Tuesday, December 3, 2013

If It's Good Enough for The Met...

No less an august institution than the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently featured an hommage to the mischievous art form that is the subject of this monthly commentary and pictorial display.
Infinite Jest -- Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine, according to the program notes, explored "caricature and satire in its many forms from the Italian Renaissance to the present, drawn primarily from the rich collection of this material in the Museum's Department of Drawings and Prints.

Welcome to the Winter Solstice edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.
The show included drawings and prints by Leonardo da Vinci, Eugène Delacroix, Francisco de Goya, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Enrique Chagoya "alongside works by artists more often associated with humor, such as James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, Honoré Daumier, Al Hirschfeld, and David Levine. Many of these engaging caricatures and satires have never been exhibited and are little known except to specialists.

"In its purest form, caricature—from the Italian carico and caricare, 'to load' and 'to exaggerate'—distorts human physical characteristics and can be combined with various kinds of satire to convey personal, social, or political meaning. Although caricature has probably existed since artists began to draw (ancient examples are known), the form took shape in Europe when Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of grotesque heads were copied by followers and distributed as prints.
"The exhibition's title derives from Hamlet, which is quoted in a Civil War print that uses the famous line: 'I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest' to mock Lincoln."

Some samples from the exhibit:



In more recent times -- though not likely museum-worthy -- these commissioned pieces were produced by yours truly: the retiring tax accountant executive at Belk, and three of the cook staff at Hawthorne's Pizza:

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season.
See you the first Tuesday on the other side of the New Year.
Joel Kweskin

Monday, November 4, 2013

Renaissance Man

I've always maintained that caricature artists are, naturally, geniuses.
Well, at least one was.
Through various online sources, Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) is described as a "polymath -- displaying skills in numerous diverse areas of study.

While most famous for his paintings such as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, Leonardo conceived ideas vastly ahead of his own time, conceptually inventing the helicopter, the tank, the use of concentrated solar power,  and a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. In practice, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, astronomy, civil engineering, optics, and the study of water (hydrodynamics)."
But this acknowledged genius was also, in his capacity as arguably the leading progenitor of Renaissance art...a caricature artist.
Welcome to the November edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.
According to artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo was "so delighted when he saw curious heads, whether bearded or hairy, that he would follow anyone who had thus attracted his attention for a whole day, acquiring such a clear idea of him that when he went home he would draw the head as well as if the man had been present."
Further, "Leonardo actively sought people with deformities to use as models. The point was to offer an impression of the original which was more striking than a portrait."

He "was fascinated by people with 'bizarre heads' and often followed them around to memorize their features, later copying or exaggerating them in his drawings. Throughout his career Leonardo produced many studies on different types of faces because in a desire to explore human physiognomy. He created numerous such small drawings of heads, which he called visi monstruosi (monstrous faces).
To wit:
Now I don't claim to be another Leonardo -- though I did read "The Da Vinci Code" and enjoyed it more than the movie.  But I digress...
Here are my explorations of visi monstruosi.  (Just don't tell these people that's how I referred to them...)
See you again the first Tuesday of next month for another exaggerated edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Got You Covered

Time Magazine has been around since 1923, America's first -- and still foremost -- news magazine. Pictures of the famous, not-so-famous and infamous have graced -- and disgraced -- its covers. But not all the pictures, through 90 years of chronicling influential people and events of the world, have been photographs. Some have been -- egads! -- caricatures.

Welcome to the October issue of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Here are some samples through the years. Nice to see one of my favorite caricaturists -- Jack Davis of Mad Magazine fame (the first three pictured) --  among the distinguished represented.




I've done a few Time covers myself.

Well, not really. But these are commissioned works that have made clients...or clients of clients...feel special, having been made "Time's (blank) of the Year."
Anyone you know who might enjoy this uniquely fun recognition?

See you again the first Tuesday of next month for another periodical edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Social Satire Rendered by Brush Stroke

September means Summer is officially over, school has begun and our thoughts turn to Football, the vacation-less grind of work and the mundane drone of day-to-day life.

I'm reminded of a 20th Century artist whose subjects often touched on the everyday tableaux of the American scene. But whose whimsical touch always enlivened the proceedings.
Welcome to the Autumnal Equinox edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.
Jack Levine (1915 – 2010) was a New York-based "Social Realist" painter known for his satirical interpretations of modern life and political machination. His work can be viewed in some of the Nation's premier museums and galleries.
According to Wikipedia, Levine "focused his sardonic eye and acerbic wit on everyone from gangsters, politicians and cops to the dealers, critics, collectors and auction houses of the contemporary art world. His lifelong love of the Old Masters and dedication to exacting technique led to the development of a multifaceted painting style in which distortions are used for emphasis and highlights are refined to a jewel-like brilliance."
It's the "distortions" that have drawn me to his works.  Because, although he is very painterly and "fine art" in his application, Levine's unique style informed his work much like that of a caricature artist. 

To wit:


Here's some "corporate" work of my own, commissioned as gifts to honor these business people.
Hope to see you again the first Tuesday of next month for another whimsical whack at the work of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.
Joel Kweskin

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Drawn to Weddings

The month of August marks the second wedding of a child of mine. This year!

Daughter Paula was married in February, and now it will be brother Benjamin's turn this month.
My kids were born 11 months apart; they will have been married six months apart.
Between them, what are they planning for children -- to have them 20 minutes apart..?
Welcome to the dog days of Summer issue of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.
In a recent poll taken by the Wedding Bee website, the simple question was asked:

Caricatures at a Wedding -- Dumb or Fun?
Forty-six percent said they thought it was fun.  The "nays" garnered only 22 per cent while third and fourth place options came in at 21 and five per cent respectively.
Wedding Wire did a similar poll and virtually every respondent  said "Yay."  Emphatically.
Here are some wedding-related pieces I've done (including the little table display in the photo above):
A Sign-In Board for a couple who renewed their vows...a "Save the Date" magnet...a gift caricature to TV wedding show personality Tiffany Nieves-Cook...a Sign-In Board for a "second-time-around" couple...and my ad running currently in Charlotte Wedding magazine.



If you're a wedding planner and are not otherwise wed to the "same-old, same-old" for entertainment, you might wish to entertain the idea of caricatures for your bride.
See you again the first Tuesday of next month for another museum-worthy display of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


As we celebrate the anniversary this month of our nation's independence, I'm reminded of all the great American caricature artists whose works have enlivened newspapers, magazines, posters and assorted media with whimsical chronicling of our culture and mores.

Welcome to the July issue of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.
I've mentioned Jack Davis and Mort Drucker in a previous issue devoted to Mad Magazine. And I've heralded the artistry of the Broadway theater's Al Herschfeld.

Then there's Bruce Stark and Sam Viviano.

Thomas Nast, of course, was the pre-eminent American political cartoonist of the 19th Century, also considered the "Father of the American Cartoon."

One guy whom I've always admired -- uniquely different from the aforementioned artists (who, of course, are unique unto themselves, as well...)  -- is David Levine (1921-2009).
Levine's pen and ink, cross-hatch style is both anachronistic and stylishly modern at the same time.
Here are Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart:

Wikipedia's bio on him notes:
The New York Times described Levine's illustrations as "macro-headed, somberly expressive, astringently probing and hardly ever flattering caricatures of intellectuals and athletes, politicians and potentates" that were "heavy in shadows cast by outsize noses on enormous, eccentrically shaped heads, and replete with exaggeratedly bad haircuts, 5 o’clock shadows, ill-conceived mustaches and other grooming foibles ... to make the famous seem peculiar-looking in order to take them down a peg". The paper commented: "His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one."[ Levine drew his most frequent subject, former president Richard Nixon, 66 times, depicting him as, among other things, the Godfather, Captain Queeg, and a fetus.
While I'm no David Levine...I am, partially, a "David." That's my middle name.

Here are a couple of recent pieces I've produced, both commissioned to acknowledge the achievements of the respective individual. In this case, a high school graduate with honors...and a successful businessman with novelty shops throughout South Carolina's beach communities.
Enjoy the 4th, and we'll see you again the first Tuesday of next month for another sketchy -- huh? -- installment of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The King of Broadway

This is Tony Awards month.  With deference to the subject matter in this space, The King of Broadway -- for my money -- ruled not with a scepter but an artist's pen.  
Welcome to the Summer Solstice edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.
 For well over seven decades,  Al Hirschfeld chronicled the stars of Broadway (and movies and politics) with a unique style that no one else even attempted to emulate.
Sparse of line and detail, but richly nuanced in facial likeness, Herschfeld's work was a staple of the popular Arts section of The New York Times every Sunday.
Just as famously, according to Wikipedia, "Hirschfeld is known for hiding (his daughter) Nina's name in most of the drawings he produced after her birth.
"The name would appear in a sleeve, in a hairdo, or somewhere in the background....He engaged in the 'harmless insanity,' as he called it, of hiding her name at least once in each of his drawings. The number of NINAs concealed is shown by an Arabic numeral to the right of his signature. Generally, if no number is to be found, either NINA appears once or the drawing was executed before she was born."
Now I'm nowhere near as facile with a pen or pencil as Mr. Herschfeld, but that hasn't kept me from my own attempts at putting some personalities in my sight lines (the first four, commissioned work).

To wit:
Prince Harry, Extreme Makeover's Ty Pennington, McDonald's Ray Kroc, Harry Houdini and Denzel Washington.

Thanks for your company. Join us again the first Tuesday of next month for another broad brushstroke of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist...