Monday, October 2, 2017

Festivus for the Rest of Us?

It's October. And that means Fall. And Fall means fairs, festivals, Halloween and holiday parties.

What does all that have to do with caricatures? Everything, of course!

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

According to Wikipedia, "A festival is a special occasion of feasting or celebration, usually with a religious focus. Aside from religion, and sometimes folklore, another significant origin is agricultural. Food (and consequently agriculture) is so vital that many festivals are associated with harvest time."

With all the festivals going on -- both public and corporate --  there’s always an opportunity to further enliven the proceedings with caricatures. That even goes for weddings, often staged this time of year to take advantage of the beautiful weather and colors, which traditionally make for charming backdrops.

Looking beyond Fall, too, are the big party holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s.

So, there’s no time like the present to begin making those holiday entertainment arrangements.

Here’s how past events have looked...through the lens of yours truly’s portfolio.

Check back again with us the first Tuesday of next month for 
another festive offering from Not your Usual Caricature Artist.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Are You Ready for Some Football?

It’s September. And that means it’s Football season, both professional and college.

Football is my second favorite team sport, after the one that’s played with a bat and glove.

But with revenues to the National Football League expected to reach $14 billion this year, the game played with the elliptical pigskin is inarguably the most successful and most popular team sport in the United States and now making inroads internationally, most notably with annual in-season games played in London.

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

Here are a few samples of -- directly or indirectly – football-“related” art I’ve done through the years.

George Clooney in "Leatherheads," filmed in Charlotte, in which I had a role as an "extra." 

Bar Mitzvah boy, who enjoyed all sports.

As did this Bar Mitzvah boy (who happens to be my son...)

Commissioned project -- this Crimson Tide fan is fond of both team and individual sports.

...and this gentleman, an active General in the Army, is also a former football coach.

Remember to grab an end zone seat the first Tuesday of next month for another high scoring Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

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.