are seen from the outside. You're dreaming the impossible dreams and stabbing at invisible dragons. So the thumb trick approach is about having a carefully crafted thing and sort of coddling the audience. Taking them for a wild ride, every twist and turn of which is in your control. The Don Quixote approach is sort of experimental in a way. It's sort of surrealist. That's a better way to think of it. Grasping for things that you can feel at the periphery of your consciousness. So if you're sure that you have a thumb trick that will mystify your audience, do that, but if you suspect that it may be the other way around, Don Quixote will be the only way that you can entertain your audience directly. Indirectly, a thumb trick could work, but it would require that the audience be interested sort of anthropologically, as in, wow this method that you use for entertaining folks is really interesting.

Think about beginning artists. Imagine your very first live caricature. What if the very first person who sits for you is even remotely familiar with live caricatures. If you took the severed thumb approach and gave them a clean quick sketch with that cocky experienced "just leave it to me" type of attitude the customer will be insulted and disgusted at your utter arrogance and lack of skill, and that's why most beginners understand naturally that the approach in this type of situation has to be different. 

That's when you humble yourself and do your best and grasp for the unreachable. Stretching your mind doing the bestest best you've ever done, and you can acknowledge showmanship in whatever way but it cant be real showmanship because you don't have control of the audience.

But the point is this. For someone who can't see through the magic trick, enormous throbbing 100% souped up confidence and charisma will enhance the experience and the personal connection while the same approach for someone who can see through the trick is rather sad and disappointing. However, for someone for whom the trick wouldn't work, what would work is honesty and openness and experimentation and soul searching and mind stretching, and basically things that will strengthen you as a human and add power to your thumb trick.

Monday, August 21, 2017

So what is this other duality? I'm just writing this one fresh. I've done some thinking and writing the past couple days in the notes of my iphone and it's a lot of disconnected pieces relating to a particular duality that came to mind which is a different possible way of defining caricatures and portraits. Hopefully as I type here things will connect naturally or at least have a pleasing, cohesive rhythm. What to make of this other duality? Entertainment versus Art let's say. Caricature would have to be the entertainment. Portraiture would have to be the Art. What am I getting at? I'll tell ya. A live caricature artist has this responsibility to entertain. And Portraiture traditions have this bubble of protection around artists and their subjective expressions. Art feels like it's protected from the idiot mob so to speak and Entertainment feels like it's at its service.

So I think I figured out what's going on. The previous way I'd defined caricatures and portraits was humor versus reverence and the above definition is Entertainment versus Art more or less. So now we're going to be talking about the duality of these two dualities. Golly, if you'd a told me I was gonna say duality so much today I wouldn't have believed you. Humor versus reverence is a definition for the customer. It's about their responsibility. Entertainment versus Art is about our responsibility. So basically if a customer had a bad caricature experience, it's not for them to say "You're job was to entertain me and you failed." But they could say of a caricature "I'm sorry. I just don't think it's funny" and it would help their case if they didn't laugh. Or with a portrait they might be able to complain that it doesn't look like the person. Which might be more difficult to prove but at least that would be the nature of the discussion. Or heck, it's something like that. Entertainment versus Art feels antiquated and used up and corrupted in a way. But I guess the problem is when it's not just taken as speaking on personal creative responsibilities and setting the highest possible standards for yourself and instead it's trademarked and slapped on a lunchbox. And then the ideal becomes conflated with the lowest common denominator and you get boring art history books and summer movies that aren't fun but seem like they ought to be because they're sufficiently vacuous.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

the false distinction between caricatures and portraits that i see is one where caricatures are exaggerated drawings and portraits are not. and a slightly more level headed way of thinking that i aim to go against here is that caricatures are on one end of the spectrum and portraits are on the other, gradiating up and back in levels of exaggeration. i think this can be done away with because caricatures and portraits are really truely thought of as being different from each other, in the general public as well as in the caricature and portrait community. 

caricatures aim to be funny. portraits aim to be serious. a caricature artist will use exaggeration to make the drawing funny. a portrait artist will use exaggeration to make the drawing respectful, reverent, harmonious, sublime, what have you. 

caricatures portraits and the publics expectations

a portrait is a drawing that, to the best of the artists abilities, in the time alotted, is meant to look like the subject. energy might also be put toward other decorative or expressive aspects of the drawing, but most importantly, a portrait is meant to look like the subject. if a portrait fails to look like the subject, the customer has cause to complain.

a caricature on the other hand is a drawing that is meant to look like the subject and be funny. if a caricature fails to look like the subject or fails to be funny, the customer has cause to complain. but its interesting. caricature customers all but never complain about a drawing not being funny.

heres what i think thats all about. i think there is this massive demand for live portraits as i've defined above, and the only people drawing them are doing so under the monicker of "caricature", because theres freedom there. portraits advertised as "portraits" until perhaps very recently offered very little freedom because "portraits" meant a really tight drawing of a photo or something very acedemic from a live model like a john singer sergent painting or something. an aesthetic for live portraits had yet to emerge. If an attempted drawing of a person were simplified and cartoony and also, inadvertantly lacking a bit of likeness, the customer might be quick to complain or refuse to pay, because the artists intentions wouldnt have been clear enough. so it has been within the realm of "live caricatures" that a "live portraits" aesthetic has gestated. and its just as artistically legitamate as live caricatures. (if i have to say that.) 

somehow, i feel like we're in the sweet spot right now where portrait artists and caricature artists are working side by side, and in many cases artists have a gift for both. what i think will happen eventually as just a natural progression of things is that caricatures and portraits will separate out to their rightfull corners but we will look back on our current era as a very special time for live caricature/portraiture.

but i want to be clear though. there is still hackery and charletonism. and neither i nor any of my friends are exempt from the pressures of ego or greed or whathaveyou that lead to toxic approaches that hinder genuine creativity. so, i fall short of going beyond the abstract concept of hackery and classifying actual individuals in such a way, but i'm just saying there is portraiure, there is caricature.

for a couple months ive had these thoughts about the differences between portraits and caricatures and id been nursing them here and there, and then all this stuff about classification and listing pops out of nowhere. at the time of this writing i can't say much for the connection between "portraits/caricatures" and "classification/listing" but without further ado:

classification and listing

theres a way to draw a portrait wherein there are assumed to be a limited number of features and then each person has each feature and each feature is assesed by the artist and classified, and there can be any number of types within some particular feature set, ie there can be any number of types of noses, so noses would be a feature, but noses wouldnt have to be in the list of features, it could be some other features that make up the nose and then each would need to be classified, but of course that would take longer, naturally. if you only had one feature and it was the whole face, that fits within this apprach, but for it to work you would then need like a billion different types in order to have a different caricature for a billion different people. 

and a different way of tackling it could be what i would call listing. listing could be thought of as the opposite of classifying. with listing, if its there, you draw it. its a bit like binary. its either present or absent. but then, of course you're counting on a few features to be present cuz if they all call in sick you're up a creek without a paddle. if the caricature question, "what do you do when the person doesnt have anything interesting going on with their face?" perplexes you, I'd say you're a lister.

classification doesnt have this problem because a classifier is an expert at types, if someones got a few somewhat unusual somethings, he's bound to find most of them. but he might miss some glarringly obvious thing. because the unusualness of a feature and the scarcity of a feature go hand in hand. the more unusual it is the less likely it is to be within a classifier's vocabulary.

i think most caricatury caricaturists are listers. they have a huge gag set, and then when someone sits down its a matter of combining them in such a way that all the gags are clear. 

looking at caricatures in a listee way, it feels like a comedy set, and a gag is like a joke and people shouldnt steal each others jokes, but with classification, if a joke lands well enough and feels enough like an inevitable enough way of simplifying something than it would merely become a type for what ever respective feature.

i guess an example could be I use to wait egerly for someone to sit down whos eyes were such that i felt it fitting to draw them as perfect circles, now I find myself using circles more frequently. i would say its in large part due to the fact that ive got a good enough grip on other features and shapes and ideas that if the circle eyes didnt end up being a right on the money enough gag by themself, their would be a few other things going on that could resonate with the customer to where they would more or less come along with me to see the eyes as how i drew them. but this can be a tough one for eyes, people can be very sensitive about eye shapes and details. someone once said, and i think it was me, "the eyes are the face of face." 

studio/fine art caricature favors listing in this way. you get to choose your subject, and then you list all the reasons you chose it. while live caricature favors classification because its built to have a fast answer to each and every face. you may not have a lot going on but at the very least your gonna have an eye a nose and a mouth and you can bet the artist will have a bunch of each of those and somethings bound to fit. 

its interesting to note that the listing approach is more common for caricatury caricatures, when its so straightforwardly taking inventory of what is present in a face whereas the approach more typical of what would be thought of as portraits openly necessitates a deviation from what is percieved at each and every step of the journey towards a finished piece. but of couse "what is present" is kind of a stretch. it might be more like what is present that the artist considers worth drawing.

you have to take the concepts that im saying very literally and then try to stretch them to ridiculous points while still adhering to them to see what im really talking about. im not semi blindly tossing things in a general direction and hoping they land. each little peice of the idea is very concrete for me, but here and there are connection points which havent met that i dont want to construct falsly merely to have a complete thing. im a lister in that way.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

the greatest feeling is the feeling you get when you surprise someone  in some enormously bizarre and impressive way, and pull it off with genuine empathy and humility. and when the opportunities prestent themselves in a tiny flicker of a moment they are either siezed or they are not. 

i think many times when people say 'give them what they want' in caricature discussions what they mean is give them something that they wont raise any stink about, because that seems alot easier to do in order to get the money faucet pumping.

giving them what they want litterally would mean giving people something or some experience that they will cherish forever. give them something that they've always needed in their life. something beautiful and perfect that adds something substantial to their existence. giving them what they want when dealt with literally would be something that would be strived for, and only hopefully achieved. it would be the loftyest of possible goals, but the flippancy with which this phrase is usually tossed about sure doesnt sound like that.. "giving them what they want" is more often than not a euphomism for stake out my little corner of the market place, get some kind of harmless enough rouze going where people won't claim shennanigans and then just play the numbers game. defend my little corner and sweep up every penny that drops there and remain unnoticed for as long as possible.

its just like what's happened to the phrase "do your best." if someone can say "i did my best" how wonderful is that. how proud they should be of themselves. there can be no bigger achievement than to have done ones best, but today people shrug their shoulders and say "welp. i did my best." i dont believe them.