Thursday, June 8, 2023

Sticker Dos and Don'ts

Drawing by me

Drawing by Saemee

Drawing by me


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Beasted by Nate Kapnicky is now Available in Fine Stores all Across San Diego

Nate gave me the boxes of Beasted Books that he hadn't sold when he moved up to Idaho. I gave some out at the shop when we had the shop. I sold some at a couple stores up in LA and one fine store in Ocean Beach, and the rest found their way into even the most mainstream of stores across San Diego such as TJ Maxx and Walmart. See if you can spot the Beasted book in each of these photos. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Every Moment Counts

The right brain says every moment counts. The left brain answers, but some moments count more than others. The right brain retorts Every Moment Counts. Is every moment made of the same stuff to where you can take some of that stuff out of a less important moment to invest it in a more important moment? I’m not sure that every moment IS made of the same stuff. But the left brain will win the argument because it’s the left brain that segmented our experiences up into moments in the first place.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Safe to Assume

it seems it's a realistic view of the world that imagines that everything outside of oneself is operating according to routine. after all, what are the odds that it should be at this very moment of your witnessing that it break from routine? But then, meanwhile, within oneself, each moment unfolds as none has before. every contributing factor is different from what it was and the moment and all those involved to witness it are completely new. and yet it remains much more realistic to assume that everything is always as it has been and everwill be. It will always be safe to assume this. Safe to assume. Is this the definition of that figure of speech? If you know which regularities to look out for you will spot them each time as they fly past and disappear again out of sight into the chaos.
We have hunting and gathering instincts within us. Everybody does. But we are no longer hunters and gatherers. We are farmers. We have gathered enough plants which we are able to farm that we are able to live—here on the farm. We do not need to hunt and gather, but we have hunting and gathering within us. And we have had mixed feelings about hunting and gathering. Sometimes it brings trouble. Sometimes a hunter or gatherer is snagged by a wolf. But sometimes something is brought back which ends up being of great use to us. And then we have it forever. We farm it. We cultivate it. Hunting and gathering is still of great use to us. But since we have hunting and gathering within us, we don’t need to encourage hunting and gathering. In fact we ought to discourage it so that only the most voracious hunters and gatherers will be able to slip through the cracks of our grip. And we will austricize them but we will learn from them and it will strengthen us. We who have found ways to take pleasure in boredom and stability. Though we have a hunter gatherer somewhere within us.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

There’s a feeling I’ve had, looking at caricatures a while back, where it seems like the artist just merely listed some qualities that the face they were looking at had without really drawing the face. And then the drawing feels disconnected from the subject. Then, the opposite of this is that feeling of looking at a caricature where the drawing shares some essential aspect with the subject, some aspect that whoever is meant to enjoy the caricature, maybe the subject themself, or maybe their parents or friends feels this aspect in the drawing and couldn’t have imagined that this shape which they’d internalized was drawable. And therein lies the magic of caricature, portraiture, and drawing really. And I admit that this last part may be my bias talking.
     I had a couple of great faces sit down for me just yesterday—a couple. Both of them had really interesting, compelling visages that I really wanted to capture, wanting, as I always want, to get to the essence of what it was precisely that made them so compelling. And so I dove in, but I wanted to go fast. Why go fast? Well, here’s another story. Two fairs ago, out in Delaware, I drew a really fun couple. They seemed so young and engaging and open. And this contrasted to a couple of couples from the previous day. And these couples’ reactions were anywhere in the range of so so to troubling, but those drawings which brought on the reactions were also so so, in my opinion. So I can chalk it up, and say “that’s on me”.
     But this couple was different indeed. Much more friendly and cool and open. And so I took my time. I must have just sketched with pencil for upwards of ten minutes before getting in there with marker. And my friend and I chatted with the couple so comfortably and easily and at length and in depth, and it was everything we could have hoped for. I must have took an hour and a half on the drawing. The drawing, I felt, ended up having many of the qualities of a good live caricature, only fine tuned, and laser focused, and amplified. I was very confident in the likeness and indeed, amidst all of the heartfelt, impassioned disapproval with the caricature that resulted, not one complaint about the likeness was brought up. Not one. There were even tears, or at least nearly tears. So one thing this reinforces for me is the need for a caricature to be fast if it’s funny. At least for some customers. I guess I’m not allowed to spend an hour and a half on a joke about a stranger’s face. or a somewhat stranger. And it was a heartfelt impassioned disapproval that could weirdly enough, only be quenched with a refund. 
     So her, the buyer, looking at the drawing, has to at least entertain the idea: Is it just me who is extra sensitive. Maybe it’s okay for someone to draw people like this and get paid. She concluded: No. This is not right. I cannot let what this man did go. I must do something. That’s kind of how it went down. And that was pretty much her tone after she came back the second time after coming back the first time, when I preempted her complaint and passionately and vulnerably poured out to them my feelings about it, how I really thought they were a couple of nice kids so I really tried to spend my time to do something cool for them. I didn’t cry, but I really poured it all out to them as I’d always wanted to address customers of this sort. And I will admit that my eyes probably did get shiney. 
     And apart from this I’ve had enough experiences to tell me that it’s not enough sometimes to “just take your time and make it awesome” as a hedge against reject anxiety. There’s something built in with the speed element of live caricatures—a load bearing wall not easily extracted. But I was so excited to draw this couple yesterday, and I wanted to go fast. And there are other benefits to drawing fast and wacky on a busy day particularly. It sets the standard for the next drawing, as people watch it happen and decide they want to get one. I drew the drawing. I saw the reaction. My interpretation of it is that they believe they got a caricature; they were nice. They paid. But they didn’t like it I could tell. They didn’t want to communicate their dissatisfaction to me, certainly not forcefully—they may have allowed for some of it to slip through, past the bouncers of their good manners. But I feel what happened effectively was that two great faces and two great mindsets got abused. If they ever go to a caricature stand where there are good caricature artists working they’re gonna say “we wanna get one, but don’t make it crazy.” And the artist who draws them on that occasion will fall back on his old tricks and be prevented from cracking it open—from digging into the face to get to the good stuff, to turn it into something beautiful. That seems like a good place to end, but I may just keep going. 
     Let’s say you just simply don’t like caricatures, but you like portraits. Let’s say there’s some particular portrait of some person that you like—that you love. Whether you know it or not, you like that portrait because of some particular aspect of it, or a bunch of different aspects. So if someone drew a caricature, or let’s just say a quicker drawing which had those exact same aspects, you would like the caricature instead. Of course, now that you’ve seen that portrait, if someone were to simply recreate those aspects in a caricature, it would be derivative. But the point is that if the caricature from the outset had those particular aspects to it, then they who like the portrait would instead be they who like the caricature. It’s just a matter of getting to those aspects first. 
     But what’s interesting about caricatures and portraits versus other kinds of art is any particular aspect isn’t localized within the drawing. Same goes with all other observational art. The aspect is the drawn shape’s relationship to the observed shape. So whether or not a drawing stands on its own as a work of art, it also has to stand in relation to its subject matter. The subject isn’t merely inspiration to help the artist create. 
     Now all the art that’s hung up in the museums and upheld in art history books as the golden standard—all the subjects are dead. If those works were all theme park caricatures it could be no different. But to think in terms of being “archival” and hanging in museums gets away from the main point, and the main point is resonance and connection and likeness, and humor. 
     I guess what I’m getting at is that you can’t not like caricatures. Artists abilities vary. Customers faces vary, but the principals remain. Every face has a different answer, a shape password—a code that can be gotten to. And when the code is found the likeness is achieved, and when it is achieved it can’t be denied. If the likeness is good enough it doesn’t matter how ugly the drawing is. It could be the most difficult, bad mood having helicopter mom in the world. Seeing her daughter’s face will crack that rough exterior, if only the artist can allow himself to look at the face and be vulnerable to it and wait for the answer, knowing that it comes not from him but from the face. So that’s why I felt bad about wasting that couple. They were open to me doing whatever it is I do. And I could tell they had it in them to make a broad imaginative leap to see the likeness. So it was a shame. That’s all. 
     I had done the sort of live caricature that I’d seen so long ago, before starting into drawing live caricatures—the sort of drawing I’d held in contempt and set out to avoid. We’ll treat this as the titular moment, though it’s not as clear cut. This is the moment when I realized that listing is actually a valid approach to caricature. It just has to be done right. You have to make sure at the outset that you really step back and feel the overall picture. Get a sense for the main issue. This will be the aspect of the face most unique to this person, and thusly most obvious—most palpable to the non-caricature artist—most obvious to the untrained artist. The aspect—the shape you’ve never drawn before. So this, as opposed to “wow his teeth are weird! Lemme draw those.” All those elements are so important and need to be shown if you’re feeling them, but held together by the larger meta observation of the relationship between those shapes. But, of course, with the understanding that “shape” means aspect. We live in a world where manipulating so many different aspects of a two dimensional plane is such a common place thing now, with everybody having phones and ipads. It use to be that we all manipulated two dimensional visual planes by way of making letters on pieces of paper, and shape was a way we talked about the marks we made, but what we’re all easily capable of manipulating visually now has jumped so drastically, our common conception of shape will likely stay stuck in the realm of mathematical geometry. But “shape” allegory is the way likenesses are established, and no visual aspect is exempt from its affecting likeness.

     But how is this “listing”? Those teeth that you dove into. You were excited to draw them because you’ve been holding those teeth in your arsenal, waiting for someone to sit down who had them. Same goes for the eyes. Same for the cheek wrinkles. The face sits down, and you list all the shapes that you have a match for. All the shapes in the face that you have in your hand. You just list them off. It sounds very rudimentary but only until you realize that a shape is just an aspect. It could be as simple as a nose that’s just a ball, or it could be some aspect spread out across the whole face. It could be that their tongue looks like whistler’s mother. It could be a gradation of the skin. It’s just an aspect of the face—an aspect of the face that resonates with you. That’s all a shape is. It’s nice when it’s like—their head is a perfect square. Their nose is a perfect circle. Their eyes are—when it’s all obvious to see and simple to draw. Only those people rarely sit for caricatures—for a number of reasons. A lot of people come to caricatures curious what anyone could even do to their face. And it’s nice when we’re able to do something to where our observations clearly resonate. If not with them, then with their family watching. But hopefully with them. Hopefully with everybody.
There’s that impression of passing through time as though all that happens is then left behind, for example one's childhood or any chapter of one's life that one feels they’ve left. But really you can think of those bygone passages as introductions to that adventure your swept up in the middle of right now, too close to to clearly see.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I think I've heard both. One story is: a long time ago caricaturists use to draw crazy. Now everybody just draws fast and “cute.” The other story is the opposite. There’s your traditional caricatures and then there’s your new school crazy ones. It’s strange how the word traditional gets used for caricature. The tradition caricatures actually comes from is a tradition where a drawing is done for the newspaper in order to smear some politician or public figure. Of course there are also live caricature traditions too. But live caricatures haven’t been around all that long. When I think of live caricature traditions I think of the best of Dino and Tom Richmond, but that’s just me. Me and growing up in a small town in Ohio and going to Cedar Point. Live caricatures may have been around for a while, but everybody seeing everybody else’s live caricatures is only as old as the internet. Or the widespread use thereof. The early 2000s. Now that’s young. Twenty years. Editorial or newspaper caricatures has built into it an element of mass exposure. Mass exposure is new for live caricatures because the artform doesn’t work that way. The more public any given live caricature of some person becomes the more it wades into a different role. The role of the editorial caricature—also, the more of a public figure the subject is. Editorial caricature is a public drawing of a public figure.

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.”

Friday, December 29, 2017

“Look like” is an interesting couple of words. Every caricature artist knows that a caricature has to look like the people, but more and more, these days I’m getting a sense of some customers and passers by having a different conception of “look like” than I do. Just yesterday a coworker of mine was doing a really fun great caricature which was really funny and had a great likeness and there was this lady who saw it and really laughed and enjoyed it and was just really taken by it. I mean to say it was a very positive caricature response and one of the things she said was that it doesn't look like them or something very much along those lines and very emphatic. But we look at it as a total failure if the drawing doesn't look like the subject, particularly to us, and we also hope the customer or family or friends will see the likeness. But could some customers conceive of likeness differently? So in this scenario the drawing manages to be funny (and I would say) as it relates to the subject (to give the scenario the full benefit of the doubt) but it doesn't look like them, so the only way it can be funny is for it to look like them according to our definition and then the “doesn't look like them” of their definition speaks to all the distortions and exaggerations, and which is which doesn't matter to them, because the point is that the drawing of these people is genuinely funny in its relationship to the subject and “doesn't look like them.” and that’s in their words. I think it is an odd way of looking at it, but I can make sense of it if I imagine a view of likeness where likeness and humor are thought to be mutually exclusive--or truth and humor. It’s not so far fetched. It runs contrary to the “it’s funny because it’s true” mantra, though, but surely that phrase only exists because at one point it really meant something and went against common knowledge. Maybe all I’m really saying is that the concept of  “it’s funny because it’s true” which is such a given in the circles that I run, may not have been canonized just yet by all of human society ala gravity.

Monday, December 25, 2017

to you, all this is completely new. to me it’s like groundhogs day--the same things over and over and over, all except for one thing which is that your face is like no other face in the world—your expressions, everything about it is completely new.  so then, i can react to the essence of what exactly is bizarre about it or i can draw you so that i hope you might not be offended. i can throw a thousand tiny little tricks at you that i’ve built up from living in this groundhog day repetitious world, or i can throw myself at this tiny bizarre kernel at the center of the whole charade. to draw the shape that is unique to you and only you even though i cant have seen it and so can’t have practiced it before. and it is hard to even see it in a way because you can’t look for it actively, because to look for something you have to know what you’re looking for. but it's easy to see if you’re not looking because its gonna be this big strange glaring anomaly, this aspect of your face which is.. so odd in fact that it’s the very shape my mind saves the face in its memory under in order to distinguish it from among all the others.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No one in this world can show what one particular person looks like but a "caricature artist"-- someone whose sight hasn't been impaired by the desire to show, and whose ability to show hasn't been overrun by an excess of clarity. But it takes a person to see a person. A camera can't do it but a person holding a camera can, and one who can see and has the desire to show will find the lighting and the angle and the moment which distills what they see, when they see a person, into something that can be shown and kept and held. And a caricature artist, seeing the photo can boil it down further and enhance it, just as they can with anything, with a recognition of the shapes and knowledge of the meaning behind them.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

shape is a fundamental element. I keep coming back to this unit. a shape is an aspect. an aspect of a given face, an aspect of a given drawing, an aspect of a given anything. and if a given face has some particular set of aspects and a drawing has that same set of aspects than the two will match. as in the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. there will be in the drawing a perfect likeness to the face. So it’s as simple as that and it starts here. but to get a perfect likeness is an impossible or nonsensical task until you add another element to the mix, and what is that element? well i think it’s actually a matter of language. but whatever it is, it functions to limit the number of aspects so you don't have to draw and examine forever.

i'd always thought about there being two types of drawing: one from observation and one from the imagination, but i think i see it all as observation. there's the part of our mind that we don't have immediate access to, but we do have some kind of access to it  and so it's the same as drawing from observation. i don't have access to what a horse looks like but i do have some kind of access to it. when i look at it i can find some information about what a horse looks like that i didn't have immediate access to. all i really mean to say is that the important element about the external that we draw observationally, this internal semi or subconscious part of us also shares. and if i am to do work that i myself find interesting, it would need to have something present within it, some stimuli that i'm not able to freely conjure with my conscious mind or indeed why wouldn't i?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


are opposicatures possible? well. it would just be a drawing of a completely different person who may be out there somewhere hypothetically. something about opposicatures doesnt sit with me. right now im thinking about maybe its the idea that perhaps likeness is what links a caricature to its subject matter. i think one of the key elements that sets caricatures and maybe portraits too, but i would say especially caricatures, apart from other artforms is the link between the drawing and the subject matter. also with jazz theres a thing called standards which means there's a limited number of familiar songs and then those songs are covered every which way by different artists and even by the same artists in different performances. but the set of standards is fairly limited to keep that link between the version of the song being performed in that moment and the standard it's referencing. but the point im getting at is that i think the link is important and how that link is established is important and i suspect that likeness is a big part of the link. and if the drawing looks a hundered times more like larry bird than it does steve urkle and its hillarious in this regard as all caricatures should be than how is it linked to steve urkle? because i say it is? and with jazz standards too it isnt just linked in nomenclature either. its linked because people have an affinity for particular songs and that's why the songs are covered by the jazz musicians.

another thing is i think that caricatures ought to hit you without having to think about it. i think ideally you're doing things that seem like they ought not to work but then they do, and what i mean by work is i mean hit you, feel like the person, ideally without thinking about it, and i think the ideal realm is the realm we have to opperate in when were defining things. but an opposicature you'd have to think about. It would be too cerebral if even cerebral. caricatures work because our mind uses the function of likeness to recognize people without even thinking about it. our mind has no need and no interest to recognize the opposite of what people look like, if such a thing can even be rightly conceived of.

for me what distinguishes one face from another is not the proportions of whatever dimensions but rather the hodge podge of shapes that make up the face, again ideally. if we talk about big nose versus small nose, i still wonder what kind of nose. and wouldnt the opposite of a very big nose be no nose at all? or would it be a very very small nose?

but i'm certainly picking , no pun intended, something apart which is at it's core about humor. an opposicature is possible. you can just say who it's  suppose to be and use your sense of humor to find the funny possibilities. so i guess thats my final answer, but the idea of opposicatures got my brain spinning a little bit and we had a good little run there.

could it be an issue that most art has caricature and subject matter built into it, and "Caricatures" the artform, points to a peice and then claims that the subject matter is out there. or it claims that you or someone you love is the subject matter. could this be a problem? hmm. So then, if a caricature is to be art or to put it differently, if it is to be worth while, it seems like it would need to address two subject matters. one being the likeness of the individual and the other being whatever else. i guess something more universal. 

speaking of that, I was thinking about how live caricatures are different from stand up comedy in certain ways. One of the big ones that has recently come to mind is that a stand up comedian's subject matter is different from a live caricature artist's. A stand up comic's subject matter is the human experience which we all share equally. A live caricature artist's subject matter is the likeness of this individual which these people, the customer's and their friends and stuff may be more intimately connected with. And then, as I stated above, I guess it would need another subject matter in addition.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Let me tell you a story. A rookie first year caricature artist one day, feeling frustrated with his customers and with his abilities left his stand and traveled to a faraway land to meet with an old caricature master in hopes that he could obtain some wisdom which he could then apply to his craft in order to become a better caricature artist. When he finally pushed through the crowds of the busy farmers market in the faraway city he found the old man drawing, and his model was the plainest, most impossible face the rookie caricaturist had ever seen.

But when the old master finished in a few quick moments the drawing on his board was an astonishing sight to behold, and when he tore off the drawing and showed the customer they and their family watching and all the crowd around them burst into laughter. There were a few customers after that, all with similar reactions, and the rookie waited around until finally he had a moment to seek the council of the old master. And when he did he beseeched him.

"Master, I am nought but a first year rookie. All my life I have pursued art and I have spent all my money and four years of my life at art school, but now I have tasted of caricatures and I want nothing but to draw people and show them their faces and make them laugh. I seek from you guidance, any helpful word you might have to offer. The old master scratched his beard and thought for a moment. finally he said:

"let me tell you a story. When I was a first year artist like yourself I went about it pretty much like everybody does. Except for one thing. When I wasn't drawing caricatures I spent every waking second learning to paint with oils. And after many years, finally I got to a point where I'd mastered oils, and after I'd mastered oils I went and took all the oil paints and brushes and I shoved it all up my arse. And then I moved on to pastels. By day I drew caricatures and by night in the secrecy of my studio I studied chalk pastels till I mastered them. Then I shoved all the pastels up my arse. After that, watercolor and I continued on like this. Learning graphite pencil, guache, even crayons and then shoving it all up my arse. Then one slow chilly October day a boy came up to me, and you might not believe it. I could hardly believe it myself when I saw it with my own two eyes, but his face was made of crayon lines. It’s even near impossible to conceive of it with the human mind unless you see it with your own two eyes, but my hand to God, as sure I'm talking to you, this boy's face defied all reason. The slopes and the crevices and the shapes of every last feature were the lines and textures of the simple crayon. That rudimentary tool they give to a child in kindergarten. But I tell you now, when that boy with his inexplicable face sat down before for me I was able to draw him, what with crayons being in my arse n all.

At this the young rookie thanked the old master and left, never to return again.

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. You 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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

the uneducated eye. i have my ideas about the uneducated eye. it sees a painting of a mountain and understands that its one persons version of what a mountain looks like and is able to suspend disbelief like people do with movies and then all these little things about the drawing that dont contribute lets say to the likeness become this sort of friction, this captivating, stimulating friction, like some dissonance. but, if this viewer has a really educated eye, he sees the drawing  and all the parts of it that are not likeness function as plot holes. they don't make the drawing interesting, they make it just a drawing. some shmuts on a piece of paper. the uneducated eye enjoys the drawing like a child enjoys movies where he doesnt think about it as a story made with moving pictures. he might intellectualy grasp that the movie is fake, but sensually he experiences it as though it were real.