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.

No comments: