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January 31, 2012

Key Differences – Painted Caricatures & Digital caricatures

Filed under: Articles,caricature gifts,Caricature Portraits — Charlie Anson @ 6:38 pm

How are digital caricatures produced from caricature software different from professional caricatures painted by a human being? Well, in some respect, there’s not that much difference at all! After all when an artist looks at a face, she picks out all the details as a whole, and one by one. A professional caricature is the result of careful analysis and synthesis of details – it depends as much on a quick brushstroke summing up the shape of a head in a an instant, as it does on the fine tuning of minute details.


Similarly, the facial recognition programs that produce custom vector caricatures look at the bigger picture and at the smaller picture. The caricature software will pick out the face’s outline, identify the head type, and assign the appropriate polygons and algorythms which correspond to that type. Then, the caricature software goes in for the detail: defining the outline of the nose, the width of the eyes, the thickness of the lips, the ears, the angle of the mouth… In exactly the same way as a artist does when she paints professional caricatures.

However, as you might expect, there are key differences. One is purely functional: When working on professional caricatures from photos, artists can gather an impression of a multitude of photos in order to distill the perfect caricature “summary” of that person. But hang on, who am I to say that caricature software can’t also do that – after all, it’s not my line of business! But it seems to me me that custom vector caricatures can’t help but be the result of a narrow process. The bigger picture of producing professional caricatures means not just seeing the face outline – it means seeing the full personality, the particular sparkle that a person exudes. That might seem a bit airy-fairy, but it’s true. Custom vector caricatures just can’t quite add that touch of personality – the best they can do is preserve it – whereas professional caricatures should gather all the elements of someone’s personality from a range of photos.


January 27, 2012

Digital Superhero Caricature vs Hand Painted Caricature pt2

Filed under: Articles,caricatures — Charlie Anson @ 9:29 am

So last month, the director of a company with which I used to share an office came up to me and asked if we did custom vector caricatures. What? Us? The hand-made caricature company par excellence? Of course not – we make professional caricatures in the traditional way, I thought. None of this new-fangled stuff. Then I thought again. If sporting art websites create a superhero caricature on demand, then surely I can be just as flexible? “We’ll give it a go!” I said, and so we set about doing our first ever batch of custom vector caricatures.

The aim was to depict a company team as simple vector characters. And the technique: To start with a straight draft, as usual. Then, to simplify the draft and scan it. And finally, we would draw custom vector caricatures on top of the draft scan, on Illustrator. And Bob’s your uncle!

Of course, I’m pretty good on Photoshop but when it comes to Illustrator I know nothing. Thankfully one of our cartoonists, Vincent Bouriot, is King of custom vector caricatures. Vector Vince, as he’s now known in the company. He’s the one guy I know who can produce professional caricatures in a digital format that are ultra simple, but completely uncanny. Like he can distill the likeness of a person into a few vector lines, in the same way that websites create a superhero caricature from nothing but a name, a photo and a chosen colour.

Professional caricatures in a vector format are actually pretty rare. On one hand you have the masters who usually work in a hand-made medium, and on the other you have not people but programs: digital processing systems that turn photos into custom vector caricatures. But these can be a fine art too. Julian Opie, for instance, will distil a look into a couple of black dots, showing that custom vector caricatures are as valid an art form as any other.

January 24, 2012

Digital Superhero Caricature vs Hand Painted Caricature pt1

Filed under: Articles — Charlie Anson @ 4:16 pm

Most of the time, people want the best possible thing, at the cheapest possible price, and as quick as possible… So when they’re looking for caricatures, custom vector caricatures, according to this principle, would be the best choice. A number of websites create a superhero caricature, or design team caricatures for t-shirts, or deliver whatever cartoon caricature related product you want, digitally, and within very little time. So why bother pushing the boat out and spending more for a hand-made caricature?

Well, ideally I’d get one of our happy customers to give you a call and tell you why. After all, I’m obviously going to tell you that what we do is brilliant, but if you got it from the horse’s mouth… then you’d realise why a hand-made cartoon caricature was so much more valuable than a digital product.

Of course, it really depends what you’re after. Sometimes you don’t have the budget to invest, or the cartoon caricature isn’t for a particularly special occasion, in which case it’s far better to go after custom vector caricatures automatically generated from photo material.

But sometimes that’s not the case. If you want to make an impression with a loved one, or if you want an image that represents your company… You’ll be looking for a higher level of creative investment in your cartoon caricature.

Websites create a superhero caricature for a kid if that’s what he’s looking for – similarly, websites that produce artwork for companies who want to represent their staff in the best light, will produce a hand-made cartoon caricature if that’s the desired style. Because even if all that’s required is a digital product, custom vector caricatures somehow don’t fully convey personality. You have to involve the human touch, go back to basics, and then digitalise the cartoon caricature to make it website-friendly.


January 17, 2012

The Big Egg Hunt – Olympic caricature (Egg)

Filed under: caricatures — Charlie Anson @ 9:00 am

Wow! The caricature egg has been an experience. Just finished it. A three foot high egg-shaped caricature of five female and five male British athletes competing in the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The whole thing is taking place in the context of the “Big Egg Hunt”, a massive charity event that will culminate in the largest public art exhibition London has ever seen…  And this is the only cartoon caricature they have!

Painting it, with all these characters flying over and under the 3D shape, I was reminded that several websites create a superhero caricature to order, and that they create caricature material quite similar to this: Characters flying and jumping all over the place… But few really take the time to do a cartoon caricature in such detail. And that’s something I’m particularly proud of.

So I thought on: Today, could websites create a superhero caricature that are truly original? Or would they fall back on the old Marvel-like tricks that have become so familiar over the last seventy or so years? In my opinion, if you’re going to create a cartoon caricature, you might as well make it genuinely original. Go back to basics. Just like my Olympic egg caricature character is striving to achieve something great, what is this particular hero trying to achieve? What is their dream? What is their aim? Such questions will inform a truly interesting caricature. They will shape the athlete, or the hero, and give him or her a distinctive voice and personality.

So now, as I dab my last white dashes onto the Olympic caricature, three days before our big gala launch at the Goring hotel, it’s time to stand back and see if this is really original, if it has real artistic value. I can’t really tell… phiewh! Impossible to be objective! But I hope people will like it. We’ll see, I guess.

January 11, 2012

Best Medium for Caricatures From Photos

Filed under: caricature gifts — Charlie Anson @ 5:28 pm

The medium used when producing caricatures can change depending on the surface you’re working with, and the audience and event you’re targeting. Usually, we use watercolour paint when working on caricatures from photos that clients supply to us, in order to produce their personalised gifts on A3, A4 or A2 paper. These look great up close, and watercolours are the best when you’re dealing with intricately detailed cartoon caricatures, and you don’t want to overpower the indian ink lining.

However, when you want to have more of an impact from afar, acrylic is the way forward. I’m currently producing a series of caricatures from photos of athletes from the UK Olympic team, which I’m painting onto a giant egg that will be placed on a plinth in a public space somewhere in London. This is part of the “Big Egg Hunt”, a London-wide charity project that’s aiming to raise millions for the charity Action For Children. And by the by, it’ll be a great promotional tool for our caricatures business too!

Anyway, for this I am using acrylic. Why? Because first of all, it’s the easiest medium for cartoon caricatures painted on a canvas primed surface. And second, it catches the eye from afar. The colours are bold, strong and dense, as opposed to watercolours with which you can struggle to get your caricatures from photos that are really defined and colourful, look defined and colourful too.

But caricatures from photos of people that you’ve never met are always tricky, whatever the medium you’re using. I personally always try to create my caricatures from photos that are high-resolution, and reveal every detail about the face and general physique… but despite everything that’s available on google, producing high quality caricatures from photos that have just the right angle, and aren’t over-pixellised, is far from easy.

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