Monday, March 5, 2007

Caricatures for World Peace

Caricatures put food on the table. People ring me up for gifts and events, both from corporate and personal clientele.

The last function I did was for a bank, I won't say which bank, but that awesome Christmas party was held at the National Museum of Australia (of all places!) with dinosaur bones hanging like orthopaedic chandeliers. To my left, watching me sketch excitedly chatty and wined up mahogany rowers, were mounted bones of a terrifying raptor, its hollowed eyes as if saying you better do a good job buddy or else!

I've probably drawn thousands of faces since 1973 outside newspaper work. Usually it doesn't take me 5 minutes to do a quick one. So in a conference or party I can draw up to a hundred people. It's a delight to draw older women; young women - gallant work but a bit tricky, old men relaxing - love those wrinkles when they smile which give instant features of wisdom; but toddlers and babies? I avoid them! They're not intimidating, they just move about too much. Anyway its pointless to do caricatures of them as they already look cute and funny;-) Parents, just allow professionals take their photo portraitures until at the age when they try to borrow your car keys.

Nuclear Crisis! India and Pakistan in the Brink of War! Shocked Sydneysiders read the morning headlines over their Vegemite sandwiches. That same morning I was in a tea party hosted by wife of Philippine consul. It was mini-United Nations of beautiful and elegant women who reminded me of classic Bond films. There was this gentle Filipino classical pianist who serenaded them while exotic hors de oeuvers were passed around. I was a guest and understood I was politely expected to sketch. No money involved but was asked to please take home a nice bottle of wine;-)

The morning fog has lifted and a gentle wind swayed the yellowing leaves of rows of potted bamboo outside the Elizabeth Bay House. Inside the temperature was much more controlled including gentle murmurs of well-dressed people at 7:30 in the morning. My goodness they must have been busy putting on their intricate national dresses at 5 a.m.!
After brief yet formal introductions I found myself ready with drawing pencils and paper in hand. Seated in front of me were two middle-aged but beautiful women each representing 2 nations mentioned in the morning papers--India and Pakistan! (top photo) I couldn't believe my luck, vividly reminescing a short conversation with them.

First allow me, I do talk to my subjects while I draw. This relaxes them and take their conscious attention away from what I'm doing.

I try to inject humor sometimes to keep them smiling. Worse one can do is draw a frowning caricature. We leave that to editorial cartoonists who lampoon our politicians. My intention here is to entertain, never at all thinking about perfect draftsmanship nor painstakingly drawing every existing line and counting number of eyelashes on each eye. Never did I want to live life as a photocopier:)

I always advise my students to be spontaneous but unabrupt; moving with confidence, working inside a parameter of wisdom and disciplines picked up from past mistakes. One never analyses the taste of chocolate ice cream, one just relishes it. The line is drawn in mind even before on paper so strokes should be quick--no dilly-dallying and one can lick it.
I suggest that they start with light strokes, getting darker as deemed right second or third time. On the spot drawings can always be tricky but can be planned ahead. One may not erase early pencil sketches and not be shy of them. They add character and say a lot about historical development of one's drawing. People know if one hesitates and ends up with an overworked drawing constructed with unnatural, jagged lines--looking like a reflection on a flat but crumpled tinfoil. Now there's always room for improvement. Everyone makes mistakes, it's part of persistent practice..then tries again until nirvana.

When drawing someone a caricature, it's best to let one's happy feelings ride on the pencil and avoid talking about matters so seriously.

Chaitali of India has deep, mauve eyes; Yasmeen of Pakistan has hair which can wear away my black charcoal pencils. I broke the ice..

-Hello ladies, your countries are at odds in the news. Wow, I'm glad you guys are not pulling each other's hair yet.

-(Laughter) Of course not. We're friends and guests of your people.

-So you'll do it outside?

-(More laughter) Don't be silly.

-You're not fighting over which brand of shampoo to use, are you?

-(More laughter, now people are milling behind us) Yes we do have lovely hair.

-So will you tell your husbands tonight that things have already been settled here?

-We will for sure (all said with chirpy accents).

-I've finished the drawings. Promise you won't nuke me?
Okay, ta-daah!

-(Charmed giggles) Thank you Edd! Oh I look so funny with a big head.

There was gladness in my heart when I gave their caricatures, hoping they treasure them for a long time for I have prayed for peace when I sketched them. That was in 1998.

Lately (Feb. 21, 2007) there was a nuclear pact (right click to open new window) signed between these two nations.

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At Monday, March 5, 2007 at 2:46:00 AM GMT+11 , Blogger MVC said...

edd, love your lessons about caricaturing. thanks!


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