By Greg Houston
176 pages, softcover, $25
Published by Monacelli Studio
When one thinks of caricature, thoughts come to mind immediately of large stylized heads perched atop ridiculously small bodies. You might even have had one drawn up by an artist at an event, leaving you with a portrait that bears an incredible likeness albeit with heavily exaggerated features that either make you laugh or cringe. But caricatures are more than just for entertainment: they’re frequently used as a weapon and
a vehicle of expression by artists and illustrators alike, as Greg Houston points out in Understanding Caricature: An Artist’s Practical Guide to Creating Portraits with Personality. The book starts off with an overview of the history of caricature before defining what makes good caricature (it must be recognizable, first and foremost), what they’re typically used for and where the market for it is. The next part of the book showcases various illustrators’ work through different styles and media they employ, followed by Houston demonstrating how he breaks down individual details within a caricature: the face, hair, body and various “accouterments” that are distinct to each subject.
Understanding Caricature employs a conversational tone that is lively, entertaining, engaging and most of all accessible. The sheer number of illustrations in the book, along with detailed explanations of the process (and many fun, personal quips by the author), make it a fantastic resource for the budding caricaturist looking to take their work to the next level, not just in style and medium but in the way one views the art itself. —Amy Ng