Saturday, March 10, 2018

Live Caricatures as Hanbok

There's an appeal to caricatures that’s a bit like trying on Hanbok. In Korea the old tradition clothes is called Hanbok. You can look it up or you can just imagine that it’s very ornate and fancy and cumbersome and Asian looking. You know what old traditional Chinese garb looks like. Maybe it’s what you just think of as Chinese garb period, because you’re racist but I’m telling you now, people in China don’t dress like that anymore, but tourists—and more often in Korea—young Koreans who are on vacation might go to a place where they can rent the traditional garb, and they’ll walk around and take pictures and it’s a big hoot.

There is some appeal to live caricatures that is very similar in a way. I think as professional caricature artists we can get divorced from this appeal, but the appeal goes like this. People read magazines—or at least they use to, and in the magazine you see these drawings that are there to make fun of what some famous person looks like—some face that’s always in the public eye bombarding everybody with their weird old face, more or less because to be on a tv show and communicate your views and your agendas you need to have your face there. But as a byproduct of your face being there, we all have to see it, and the caricature in the magazine points out the elephant-in-the-room stuff about your face and that sort of builds a trust between the reader and the voice of the magazine—a trust that everything is being accounted for—and a trust that the magazine has a sense of humor despite all this talkity talk their doing. 

But caricature has a home in that format and is in part, no doubt, a product of that format. 
Then someone who reads those magazines and sees those drawings and then goes to the theme park can get this simulation of what their caricature might look like, were they famous—were they in the public eye. 

So I’m just addressing one portion of the appeal. And I can’t say how big or small that portion might be. I’m sure it’s not all of it. But a live caricature artist doesn’t want to think of himself or herself or they-self as a simulator of actual caricatures. 

That is to say that a theme park caricature can’t be a caricature in that exact same sense that a magazine caricature is a caricature. Magazine caricatures deal with public figures and only have to distinguish the subject out from among all the other public figures, in order to signify the person whose face is being addressed or made fun of. 

From among what group is the live caricature customer being singled out? Is it all people? Is it the person's friends and family? The answer’s not as obvious as it is with magazine caricatures. If you come across a caricature in a magazine and feel it looks more like a friend of yours than it does Bob Dole, as long as it looks more like Bob Dole than some other famous person, you can be reasonably sure that it’s Bob Dole’s face that’s being commented on or made fun of and not your friend's.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Truth Makes Us Write. Art Lets Us Finish

drawing caricatures live with the possibility of rejection looming can feel like playing Operation..or it might be a bit more like a jack-in-the-box where it's a little more out of your of those kind of games..or like Russian Roulette played until somebody loses. but maybe its only like that if you think about it like that, if you worry about it. if you allow yourself to get outside of the moment. if the customers become the customers rather than this specific person. when people say something in response to the drawing that to them might be the most natural and spontaneous thing but to us is Things That Customers Say Every Once In A While. a firey little hot button. it turns this "person you just met" into a "type of situation". i think for me writing is not about writing per se but about whatever thing I'm trying to convey, but then it is the idea of Writing—rather "writing per se" that allows me to call it finished. to feel justified in posting it somewhere. and i considered phrasing this more so as to frame what I feel writing is truly about in the grander sense, or for everyone. I was going to leave out the "for me" part and it would then have been a little bolder. and saying "for me" can come off a little grovely but i was intending more to talk about my approach. And I'm fairly new to writing and I should say "writing my thoughts and showing them" because writing sounds like there's some value to Writing or reading someone's writing beyond the meaning being conveyed, but currently I dont think there is and if I should ever get to the point where I do, I suspect that will be the end of my writing being worth reading. truth makes us write. art lets us finish.

what is it exactly i been thinkin about? a way of framing it might be what exactly to make of the massive tsunami of favor for what caricaturists (but I’m using the term “caricaturists” colloquially because as you will soon see, in this writing I’m dealing with the caricaturist as a kind of archetype) would call “cuticatures.” before i wrote about the “pop portrait” concept. I’m not sure if I called it that, I’ll have to go back and look at what ive posted, but ive thought about caricatures being like the fuel for portraits, as in the caricaturists get in there and get dirty because it's who they are and it's what they gotta do and they cant handle the golf clap reactions and the portrait artists are the diplomats because that's who they are and what they do and they use the parts forged by the caricaturist and harmonize them. 
     but recently i've been thinking about this. it sprung forth from this kernel of imagining that portrait artists inhabit the space of their artform as residents but caricaturists come to it temporarily like little wild electrons drawn in by the gravity of there being something really interesting going on, and then they draw their caricatures and they are gone. they are passing through. i felt that picture of it. I’m able to see myself as the caricaturist, and I’m also able to see myself as the portrait artist. This isn’t about classifying people. It’s about trying to think about and talk about caricatures and portraits as honestly as i can from my little window. I’m interested in how it connects to everything else. As I’m writing now I’m starting to feel a little guarded. I’m not sure if that’s for better or worse, but most of what I’ve posted on my blog has been written before hand without consideration as to whether I would post it, but now that I’ve posted some I’m beginning to feel the pull toward that diplomatic showmanship mentality. 
     But truth be told any time I’ve written anything there’s always been some feeling of it being for something besides my own personal record, so i anticipate the mistake of over correcting too far in the opposite direction and i avoid it. 

 Maybe we can see four archetypes: The caricaturist, the portraitist, the caricature customer, and the portrait customer. And caricaturists and their customers are fearless and they’re right up in each others faces and then the portrait artists and their similarly guarded and cautious customers have the caricaturist and the caricaturist’s customer between them as a buffer. 

portraits and caricatures are made up of all these parts, parts that i will call shapes. but the shapes aren’t necessarily divided up in the way that most people divide faces up because we’re not dealing with the typical biological sense functions of features. We’re talking about the function of likeness which acts as kind of a key. And that’s the function, and that’s what the artist is sensitive to. But shapes are traditionally thought of as these linear figures. something akin to geometric shapes, a line that goes for a little trip and eventually ends up back at the point from where it started. Or something along those lines, pun intended. I suppose that old traditional concept of shape is tied in with writing and linear thinking. And it’s a matter of everyone being on the same page pun intended. but now there’re all kinds of icons out there now. and it’s all part of a visual language. and the color carries meaning and the texture carries meaning. Shape, as far as likeness is concerned is synonymous with “aspect.”