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November 11 , 2010

Drawing Funny

By James McMullan
This is the ninth in a series.
 

The subject of this column is caricature, but I'm not going to explain or demonstrate it myself. When the art god was doling out the syrup of graphic wit, he must have slipped on a banana peel just as he got to my cup and most of it spilled out on the floor. This being the case, I have chosen three artists whose cups of graphic wit truly runneth over and whose work represents caricature at its highest and most droll level of accomplishment.

Two are friends of many years and are literary wits as well as being celebrated artists: Edward Sorel, whose covers for the New Yorker are legendary, and Robert Grossman, whose animated films, comic strips and sculptures are both political and hilarious. The third artist, Tom Bachtell, creates stylish drawings for The New Yorker every week and, memorably, for many months played graphic games with George Bush's eyebrows.

I asked each of the artists to create a caricature of Pablo Picasso and to give us whatever back story on their process that they choose to share. I think the results show that in order to draw funny, it really helps to be able to free-associate with fish, ex-wives and square eyes.

So here's Picasso - three ways.

Edward Sorel

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Robert Grossman

Thought process: Picasso. Intense gaze. Makes sense in his case. One of his gimmicks was to put both eyes on one side of a face, which nature had only ever done in the instance of the flounder. Can I show him as a flounder?

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Refining the flounder concept until I realize I'm the one who's floundering.

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Pablo in Art Heaven glaring down at the puny efforts of mere mortals.

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Tom Bachtell

"I work in brush and ink. I drew the face a dozen times, playing with various brushes, strokes, line weight and other ways of applying the ink. I started to imagine the face on the surface of the paper and chase after it with the brush, trying to capture the squat, vigorous, self-confident poser that I see when I think of Picasso, those black eyes blazing out at the viewer. Since he often broke faces into different, distorted planes I felt free to do that, as well as making his eyes into squares and his nose into a Guernica-like protuberance."

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In the next column I introduce the challenge and the possibility of drawing the figure.

Next:"The Chain of Energy "