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Taking Risks With Your Sketching – Caricature of a Caricature

September 14, 20172 Comments

The Original

Here’s my original caricature of Taylor Swift from one of the premium lessons next to the original photo. And here are some of the exaggeration choices I made in that caricature:

Taylor Swift photo reference by Jana Zills

Photo by Jana Zills

Taylor Swift caricature final sketch

I pushed all of her features down low on her head. I made her eyes larger. Her nose became shorter and more upturned. Her chin got smaller and of course I made her teeth pretty big in my sketch. These are the traits which will become more exaggerated in my second caricature of her.

Second Caricature

In my second caricature of her, I’m amplifying all of those exaggerations. Her cranium gets larger relative to her face, which shrinks. And her mouth and teeth take up a lot more space on the smaller face. That’s a great example which shows how some things get bigger and some things get smaller in a caricature of a caricature. Things become more of what they already are.

The nose gets smaller too, and the tip becomes more upturned, because that’s what I did in her first caricature. And now the eyes, squinty in the first sketch, become almost totally closed in this new one.

The structure of the face gets a little more simplified in this second sketch. I’m focusing more on enhancing the likeness through basic elements at the right size and placement here rather than by creating refined anatomy and bone structure. That often happens in my second and third caricatures of caricatures. I tend to let the subtleties drop away, and the newer caricatures become more just a pure expression of the person, with less distraction. If you’re after a style of caricature that is more simple, abstract or geometric, this is a good way to get there.

But after I get the initial drawing laid in I do spend some time here on some cross hatch shading, because after all, in the end, I do like to put a sense of three dimensional volume in my sketches.

In the first part of this drawing, my task was just to exaggerate the previously exaggerated shapes and relationships. So the block-in was focused on simply placing those features so that I could see the likeness with only the outlines of the shapes. But now, as I finish it up, I try to resolve the forms and shadows. But I’m eager to start the third sketch, so it stays pretty rough.

My analysis of this second sketch is that I’m happy with the direction I’ve pushed things. It’s definitely a lot funnier the the first sketch. My execution on this one is a little rushed. But that’s okay. If I wanted to take this sketch and develop it into a finished rendering or painting, I could easily do that using the fundamental techniques from part one of this course. I would do an Abstraction tracing on top of this, and then trace the final drawing on top of that.

When I talk about how it’s important to have strong fundamental skills to do more advanced work, that’s what I’m talking about.

Third Caricature

For this caricature of a caricature of a caricature, things start off even more simply and geometric than my previous sketch. I’m trying to caricature her in as few lines as possible to get right to the main statement or core of the exaggeration. And remember, your goal in this third caricature should be to draw something completely ridiculous. Try to go way beyond what you think you should do. Don’t let logic, anatomy or perspective get in the way. Think abstractly about the face and what the core elements are that you need to include. So don’t hold back.

Since I’ve had practice on her face and built up to this point with the previous two sketches I feel a lot more comfortable abandoning my normal style and habits. And I’m seeing the caricature more clearly in my mind before I put it onto paper.

Remember that the point of this triple caricature exercise is to push yourself, learn to take risks and go beyond what you’re comfortable doing with a caricature. In my own experience, I don’t usually do anything with the third caricature like develop them into a finished piece. Sometimes, it’s because the third sketch just misses the likeness. But mostly, it’s because even when there’s a good likeness, they’re usually a little too extreme for the style of exaggeration that I like to have in my portfolio. But that doesn’t mean the third caricature has no value to me. On the contrary, the extreme exaggerations are really helpful.

For one, they loosen me up and give me the confidence to know that I have that ability to draw upon if I ever DO need it for an assignment or job. And, more importantly, when I go to a more extreme level of exaggeration like this, it shows me what the essence of the likeness is. It shows me what’s necessary and what is not to capture an individual’s likeness. So that when I do an important freelance job or portfolio piece, I can often go extreme in my sketches first and then work backwards to a more tempered exaggeration. Most publications and clients aren’t looking for ridiculously extreme exaggerations, in my experience. But going through a process like this can really help you find your own style and your own voice as a caricaturist.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Anton Haidorfer says:

    I am interested in the hand drawing videos.

    How come I can no longer get any of the lessons video to run anymore?

    Do I have to sign up for something?



    • Sean Ramsey says:

      You should be able to see the videos whether you’re logged in or not. You may want to try checking the webpage out in a different web browser or contacting us at for additional assistance.

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