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What makes my caricature drawings distinctive is the fact that my faces and figures actually look three dimensional and that I achieve this effect without using a smudging technique.  I use markers.  Markers are a clean, dust free, permanent medium that does not smudge and requires no spraying.    Kids standing around to watch me draw often say,  “ohmygod, it looks so real.”

The key to three-dimensionality is shadow.  You can see in the drawing of the girl with the full head of red hair, that the bangs hanging over her eyes cast a grayish shadow.  Without that shadow, the drawing would look flat.  Those all-important bangs would lack character.  Can’t have that.  In fact, I draw the shadow right after the line drawing is done, before I add any other color.  This freaks some younger kids out, because I also put a shadow under the upper lip and under the upper eye lid.  When there’s no other color in the drawing, this lavender-gray streak can look weird.  But then when they see the other colors coming in, it’s “ohmygod, it looks so real!”

In the examples below, notice the shadow cast by the upper eye lid and the eye lashes,  and also the shadow over the teeth cast by the upper lip.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.




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The sun came out a little, but not enough for me to shed any of the four layers I counted on to keep me from shivering.  Can’t draw when you’re shivering.   By the end of the month I’ll be wearing gloves to draw.  Artist for all seasons, here!

Ridgeville is a park in south-east Evanston.  It’s small and the field house is an old residence.  Folksy.  And most of the folk seemed to know one another.  There was no frenzy, fall or otherwise.  It was just very cozy, despite the chill, with the musicians on the plat form played Beatles songs and such.  They were all kids and all accomplished musicians and singers.  Nothing tentative here, they gave it their all.

And hey, Jude, it was good.



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It’s all about learning.  Sure, it’s fun ; sure it’s great to go home with a picture of yourself to frame and hang in your room and wonder if you will look like that in five years (the drawing tends to make you look more glamorous, more self-assured and more powerful than you feel–at least are allowed to feel  since you’re a kid going to school and playing baseball and soccer).   But, the real treat is watching over the artist’s shoulder.  It goes so fast!  And look how she does the hair…look how she puts blue in the hair to make it look more black.  They ask me about that all the time.  Look how she leaves a white spot on the tip of the nose and on the cheeks.  That’s the high light, I explain.  She always makes the head big and the body small.  Why?  That’s part of how caricatures are done, I explain.  They themselves all draw.  Drawing is part of the way children make sense of the world.  Drawing is a natural extension of the SEEING process.  Drawing is a natural way of saying, “these things around us that we look at every day are pretty amazing, let’s take time to actually look at them.”  Faces are a special feature of the work we live in and are extra fascinating.  (See PROSOPAGNOSIA in my blog post for 9.  Xxxx, in http://artamaze.wordpress.com)

There are parties where four or five kids will spend the entire duration of the party, in this case two hours, standing next to me and studiously watching the process. I’ve seen it many times and this was such an occasion.  It’s really gratifying for me.  One of the questions that always comes up is, how did you learn to do this?  The answer is that you have to draw a lot, you have to practice.  Then I encourage them to keep drawing.  After the age of twelve, children tend to get more interested in socializing and conforming and, as a result, they spend less and less time at their drawing boards.  Maybe some of “my students” from these parties will continue.  I like to think so.

For the past dozen or so years I’ve been spending the afternoons of grandparents day in nursing homes, where the families come to visit. This past Sunday it was at Holy Family on Dempster in Des Plaines.  This was an exceptionally polite crowd, enthusiastic in a gentile way.  What a pleasure!  Thank you, Mila, Mercy, and Adrianna.  See you next year!


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Last night I spent three hours at the Hard Rock Café, under a photo of Elvis.  Across the room was a framed jacket from Ray Charles’s elegant wardrobe.  The food looked smart, but I only had time to sneak some chocolate fudge squares from the desert table before the drawing started and then there was no stopping.  This was a party for party planners.  It was networking for networking professionals.  It was fun for people who organize fun.  And here comes the plug:  the caricaturist they chose for themselves was…me.   Ta-tah!  Thank you, thank you!  I drew them funny and they in turn will have me at their next party.    There’s a funny sort of logic in that. Works for me.   Seriously, it was a blast.  The photos don’t do justice to the energy in that room.  (“Energy” is definitely a party planners’ word.)

Lovely people.  They’re concerned with  ambiance, feeling, style,  the memorable moment; but at the same time tradition, decorum, appropriateness;  and on top of all that… details, details, details.  Pretty complicated job.  The whole ball o’ wax, without any dripping, please.

BTW,   has anyone made a camera that can read a big white rectangle surrounded by a spot of beaming flesh and lots of nightlife darkness?  Oh, tell me, somebody, what would that be?

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Laughter Therapy made the front page of the New York Times yesterday. People are getting together to laugh, about something or nothing, just to laugh. There’s a laugh therapist to get them started. They laugh for an hour.  Then they feel better, their physical pains are gone and they feel no anxiety, go home and sleep soundly for the first time in days.  This is news?  Don’t make me laugh.  I’ve been working as a professional laughter therapist since 1989 when I hung out my shingle, which says:  Caricatures by Katherine Hilden. It’s well known that laughter dilates the arteries; lowers blood pressure; reduces anxiety;  reduces stress hormones; increases muscle flexion; trims the abdomen; boosts the immune function;  triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and produces a general sense of well-being.  I didn’t know any of this when I started drawing caricatures professionally.  I thought I did it because I was good at it, I enjoyed it and people were throwing money at me for making their guests laugh. Over the years I’ve been reading about the health benefits of laughter and lo and behold I’m actually doing a good deed when I draw people funny. Not that I’m one of Oprah’s angels, but I must tell you that for me the fist-full of money I get for drawing people at a party is not enough.  I get a tremendous satisfaction from seeing them crack up and laugh uncontrollably.  It’s hard for me to get a shot of this reaction because it’s so fast,  but some of the videos I have on YouTube show it.  Here are some links that may crack you up.  Hey, it’s good for you!





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More Mini Cooper Lovers

The event at Soldier Field on Sunday was called Mini Takes the States. The team was driving from Chicago to Denver, with several cities in between. After Chicago it was on to Indianapolis, where Mini Cooper lovers got to drive on the Speedway. Wow.  Anyway, back in Chicago on Sunday,  I had pre-printed 150 sheets of paper with the car and logo–this is possible because I draw at the rate of 3-4  minutes per person–but I only drew about fifty people, because of the weather conditions.  Of the people I draw at an event, only very few get a photo op, because of others standing in line.  Due to the wind on Sunday, the photo efforts turned into a slight of hand with wafting drawing paper.  Here, then, are a few more Mini Cooper lovers who congregated in Chicago on Sunday to celebrate their love of the Mini.  Ahhh.  Ohhh.  Oooo…  Btw, John Cooper (1923-2000), the designer,  had a passion for race cars, was a race car driver himself, and took his car through the Indy Speedway in 1960 at 144.8 mi/hr.  I’m beginning to understand why there were so many guys here in Chicago  on Sunday,  eager to speed through those turns in the parking lot.


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You drove your Chevy to the levee, maybe, and I don’t question that you loved that car.  But yesterday, in a Soldier Field parking lot I learned to what length people will go if they drive a Mini Cooper.  And apparently to drive one is to love one.  They drove their Mini Coopers from Ann Arbor to Chicago and from Madison to Chicago and from way up in Michigan to Chicago just to be with other Mini Cooper owners and to drive through a simulated race course set up in this parking lot. It was a love fest. (If there was a sales promotion involved, I saw no signs of such a thing.)  Mini Cooper drivers congregated to celebrate with others who shared their love of this car.  I was the only caricature artist in the area chosen to draw them, and I drew from nine to five, through rain and shine, literally.  At ten it started raining with blustering winds; at two the sun was out.  Everybody remained in good spirits, throughout. I for one, felt inspired.

Interesting people, these Cooperites!  Unusually verbal and communicative, story tellers, into all sorts of stuff, witty types, smart….A big burly tool maker,  who has owned six Mini Coopers, tells me that after the surgery on his skull the a gorgeous blond surgeon informed him that she had to drill a whole into his skull and he asked  her what size drill bit she used.  A writer who blogs about celebrities hair dos.  A woman, who drives a canary yellow Mini Cooper comes with her son and grandson, every one of them in canary yellow t-shirts and windbreakers,  tells me about her ancestors moving from Germany, where famine ruled, to Katherine the Great’s Russia and how her grandmother made it to Ellis Island with two small children and pregnant with twins and this narrative tickles  me to tell her about my ancestors who also had pioneering adventures in the 18th century and we exchange contact information and all this takes place in driving rain and wind under a rattling tent surrounded by these lovely cars, between the lake and the Chicago sky line.  You may be exhausted  just reading this, but I was exhilarated, as I listened and plunked my forearms onto the table to keep my drawing materials from blowing and rolling away.  There was a guy who impressed me with his job, fixing x-ray machines, and claimed it wasn’t hard, but I saw right through his modesty and told him so and he said when he first bought a Mini Cooper his wife said, Oh, a clown-car.  Well, to my design-loving  eye, it’s elegant and witty.  A man named Lewis, who sells Jaguars and Landrovers in Tinley Park, has a love of art history and an architect son with an inscrutable mind and we talked about the similarity between math and art.  All this, as I’m drawing them and battling the gusts of wind.  A tall skinny tanned extrovert has a tattoo on his upper arm in the shape of the heart beat rhythm recorded on the what’s-it machines and when I ask him about it he tells me it’s because he’s had numerous heart surgeries, but I find that hard to believe because he’s so young and this prompts him to ask me to guess his age, to which I say twenty-seven and he says, it must be the hair, which is falling over his forehead like too much of a good thing, and he slides his glasses onto the top of his head and tells me he’s fifty-two and then he keeps pouring out his vitality as if his life depended on it and I draw him twice, one front view and one profile, because he’s such good company and because everybody else standing around is in favor of the  double take.  There was a car lover (can fix anything) named Nick who said it was just a nickname.  And there were dancers.  A couple named Jason and Melanie will be performing this fall at the Harris Theater, that level of dancing, mind you, and I will look up the performances and go.  Beautiful people!  I drew them twice, also, front and side views, how could I not. Another dancer came with her friend who works backstage and these people stole the show.  When she, the dancer, discovered a  baby squirrel under the table, placed it on the table in front of me and got a banana for it,  a crowd of about fifteen onlookers immediately gathered around.  My art was upstaged. The squirrel nibbling at the banana was the center of attention for several minutes.   When I resumed my work, I knew it was time to upgrade my act.  I have to get a squirrel costume.  And I have to get a Mini Cooper.

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