Monday, January 2, 2017

Book Review: Mad Art of Caricature

The art of caricature may seem like something you either have a knack for, or you don't. But if you have a desire to learn, you can get good at it. There just needs to be a book that lays out the expert knowledge behind the art.

Tom Richmond has written just that book, called The Mad Art of Caricature!: A Serious Guide to Drawing Funny Faces.

Richmond is best known as one of the "Usual Gang of Idiots" at Mad Magazine, but he has worked as a freelance illustrator for lots of other major clients. He got his start doing theme park caricatures in 1985.



David Lynch by Tom Richmond
Richmond explains how to analyze an individual's appearance to recognize what's unique about their head shape and their attitude. He talks about how to exaggerate the distinctive traits, rather than randomly distorting.

First you key in on the head shape, and then the main shapes within the face (eyes, nose, and mouth), and, importantly, the spacing between them. 

He analyzes each of the features, as well as the chin, cheekbones, and hair, considering carefully how they change with different angles and different expressions.


Instead of seeing the features separately, you learn to group them. Richmond came up with the "T-Shape Theory," where you group the eyes and nose into a single shape within the face, taking note of the length and width of the T.



Tom is a good writer and teacher as well as a good artist, so this book is really worth reading carefully. The layouts are loaded with many drawings and diagrams on every page. It wraps up with a discussion of the challenges doing live caricatures, caricatures in illustration, and how he constructs a complex multi-figure scene for MAD magazine.

Tom Richmond also has an excellent blog that is constantly updated with new work and teaching.

On Amazon: The Mad Art of Caricature!: A Serious Guide to Drawing Funny Faces

10 comments:

Tom Hart said...

This book looks fascinating, and I'm seriously considering ordering it. (The price is very reasonable.) I get a big kick out of Richmond's work and that of artists like the other "Usual Gang of Idiots". I sometimes dabble in caricature for my own amusement, and enjoy doing so. But here's something I personally struggle with: When does caricature become cruel? Speaking for myself - and, I stress, only myself - these concerns keep me from pursuing caricature. I know this comment betrays more than a hint of hypocrisy, but this is a dilemma I wrestle with, and I'm curious to hear other thoughts...

James Gurney said...

Tom, we were just talking about this issue over breakfast. Mr. Richmond addresses this point, which is a real challenge when you're doing live caricatures for money. I've done some live caricaturse for pay, and I've found it's so important to try to read the person's level of vanity. I used to think that older men were the most relaxed and least vain, but that's not always true. One caricaturist who always gets a likeness while also being kind is Mark Heng from Ireland. Look him up. He does weddings, and his caricatures are always right on, but also nice.

Rebecca said...

I'm not interested in drawing carricatures as such, but the part about analysing faces and their key features piqued my curiosity. I'm often drawing very simplified/stylised characters (not exaggerated for comic effect though), and while I'm doing reasonably well with likeliness in portraits, achieving likeliness with only a few sparse lines can be pretty frustrating. It sounds as if this book could help me with that.

James Gurney said...

Rebecca, yes, this book would be really helpful for people who do "straight" realistic portraits, character designers, or people who do simplified characters. The book has some helpful tips for seeing the essence of any face, however you decide to draw it. He's not writing a book for people to copy his style at all — it's really a book of fundamentals.

Tom R said...

Mr. Gurney- Many thanks for the nice review of my book... I have been a big fan of your art ever the first Dinotopia (it came out the year after my first child was born), and all my kids grew up enjoying your beautiful work.

Also, it is nice getting a "Google Alert" about a website mentioned the title of my book that isn't about another pirated PDF being posted by someone in Romania. :P

Pat Bollin said...

I've been recommending this book to fellow artists ever since it was frist on pre-order. Great book, great artist, and Tom is a great guy.

Mike Hasson, About Faces said...

I have a library of books and magazines on caricature, with a sizable section devoted to How To books. This is, bar none, the best one. You could teach a college class on the subject, using only this as the textbook. Great art, Great take on the subject, clear explanations by an expert in the field...this is, IMO, the bible on caricature.

Adam Adkison said...

I love this book! I never did get the hang of caricatures, but in my regular art I use the information from this book almost daily. Speaking of, it's time for me to go back and re read it...

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Tom, I really enjoyed your book and first heard about it from recommendation by several artists i admire—and I can see it's loved by a lot of people already who follow the blog. It definitely changed the way I think about drawing faces.

John Foster said...

Just had the pleasure of listening to an interview with him and his connection to Sherlock Holmes. He went a lot into the process of his work. Love his stuff. I had just ordered this book earlier in the day.