“Humour is the shortest road from one person to another.” - Georges Wolinski
Caricatures and satirical drawings can make people laugh, make them angry, but they won’t leave you indifferent. As an expression of freedom of speech, they’re not going anywhere, either.
Caricature drawings are a type of portrait where the likeness of the subject undergoes huge amounts of exaggeration for comic effect.
So what are the secrets of a good caricature? How can you draw and exaggerate a portrait?
You’ll find the answers in this article.
The History of Caricatures
While many people are amused by caricatures and the humorous way they portray people, they were first and foremost designed to mock, denounce, or draw attention to certain ideas.
Caricatures were first created in the 16th century and were made more accessible thanks to the press. They became increasingly common in the press and were used to criticise politics, conflicts, and anything going on in the news. Today, there are many long-running publications that are fond of caricatures and political cartoons.
To make things clearer, here’s a definition of caricature:
“a picture, description, or imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.”
To caricature somebody requires a keen eye. The artist or cartoonist needs to draw the most defining features of the subject, exaggerate them, and ensure that they’re funny.
Under the EU Copyright Directive, ‘the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche’ are not infringing on copyright. After all, you see plenty of caricaturists working in busy tourist areas and have examples of famous people. Just have a look around the busy parts of London.
Additionally, if you go to a theme park, amusement park, or trade show, you might run into someone who can do a caricature portrait of you for you to take home as a keepsake.
The Basics of Caricature
You won’t become a caricaturist overnight. Even though certain caricatures may seem simpler to do than a realistic portrait, it isn’t always the case. You need to be able to draw a face before you can draw a caricature. Only by mastering the fundamental drawing techniques can you begin to deform them.
You can teach yourself to draw a face in an art school or art lessons. However, a lot of caricature artists learn to draw through patient observation and practice.
To draw a face, you can use constructions lines; a circle divided vertically and horizontally with lines to make it into a sphere. You can use this as the basis of your portrait.
These lines will help you to better understand the orientation of the head and line up the features. The horizontal line represents the height of the eyes and the vertical line will be where the nose and the centre of the mouth are.
This will help you to draw any face. Practising by drawing realistic portraits of your friends and family is a good place to start and afterwards, you can start with caricatures.
Caricatures: Finding the Most Important Features
Once you’ve mastered the basics of drawing portraits, you can get started with caricatures. The key to caricature is observation. You can’t rush it and you shouldn’t be in a rush anyway. You need to take the time to observe the person. The most effective way is to see which features jump out at you immediately.
You could draw your caricature with piercing blue eyes. If they have long hair, you can make their hair even longer than it really is. They may have a prominent nose, a big forehead, a beauty spot, pursed lips, etc.
Remember that satire doesn’t always mean vulgar or hurtful.
If you know the person well, you’ll probably understand better which features you can exaggerate. You can also draw someone as angry or in love. It’s the whole picture and situation that’s designed to make people laugh or smile. This is the model that those working in the press follow.
You can also add text. You’re not writing a novel but something short and snappy, maybe something they often say or a title that sums up the situation and you could even exaggerate clothing or a treasured object.
For example, why not draw someone with a snorkel and mask if they’re a fan of diving?
You could also exaggerate their earrings or other fashion accessories. Caricatures act as a whole, after all.
Finding Your Style when Drawing Caricatures
Each caricature artist draws differently. Each artist has their own style which is how you can recognise their work. They may be influenced by manga, realism, portraiture, or regularly do caricatures of the whole person and not just their face.
Find good drawing classes here.
To find your style, you need to practise. Practise regularly and critique your own work. Do an appraisal of each piece you finish and make a note of what you like about it and what you don’t. Bit by bit, your drawings will improve especially if you take the time to look at caricatures in popular culture.
You can learn a lot from the history of caricature art from caricaturists and satirical press. From Leonardo da Vinci to Wolinsky, there’s a wealth of caricatures and styles. Just like your own work, make a note of what you like and don’t about each style. We’re not saying you should copy the ones you like, but rather use them as inspiration for your own style.
Media for Drawing Caricatures
What techniques should you use when drawing a caricature?
This is a question that most caricaturists have probably asked themselves.
When it comes to drawing, there’s plenty of different media. You could use charcoal, coloured pencils, markers, watercolours, gouache, graphite pencils, etc.
A lot of caricaturists prefer charcoal or pencil as you can simply use a rubber if you make a mistake. Sometimes, these are the only medium they use. Caricatures aren’t always in colour, after all, and once you’ve finished a drawing in charcoal, you can just add a bit of lacquer to it.
If you want to colour your cartoon caricature, you can go over your charcoal or pencil sketch with paint, for example. Once you feel comfortable, you might start painting your caricatures directly in colour.
How Can You Teach Yourself to Draw Caricatures?
Getting a caricature right requires a lot of practice.
So how do you do it? Who should you use as a model?
Don’t panic if your little brother or husband doesn’t want to sit in front of you for hours while you draw and ridicule them. You could always practise without a subject.
You can go through photos of your friends, family, or even complete strangers online and practise to your heart’s content. This is particularly useful when you’re first starting out as you’ll be under no pressure and there’ll be nobody watching you work.
If you want to practise working more quickly, you might want to head into the street and do quick caricatures of passersby. Drawing on the street is good practice for quickly noticing somebody’s expression or posture. You won’t need to do a caricature of them there and then. Just doing a realistic sketch is good practice. You could even be hired to do corporate events.
Finally, you could do your own satirical paper. You could get inspiration from doing caricatures of famous and important people. Political satire is a great way to get better. Go for it!
If you need more help with how to draw caricatures, consider getting help from a private tutor on Superprof who specialising in the art form!
There are three main types of tutorials available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials, and each comes with its pros and cons in terms of learning and cost-effectiveness.
Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and they tend to be the most cost-effective type since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student.
Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or via webcam. Since the tutor won't have the travel costs to worry about and can fit more students into their schedule as a result, online tutorials are usually cheaper than face-to-face tutorials.
Finally, group tutorials are classes with one teacher or tutor and multiple students and these tend to be the cheapest per student per hour.