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Archive for July, 2010

The humor in my party caricatures, like the volume on your car radio, can be turned up or down.  You would have to say that I was in control of the dial since I was the one with the drawing paper and the markers and the light and the little set up there at one table in the party where people are standing around in a cluster and where the laughter is coming from.  That’s obvious, of course, it’s the artist who’s doing the caricatures.  But from the artist’s, my, point of view, this is not so clear.  What I put on the paper is a reflection of the ambiance– this particular bunch of people, how comfortable they are with each other, their particular way of teasing each other, all that kind of stuff. I’m not saying I’m “channeling,” but, boy, it sure feels like what I do comes from an energy source that’s not all mine.  I really rely on the people around me for inspiration and to keep me going.

So, for example, if you go to http://www.khilden.com/tradeshows.html you’ll see what happens on the drawing paper in the more controlled environment of the almighty trade show at McCormick Place a frequent venue for caricaturists. (Even there, as you can see, some of the organizers can place special requests that push the envelope and I am happy to comply.)

On the other end of the dial is the family party, where the generous host is totally laid back and only interested in making everybody happy; where the cousins are close in age and smart, funny and verbal, aware of cultural and media stereotypes; where a 13-year-old is egging me on to draw him with bulging muscles, a hairy body and a six pack; where a 16-year-old is six-two and a ham; where all the other cousins and friends are clustered around to watch the drawing happen and they are laughing in anticipation of the next line to appear on the paper;  where little girls under six are so composed and decorous that they are funny; where the cupcakes at the dessert table are the kind with the delicate icing on top, without any pretense of nutritional bla-bla, the kind you push into your mouth in one blink of  abandon  and then you understand instantly why the word “cupcake” is a word of endearment.  (I was asked to take some home with me.) That kind of party!

It was that kind of party yesterday, at a family gathering to celebrate a high school graduation in Edison Park.  Congratulations, Hannah!  I’m guessing that the family name—here’s my two years of French–was derived from le beau chat.  And they really all looked like beautiful cats to me… Thank you, Darren and Phyllis.

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You know the party will go well when the hostess has the word peace in her email address, she lets you park in the circular driveway, and one of the end tables in the high ceilinged living room is whimsically hand painted.  Oh, and in back of the house after an expansive lawn — a lake.  Maybe not a lake exactly, maybe a sort of well-groomed Walden Pond to reflect an expanse of sky to meditate by.  Our event was a high school graduation party. Mom preferred to let everything run smoothly, without any rules about who could be drawn or in what order.  She knew that everyone would be gracious. And gracious they were.  Everyone.  What a lovely bunch of people.  One of the classmates had the peace symbol around her neck, with a multicolored ribbon.  Even a seven-year-old’s jewelry was about peace.  Long Grove, who knew.

Thank you, Debbie, Cammie, Brad, Josh, Danny, Kristin, Sophia, Luba, Allie, Lena, Bunny,  Alex, Rome, Nicole, Michelle, Bogdan, Joanna, Inna, Bunny, Adrian, Aiden, Landon, Natalie, Justin, Brian, Kyle, Franky, Staphanie, Deborah, Alec, Rachel, Taylor, Char-Char, Katie, Matthew,  Chris and many others.

Thank you, all. A wonderful party!

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Avatar

This summer, when I head out to do a picnic, I make sure I pack enough blue markers. Not Electric Blue, not Peacock Blue, and not Indigo.  It has to be Cerulean Blue, a new skin color, categorized along with boring old Peach, Salmon Pink and Light Walnut.  You never know, this may just be the picnic where everyone is Avatar crazy.  Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m ready for the whole tribe, imaginary or real.  To my great surprise it hasn’t happened yet. The Cerulean Blues are ready, but among the hundreds of people I’ve drawn in these past six Summer weeks, only one has gone for the Avatar theme.  He’s a computer guy, of course.  In fact, he designs computer games.  I drew him two years ago sitting at his favorite toy, playing the keyboard as if he were pounding out the Moonlight Sonata.  Doesn’t he look blissful!  This year—this is one of those perennial picnics I’ve talked about earlier—he’s there again, thank you Andrew– and his mind is full of Avatar amazement. Loved it.  He would, of course, since he could appreciate the technical wizardry more than those of us who paint on canvas with brushes. Voila, my first Avatar and so far my only one.  Any takers out there?  I have all this Cerulean Blue here…

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We’re back in learning mode here.  No, please, don’t sit up straight.  You can’t do this unless you’re enjoying yourself.

I’m going to shamelessly and—pridelessly–show you some of the drawings that led up to this final one  (#14).  This is Javier Marias, a novelist I’ve recently started reading. The novel I’m reading, Your Face Tomorrow, fascinates me and I felt the urge to draw the face of the author.  That happens to me often. I draw people at parties all the time, without getting to know them, except, oh, superficially in a couple of minutes of conversation.  But drawing a writer I admire is very different.  I try to get into his brain, try to get a sense of his inner life. I don’t claim that I ever get that deep, but I try to do a drawing of the face that, at least for me, gets at something.  Javier Marias has been writing for a long time, he’s famous and photos of him are on the Internet. Drawing from photos is fine, but watching the gestures and hearing the voice on a video is the best. It’s all there.  I watched a video of him being interviewed and reading from his work.  Then I went back, to freeze a frame that showed him in what seemed to be a characteristic expression.  First I worked with China marker, which allows no erasing—focuses the mind. I did three drawings.  Then I switched to pencil, which results in a more subtle line quality than the China marker can give.  Then all of a sudden, whammo, I reach for a pen and draw him from memory, drawing #5.  Funny how that can happen. I think I’ve got him in #5.  No erasing the pen, of course.  Drawing with pen on glossy paper is very fast and I did one after the other, from #6 to #12. The next day, I was ready for an experiment.  How can I record this with my little palm-size video camera?  I sat down to draw and held the camera in my left hand, pressing it against my clavicle.  Never done this before, a little weird, but I did two drawings in this strange new way and got some record of how fast it goes.  Both drawings, #13 and #14, can be seen on YouTube.

Here’s the video I worked from:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/video/2009/dec/15/javier-marias-your-face-tomorrow

Here’s are the YouTube links, the first runs 1:57 minutes, the second 2:07.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kbA8RuW1n4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx8iEtw6H0M

To read an excerpt from the novel go to my artamaze blog:

http://artamaze.worpress.com

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Snoutology

Cartoons and Caricatures are two different art forms.  I work as a caricaturist and teach the art of caricature.  But I’m not a cartoonist, although I occasionally teach cartooning–because it’s fun. People who sign up for the cartooning class are teachers and other lecturers who feel the need to liven up their act.  Good idea! As you might guess, interesting people sign up for my cartooning classes.  For example, I’ve had a college math professor, an early childhood development department chair, and a social worker in my cartooning classes. It’s not at all a goofy thing to do.  Takes practice and concentration.  Not that it’s academic, exactly, it’s fun. You know you’re in a fun course when your syllabus has the word Snoutology in it. But there’s a definite discipline to it.  I teach it with an underlying structure relating one cartoon animal to another and building from a simple face to more sophisticated forms.  This structure, by showing the evolution of complex forms from simple ones, makes it possible to memorize a repertoire of ten critters in a seven or eight week course. Plus hand gestures.  You can imagine that just being able to draw a cartoony hand pointing at a key word  would be an asset, instead of boring arrows, trite emoticons, and lame smiley faces.

The next cartooning class will be this fall, starting September 21, for seven sessions at Oakton Community College, Evanston Branch.    http://www.oakton.edu/conted/index.php You’ve got all summer to think about it. It’s fun and profitable.

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