Step by Step to Caricature Laurel and Hardy
I read somewhere that, "Caricature is portraiture with the volume turned up!" What is meant by this is that the Caricaturist tries to amplify what it is that makes a subject unique, be it in their physical appearance or in their personality, or preferably both, through exaggeration and humour.
For this article I chose the iconic comedy double act, Laurel and Hardy. They were a perfect choice for several reasons; they are universally recognisable, they make people smile, and most importantly from an artistic point of view they have strong and contrasting features. Stan’s face is thin and long whereas Ollie’s face is wider and more rounded. In personality they are also quite different, sure, they are both buffoons, but Ollie is the leader, he is the more dominant and gets easily annoyed by Stan's total idiocy. Stan is the foot-soldier, willing to go along with Ollie's madcap schemes but is quite weak and when, the inevitable happens and things go wrong, he starts blubbing, much to Ollie's disdain.
Firstly, it is important to select a reference photograph which captures that relationship and the personalities of the subject.
- Sketching is a key element to most art and caricature is no exception. I begin by producing a few quick thumbnail sketches, exploring and exaggerating what I see are prominent shapes. Try to ignore detail, squint and look at the basic head and body shapes. The trick to caricature is working out which features need to be exaggerated. A face has a set weight, to create a memorable caricature the prominent features need to be highlighted, offsetting smaller less important ones. So in Stan's case I made his chin much longer, thinning the width of his face. I moved his eyes further up towards the top of his head and chose to make his nose a little smaller. For Ollie I widened his rounded face and made his neck fatter and more prominent.
- From the strongest thumbnail sketch, I created a line drawing which captures the shapes in the characters that I am looking for; an elongated triangular shaped head for Stan and wider oval forms for Ollie.
- I produced a definitive final sketch, which tries to capture the essence of the overall look I want to achieve. After getting the overall head and body shapes resolved, the eyes need to be rendered accurately. Like portraiture the eyes are key, get those right and you are on your way!
- My final sketch was then scanned into my computer. At this stage I decided to work digitally using a tablet and Photoshop. I would use exactly the same techniques if I was working in traditional media such as oils, acrylics or pastel. The sketch is tinted with a mid-tone over the entire piece, eliminating the white which can be intimidating to work on. I proceed to lay down some darker values.
- Next I start blocking in lighter values and begin to refine. I start painting up the background, adding strong highlights behind Stan, to make his head come to the fore. I am now getting into a little more detail, constantly reappraising each element of the piece; mid-tones are added as well as the whites of their shirts.
- I keep refining the piece, the arms were drawn in and features like the eyes, ears and noses are rendered accurately. Lastly I add details like the hairs on the back of Ollie's neck, and the denim pattern on their dungarees. I go over, checking and possibly correcting elements of the entire piece until I am completely satisfied with my efforts.
The Finished Picture Against The Original.
- Chris Knapman
Chris has just landed a contract to produce caricatures for Premier League Managers and Players, and is available for hire as a roving caricaturist. To see the services he provides head to www.caricaturewithattitude.me