Monday, July 31, 2017

Anatomy of a Drawing #4

A couple of years ago in this space, I discussed…and illustrated…the process that went into a commissioned caricature drawing – in that case a request by a husband to surprise his wife on the occasion of both their anniversary and her birthday. More recently, a request came from the University of North Carolina’s medical department in Chapel Hill to honor a departing professor of medicine with a caricature of him, and various accoutrements depicting aspects of his life.

Welcome to the August edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist, from Caricatures by Joel.

Usually, when I’m assigned a similar project, I jump right into it, do all my sketching and final coloring without any client participation. But this time, I honored the request of the administrative assistant who had me share my drawing via e-mail at different steps along the way.

Here’s the original pencil rough of the pony-tailed young doctor, with a bulletin board filled with comments and observations made by the subject with apparent frequency. At least, enough of them to playfully tease the doctor.

Later, it was determined that he attended enough impressive institutions of higher learning that his diplomas deserved to be displayed. But not on a desk in front of him – that tended to look “clunky” and intrusive.

So we put them up on the wall, where these academic displays conventionally go. He was also supposed to have written some documentation, separate from the post-it notes on the cork board. So I gave him a clipboard on which to have placed his documents.  And then, with approval of the pencil sketch, I rendered the established outlines in ink for more “permanency.”

Then came the coloring – a combination of colored pencils and some colored ink via spot Prismacolor marker -- for the finished art.

Just what the doctor ordered.  Or, at least, his administrative assistant.

See you again the first Tuesday of next month, for another therapeutic dose of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Monday, July 3, 2017

May The Fourth Be With You

As we go about celebrating our nation’s 241st birthday, have you ever wondered why we do so with such pyrotechnic histrionics? The rockets’ red glare…the bombs bursting in air?

Well, we owe it all to two sources: the Chinese…and the second president of the United States.

Welcome to the July edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist, from Caricatures by Joel.

According to Time Magazine’s online history site, the earliest forms of such benign explosive devices can be traced to China, two millennia ago. Citizens of the Han Dynasty in 200 B.C., roasted bamboo stalks until they would turn black and sizzle, and the air inside the hollow stalks would explode.

 "Baozhu" is a Mandarin word for firecracker that translates directly to “exploding bamboo.”

Between 600 and 900 A.D., the idea was taken to the next level by filling bamboo shoots with gunpowder made from saltpeter (potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon acquired from charcoal), and throwing them into a fire pit. Steel dust or cast-iron shavings were added to make them sparkle. 

Later on, "Chinese fire" was made by crushing old iron pots and scraps into sand and adding the sand to gunpowder. These “firecrackers” were often used during New Year Festivals and weddings to scare off evil spirits.

As the ingredients for gunpowder spread to the West after the Silk Road opened up trade and the Mongols made their way to Europe in the 13th century, so did fireworks,
They became a part of official celebrations, from the annual "Girandola" fireworks display at the Castello Sant'Angelo in Rome to the 1533 coronation of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England.

So it was no surprise that, as soon as July Fourth began to be celebrated as America's Independence Day, fireworks were part of the plan.

And that’s where our fledgling nation’s second president comes in. 

At the conclusion of our"Revolutionary War,” John Adams expressed the hope that the anniversary of independence would be marked for years to come by "guns" and "bonfires" and "illuminations." 

In peace time, with increasing concern for public safety, those firearms were eventually phased out of the celebrations and replaced almost entirely by the fireworks, which were often given the official stamp of approval in the hope of drawing citizens to public celebrations instead of more dangerous private firework shows.

Today, though fireworks are a well-established July 4 tradition, they've still retained some link to their origins: in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, $296.2 million worth of fireworks were imported to the U.S. from China.

July 4th is a time for festivals. But, of course, festivals – any chance to assemble people for a fun time eating, drinking, socializing, parading and more – are common throughout the year.

Scattered throughout this edition are some folks I’ve drawn at various festivals…celebrating all kinds of cultural and historic touchstones.

For now, though, wishing a safe and Happy Fourth of July to y’all.

And see you the first Tuesday of next month for another star-spangled edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Marital Mirth

It's June.

Which means two things: The White Sox have guaranteed another losing season by going into their annual “June swoon,” and it’s the traditional month for weddings.

Well, I won’t hazard a guess as to why things are the way they are on the South Side of Chicago. But I can share some historical insight on the latter subject.

Welcome to the June edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist, from Caricatures by Joel.

In ancient Rome, Juno was the goddess of marriage and childbirth. So a wedding held in Juno’s month of celebration – what would have been June 1 -- was considered especially auspicious.

It is also believed that the idea of June weddings was further fortified by the Celtic calendar. Young couples would traditionally “pair off” on May 1 (May Day), to court for three months and then wed in August. Impatient youths would shorten the wait time to mid-June.

Subsequently, in Victorian times, flowers were available at that time of year for wedding d├ęcor and the scent of flowers helped to mask the smell of…body odor.

Eventually the popularity of June weddings became entrenched in the collective conscience of Western society.

After June, the most popular months to get married are September and October, presumably for the more accommodating temperatures to be found in late Summer and early Fall.

As a caricaturist, I’ve had my share of entertaining at weddings. It’s always a popular feature with lines forming almost as long as those to get the food.

Scattered among here are samples of Sign-In Boards – a uniquely fun and customized approach to welcoming guests into the reception area. 

You’ve probably seen them as elegantly posed and mounted photos of the bride and groom. These are lighter, more whimsical takes on that tradition.

This piece isn't a Sign-In Board, per se, but it was presented as a gift to Miami-based wedding event planner and TV personality Tiffany Nieves-Cook: 

You're invited the first Tuesday of next month for more throwing of the rice from Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Fore the Love of Caricatures

I’ve played golf maybe three times in my life.

I’d probably play more a) if it wasn’t so expensive for equipment and club membership, b) I didn’t have to spend more money actually learning to develop the mechanics to properly use the golf club to begin with, and c) I didn't invariably end up in an ear, eyes, nose and throat clinic for all the cursing I’d be bellowing out every time I screwed up a shot.

Welcome to the Spring Links edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist from Caricatures by Joel.

Some interesting factoids about the game:

* Although the sport is generally regarded to have originated in 15th Century Scotland, some historians trace its roots to the Roman Empire in the first century B.C., when participants in a game called “Paganica” used a bent stick to hit a small stuffed leather ball.  Others cite “Chuiwan,” a Chinese game played between the eighth and 14th centuries.

* The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, considered the holy shrine of the sport, dates to around 1574.

* It was at St. Andrews that the standard 18-hole course was created (replacing the 22-hole course!).

* Two Scotsmen, John Reid and Robert Lockhart, first demonstrated golf in the United States in 1888 by setting up a hole in an orchard. In that same year, America’s first golf club was established as the St. Andrews Golf Club, in Yonkers, NY.

* The countries with the most golf courses per capita, in order: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Wales, Unite States, Sweden and England. By far, the most golf courses are located in the U.S., at well over 15,000.

What “fact” eludes me is how many caricature artists have used golf as a subject.

Well, throughout this issue are seven from yours truly. None of these individuals is an actual professional golfer. But, as commissioned art from family or corporate members, they probably all wish they were.

(Well, the guy above is, at least, holding a golf ball...)

See you again the first Tuesday of next month for another chip shot from Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Play Ball!

In 1839, some significant events took place in the art world.

* Robert Cornelius took a daguerrotype self-portrait, the earliest known existing photographic portrait of a human in America.

  * Paul Cezanne, French impressionist, was born.
* * John Butler Yeats, Irish painter, was born.

And in the tiny Upstate New York mountain village of Cooperstown, a young man named Abner Doubleday purportedly invented the game…and the word… "baseball," designing the diamond, indicating fielders' positions, and writing the rules.

Welcome to the April edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist from Caricatures by Joel.

It’s my annual salute to our National Pastime (where we conveniently ignore the strides made by the NFL as it, socially and economically, has supplanted MLB as the nation’s leading Sport; but I digress. And, I don’t care…)

We introduced this column through the lens of art, for that’s what we concentrate on, once a month. More specifically, we talk about…and display…caricatures.  

But Baseball is so woven into the fabric of this country’s being, that American artists – pretty much since 1839 – have chronicled the Game in their own particular fashion.

Some contemporary ones, caricaturists – and favorites of mine – are showcased here (and above -- "Charlie Brown," by Charles M. Schultz):

Derek Jeter, by Robert Smith

"Whiff!" by Mort Drucker

Minnesota Twins, by Tom Richmond

"Play at the Plate," by Jack Davis

Yours truly has had his turn at bat, too, in recent times:

Jordan Danks was the Charlotte Knights career hits leader; yours truly was commissioned by the Knights to create this as a gift to him and his family.

Michael Brent, old friend and artist extraordinaire...and longtime Yankees (and Mickey Mantle fan)

Pete Rose, right, as he agreed to speak at a local Charlotte networking function.

Benjamin Kweskin, which his Dad drew as a Sign-In Board for his Bar Mitzvah...

And that’s the game! Tune in the first Tuesday of next month as we step up to the plate for another swing at pop culture through caricature art…and Caricatures by Joel. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Client Tell

Caricature artists are most often perceived as entertainers who ply their craft “live” at events, drawing customers at venues as varied as amusement parks, corporate events and wedding receptions.

While that’s a truism, it’s also just as likely that caricaturists are commissioned to do work for individuals as well as companies to gift a friend, family member or business associate.  After all, art is still art, no matter what “genre” it’s reflective of.  

But it doesn’t get any more personal or customized than through the ego gratifying form of portraiture…and a whimsical one at that.

Welcome to the first-month-of-Spring edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist, from Caricatures by Joel.

Here are several samples of commissioned art – clients who had me conceive and draw a caricature of a family member, client or colleague.

The one above is of a local jeweler who advertises frequently on  TV and in newspaper print ads. Friends of his surprised him on his birthday with his caricature.

The group, below, comprises a property management firm that was the marketing client of a friend of mine...who had me come up with this approach.

This couple was getting married, and the bride's mom wanted some fun artwork to double as both a "Save the Date" mailer prior to the event, and a Sign-in Board displayed at the reception...with a plug for the venue.

This time, here, the groom's mom listed all the elements she wanted displayed in this Sign-in Board -- notably her son having graduated from Firefighter training school.

Below s a Sign-In board for a Bat Mitzvah, depicting all her interests.

This Duke Energy piece was commissioned by them to honor their outgoing CEO, Jim Rogers, and depicts his immediate executive staff.

Harry Truman is one of several "Harrys" I was commissioned to further immortalize for the walls of Harry's Tavern & Grill in Charlotte.

Making a bride and groom Time magazine's Persons of The Year to grace this faux cover, used as a Sign-In Board at their reception.

This duffer is a client of an ad agency, who had me acknowledge his big birthday.

This young lady's mom contacted me to draw her as a memento of that major landmark in one's life -- high school graduation.

That's it for March. Tune in again the first Tuesday of next month for another client-directed foray into the realm of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Monday, February 13, 2017

FAQ for a February

If you’re looking to hire yours truly for an event, surely there are questions you have about the whole caricaturing procedure.

Voila! Here are frequently asked questions and answers. 

(And don’t call me Shirley…)

Welcome to the February edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist from Caricatures by Joel.

How long does a caricature take?

Generally, a caricature drawing takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes per face (about 15 faces an hour). Which would mean two people would take twice that, and so on.

Do I draw everyone at an event?

It all depends on the number of guests…and the time that’s been allotted for me to draw.

Can I also draw from photos?

Yes, but I prefer not to draw from camera phone photos; they’re often not clear, too small, time out…and it’s generally not fair to those who are already there in person.  I will happily fill your request to draw from photos via a separate arrangement where it’s done from my studio.

Do I draw children as well as adults?

Of course! I draw kids at birthday parties, camp/school events, graduation parties, family reunions and, naturally, at weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc.

What size paper do I use for the caricatures?

I use 11” × 14” sized paper. It’s a good surface size for drawing, especially if there is more than one individual, and it’s a standard size for framing and photocopying.

Do the caricatures smudge, run or smear?

Not generally. It’s best to just leave the drawing as is, though an option would be to spray it with a “Fixative” to further assure that it indeed won’t smudge, run or smear.

Do I do anything to the caricature drawing when done?

I insert each final drawing in a clear plastic sleeve for protection and ease of portability.

Is there usually a sign-up sheet or number system for getting drawn?

Most events tend to be on a “first-come-first-serve” basis. A line is formed once people realize that I’m drawing. This is generally pretty fair and the more popular option for weddings. However, some event planners prefer to designate someone that would help organize and maintain the order of those in line by using a sign-up sheet or number system.

Do I do full-body, “themed” caricatures?

I have found that just drawing the head works best at a well-attended event. The line moves more quickly that way and doesn’t get bogged down because of elaborate scenarios per each person.

Do I work alone?                                                                                                  
Usually, yes.  But if an extraordinarily large crowd is anticipated – whether it’s a private function or corporate event – I can bring in other artists to join me…anywhere from one to six or more.

What about color?

I draw only black-and-white caricatures for live events; it’s the same reasoning as for the full-body, themed issue.

How many people can be drawn together in one picture?

It works best (both in terms of quality and quantity) to limit the caricature drawing to no more than four subjects. That’s because with each new person there is an extra consideration in terms of composing the drawing, getting them to fit on the page. The fastest caricatures would then have no more than 2 people in them.

What materials do I use?

Unlike most other caricaturists who use a Sharpie pen, I use a common utensil often found in the kitchen, garage or work shed – a China Marker, or grease pencil. I like the tone, depth and texture the pencil provides.

Do I overly “exaggerate” in my caricature interpretation?

While, stereotypically, caricature artists are seen as over-emphasizing facial effects in a gross manner, I apply a “gentler” touch to make the face just more whimsical looking.

Is it okay for guests to photocopy their caricature for use beyond the event?

Yes, guests can make unlimited copies for private use.

What do I need from event organizers to accommodate my needs?

I bring all art materials to create the caricatures.  A table, three chairs – one for me and two for couples – and enough lighting in the area to see my subjects are all that the venue needs to provide. However, if the latter items are not available, I can provide my own, including a portable lamp.

And that's basically it.

Remember, I can work from photos, too. But that's another FAQ for another time.

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