There’s a theory that we all carry around in our brains a model of the ‘perfect’ human head, and that caricaturists exaggerate the elements of a face that deviate from, or ‘fall short’ of, that ideal.

Adrian often starts dealing with a new likeness by looking as much as possible at the subject, and letting a few first impressions sink in. Then, without further visual reference, he roughs out the general shape of the head, and slots the features into position. Next, he lays a sheet of thin paper on top, goes back to looking at the subject, and starts tracing his drawing, all the while refining his decisions. He often repeats the process, but looks at the head from a different angle. He might do this three of four times, but ensures he doesn’t ignore his preliminary and roughest sketch, because the first impressions are the most important. When we first meet someone, the elements of their face that deviate from the ‘mental model of perfection’ mentioned earlier are very clear to us, and the caricaturist must keep those early observations at the front of his mind.

Caricature is not simply about poking fun at its ‘victim’. Caricaturists must love the variety and individuality of human faces. They take portraiture to its logical, or illogical, conclusion, by trying to make someone look more like themselves than they do already. The best caricatures are born of the hard toil of poring over as much visual information as one can get one’s hands on. Adrian views the head from every angle, and in different lights. He tries to catch the victim’s signature facial expression, and, as a consequence, something of their personality. A caricaturist almost has to think his way into their subjects’ heads, like an actor or an impressionist. He has to decide how he feels about them as people, and see them talking, performing, laughing, and crying in his mind’s eye. And then he has to put all of that down on paper.



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