Archive for November, 2010

Pity the poor caricaturist.  It’s such a hard job.  Poor me.  I show up at a party, dressed for the occasion, with my good shoes, good jacket and good haircut.  I blend in and you’d think I’d know what fork to use and what pleasantries to say over a hand shake.  Well, I do, sort of,  but none of that is part of my job description.  My job, to put it bluntly, is to make fun of you.  Grrrrrr.   Okay, just how much fun directed at you can you really take? I can’t tell by looking at you.  I have to make you chat a little so that I can get a sense of how robust your ego is.  I have to find out, in other words, if you can take it.  It doesn’t take much, just a couple of back-and- forths about trivia will give me an idea of what’s allowed here.  That’s the normal procedure.

But then there are those super lovely people who seem to come prepared, as if they’d read the instructions on how to face a caricaturist.  One such lovely person sat for me at the Trinity event in Carmel, Indiana recently.  (See post Nov 15)  We’ll call her Dee.  As soon as she sat down, she said with a giggle: “Make me tall and skinny.”  Wonderful!  Of course, as soon as you read that, you knew that Dee was anything but.  Precisely.  She went to the heart of caricature:  make it look like me but with a twist.  The twist can be 180°.   Why not!  A twist of 10° is often not funny, but 180° can be profoundly funny.

It’s like saying the opposite of what you mean, except that the tone of your voice carries the real meaning.  Or  “the opposite of a great truth can also be a great truth,”  where Dee is understood to be a great truth laterally but not vertically and where I apologize for bringing up quantum physics about which I know less than forks or hand shakes.

Anyone looking at this drawing can tell that I thoroughly enjoyed making it.  Thank you, Dee.  When she saw it, she let out a happy yelp. The drawing immediately went up on the wall in the banquet room and is by now, I’m sure, a source of relaxation for all who visit her office.


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After the Trinity bash in Carmel (see post, Nov 15),  I crashed at relatives in Indianapolis , drove to the University of Chicago the next morning and found parking—parking!—on 57th Street  two doors down from the Quadrangle Club.  I accepted this good luck without superstition, thinking that parking two or three block away would also have been welcome since in that case I would have had a longer walk through the drizzly, sweet-smelling, leaf-strewn, picturesque campus.  When you enter the foyer of the Quadrangle Club, you step on highly polished shale, you notice the Bokhara rug and the leather couches in the sitting areas, and the leaded-glass windows in the landing of the winding, balustrated staircase. Veddy, veddy posh,  not quite Arthurian, but definitely Pre-Raphaelite.  The sounds, however, were not lutey at all and nobody danced the gavotte.  The sounds at this simcha were all hard drivin’ rock-n-roll, hip hop and a dash of reggae to bend the spine. When the kids weren’t bopping on the dance floor in the adjacent room, they were wiggling and lip syncing all around me.  I was set up in the solarium, the light-drenched spacious middle room with a second floor view of afternoon fall foliage.  Perfect.  We were celebrating Monica L.’s bat-mitzvah.  Did I say “kids” earlier?  More like eleven going on twenty-four.  It’s a great age:  braces  and glitter and spaghetti straps and high heels that get kicked off by the time the chocolate fountain and the cake arrives on the desert table—which was in the solarium.  I drew forty-two girls and two boys.   So-called “adults” didn’t have a chance.

Congratulations, Monica!



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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

This morning, after reading just a few pages of “Nomad” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I knew it was time to draw this face.  I knew there would be no shortage of videos of her on the internet.  Drawing from photos is now a thing of the past—thanks to You Tube!  It’s important for me to see the face animated.  When a person talks spontaneously on a topic that engages her/him,  the face will reflect the mind’s involvement.  Very often the eyebrows move and it’s most interesting when one eyebrow moves up higher than the other.  The smile changes the angle of the eyes and is often a little asymmetrical.   The eyes blink or squint during the conversation, again unevenly.  The person will have an inclination to tilt the head a bit.  In Psychology 101 all this squinting, pulling and inclining is summed up in the word “affect.”  Affect, which simply means expressiveness, is what I look for in a face.  When I can’t find any expressiveness, I can’t seem to get interested.

Well, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a delight in the department of expressiveness.  I worked from just a couple of videos.



I started drawing in China Marker on gloss paper.  The first drawing was stiff and literal.  But the second drawing, also in China Marker, shown above, is already quite animated.  Then I reached for the PITT B pen and did three fluid drawing.  The third of the pen drawings, left, is a caricature.

For me, the word caricature is full of excitement, lacking any pejorative tone.

See also www.khilden.com

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They wanted a caricaturist, so they called the Indianapolis Art Center for a reference.  Voila!  I’m the only one there—or anywhere, as far as I know—who teaches the Art of Caricature.  I’ve been happily driving from Chicago to Indy to give weekend workshops in that fabulous Michael Graves-designed art school and now I get to drive down for a gig.  Yeah!

This was an appreciation party for volunteers on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of Trinity Free Clinic in Carmel, Indiana.  The word “trinity” references Christian dogma, but it also reminds me of the word “triage,” which is very medical and medical is, of course,  what these people do.  The clinic serves those who lack insurance and the means to pay for medical care.   After everyone had eaten, the speeches started and someone recited something that would probably be classified as a prayer, but it was all in rhyme and very clever, a recitation of how wonderful the volunteers are.  I didn’t expect this kind of fun when I was driving down 65.  But here they were, telling me about majoring in French and studying in Paris; living and hoping in LA;  teaching math and hiking the Appalachian trail in the summer; residing at Clark and Fullerton, Chicago, in earlier days;  being forty and playing soccer with other moms; taking the kids on warehouse equipment and suspending them from a crane;  being retired from the FBI;  fighting with four sons tae-kwon-do style because mom has  a red belt; being creative and having the dirty dishes all over the house to prove it; wearing a skirt with an uneven and adjustable hemline; having  Hungarian ancestry ; and being “the normal one of the two of us” … good gracious, triage preserve me, these were interesting people.  In such company three hours go by too fast.  As I was packing up and belatedly enjoying chocolaty bits from the desert table, I eagerly asked when the next party was planned.  Oh, they said, not for another five year, because volunteers don’t like to be the center of attention, really, they just like to do their work.  Five years!?  Well, I’ll be waiting for that call.

One of the volunteers, I’ll call her Dee, will be the subject of a future post, all by herself.




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It’s always a pleasure to draw people who’ve known each other since childhood and whose children are now going to school together.  Everybody is comfortable with everybody.  Everybody dresses in whatever, from blazers and ties to jeans and sweatshirts.  Lots of laughing and the humor is easy.

The tables had themes that any of us would like to be reminded of:  courage, wisdom, knowledge, understanding and wonder.


Congratulations, Riley.


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My appearance in their colorful Kindergarten classroom was the culmination of two months of art projects.  They had started kindergarten in September and had already worked in a number of mediums and styles:  by the time they sat for me, they had worked in drawing, painting, mosaic, pottery  and sculpture; they knew about Van Gogh and Picasso; they had been to art exhibits, including the installations at the Evanston Art Center, where the readers (those who at the age of five or six could already read) had  read the wall placks for everybody—not an easy task in the case of installations.   So, here we were on October 25th—Picasso’s birthday!—and I was drawing caricatures of bright six-year-olds in Wilmette.  They had done self-portraits in the style of Picasso.  Today they learned about this art form called Caricature.

I started by showing them how to sharpen a China marker:  you pull this string and then you unwind a long thin strip of paper.  They were fascinated.  I drew all of their squirmy alert selves in an hour-and-a-half and then I drew the two teachers who orchestrated all these complicated activities.

Two days later, I attended the opening of their exhibit, complete with the nibbles and drinks expected at art openings.  The “art opening” was one of the concepts they were learning about, along with “fingerfood.”   My caricatures of them were all on a wall, neatly sealed in plastic sleeves. The room was full of their earlier achievements.  Parents were happy to see the work.  As was I and I was amazed at the  ingenuity of these teachers.


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