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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

What Is Caricature Art?

Updated: May 27, 2020

We've probably all seen artists on the streets drawing caricature pictures for passing tourists. Maybe you even let yourself be drawn from such an artist, but what is it exactly that makes caricature art special? I've wondered about that recently and today I'll share with you all I know about it now.

What is caricature art?

Caricature drawings are mostly portraits of either random persons or also often depicting celebrities. The portraits don't look realistic. They are exaggerating certain features of the face to underline them or to make fun of them.

Where does caricature art come from historically? How can you learn it and what are examples? All of this will be answered in this article.

I. History Of Caricature Art

Caricatures were introduced publicly at first in the 16th century. As you might have already thought, they weren't supposed to simply be portraits as they often are today.

At first, caricature art was only about satire and either making fun of politics or at least be thought-provoking. Today they are still often used for these purposes, but it's not the focus of caricature drawings anymore.

Leonardo Da Vinci is a name we both have heard a lot of times in our lives already, am I right? He is known to be the first one who has ever drawn caricature to actively develop his skills. Many other artists have done this as a drawing practice as well after him.

Besides everyone else at that time, Da Vinci has already stated that he pursued satirical purposes with his "studies of bizarre heads". This is why he is being referred to as the actual and initial inventor of caricature as a satirical art style.

A little later in the early 16th century, members of the Holbein family from Germany and Switzerland have created drawings that were neither cartoons nor cartoons as we know them today, but they were close to the intent of caricatures.

The art pieces of Holbein family members depict regular everyday life scenes but the faces of the people in it were depicted almost exactly as they would be in a caricature.

By exaggerating facial expressions they wanted to emphasize certain emotions or intentions these people might have had in that very situation. So caricaturistic elements were used to reinforce the atmosphere of a situation.

Practically speaking, it was used as stylistic devices to underline or exaggerate certain emotions expressed in the depicted scene.

In the 17th century, caricature drawings began to get their earned attention. An artist from Italy called Pier Leone Ghezzi drew Romans and tourists as a caricature street artist would do it today. The sheer purpose was to create funny images as souvenirs.

This type of art quickly spread over to Britain and there it became tremendously famous and huge companies started to rise which sole business model was to publish caricature drawings for the media.

In England, for a long time caricature art was used as a means of providing the people with the newest information about current events in the world. It wasn't really serious so you could compare it to low-standard newspapers talking about celebrities today.

From then on caricature art was widely known and popular across all levels of society and all around the world. Today we can find caricature drawings everywhere in newspapers, social media and of course on the streets in big cities.

II. How To Learn Caricature Drawing

Answering the question of how to learn to draw caricature could take up an entire blog post but let me quickly tell you a few things you definitely need to know. We'll just generall summarize the important steps to becoming a caricature artist.

1. Basic Perception Skills

This is the very first thing you need to know and probably the most important thing to learn overall when it comes to drawing. I've written an entire blog article about this topic which you can check out here.

I've put so much effort and time into that article to provide as many details and information generally on that topic, so really everyone can learn and understand it to get into drawing. It is also suited for you if you have already been drawing for a bit of time and want to get to the next level.

Understanding these perception rules is absolutely key for every kind of artist and because I've already written this article on the Mac H. - Creative website, I will keep this very short in this one.

There are basically five basic perception skills to master:

  1. Edges

  2. Spaces

  3. Relationships

  4. Lights And Shadows

  5. The Whole/Gestalt

Edges are essentially lines where one area of your subject ends and another begins. It is a shared boundary between two different parts in the drawing. These parts can be different because they have a different tone of value or they are basically different parts of the subject you're drawing.

Seeing and understanding space correctly is about how far different objects are away from each other as you see it, not as they really are. How do you depict an object behind or in front of another object? How do you get the distance between them right?

Perception skills are generally about how you see things and not how they really are. It's your left brain against your right brain.

The third important section of the basic perception skills is the perception of relationships between objects and parts of objects. Perceiving angles for example and understanding foreshortening. Don't let your left brain mock your artistic genius.

Understanding lights and shadows is also a tremendously important part of perceiving the world and your subjects for drawing correctly. Knowing the different kinds of shadows and areas of light on the subject and the reflections anywhere else are key.

The last and most fascinating skills you can have as a pencil artist (or any other kind of artist) is to understand your subject in front of you in its entirety. It is called Gestalt which comes from the German language that means shape or figure.

2. Proportions

Especially if you want to get into figure drawing you won't escape from learning the theoretical human proportion basics.

You can read more about figure drawing as well as about human body proportions on Mac H. - Creative here on this website. I've written an article on each one of those topics for anyone trying to get better or get into figure drawing.

Simple proportion facts such as knowing how high people are in terms of head sizes. A man is usually about 8 head lengths high and a woman as well but you can always also make her 7 heads high.

Did you know that feet are almost exactly as long as your forearms? If you want to draw a running man from the side or just any human being from left or right instead of depicting their front you have to be aware of such facts.

You can find more on that in the article I've written about these simple and basic proportion facts of our bodies. For figure drawing as well as caricature drawing it is unconditionally necessary to know about that stuff.

If you want to exaggerate certain body features you have to understand how to depict the reality at first.

As soon as you master your perception skills and your proportion facts you are ready to get into caricature drawing yourself. Maybe you are so fascinated by the idea of becoming a caricature artist that you'll become a street artist one day.

This is far from impossible! You can do it if you really want to.

III. Related Questions

1. What Does The Word Caricature Come From?

The Italian word "caricare" is the origin of the word caricature. If you literally translate "caricare" into English it means "to exaggerate" or "to deepen". This describes the art of caricature drawing almost perfectly.

2. What Is The Difference Between Cartoon And Caricature?

A cartoon is a very simplistic depiction as we know it from famous cartoon tv shows as "The Simpsons" for example. A caricature is a drawing depicting a specific person with the purpose of exaggerating certain body or facial features.

3. Is There A Caricature App?

Caricature Maker is an app that allows the user to manipulate photos to exaggerate and underline different parts of the face. It is suitable for aspiring caricature artists to understand the art of exaggeration better or you can use it just for fun.

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