Lesson One: The Basics

If you’re going to learn how to draw caricatures and cartoons, you need to start by drawing this, the Most Average Guy In The World:

A basic cartoon drawing of an average man.

An average guy... click to enlarge

Grab a marker and paper.

  • No pencil
  • No eraser
  • No underdrawing.

Draw this guy exactly as he appears. If you can do it, skip ahead to the advanced lessons. If you can’t, do it nineteen more times. I make all Cartoon Vegas employees go through this exact exercise.

“Why should I do this?” Three reasons:

1. Drawing a caricature is a process of constantly measuring sizes and distances against each other. Having this perfectly average head to call on will give you a strong framework on which to hang the infinite variety of people you’ll be drawing. I drew this in a minute and ten seconds. This face is lodged deep in my brain. If you practice this face until it becomes effortless, you’ll make it your template for all other faces. Your hand will want to draw this face. If the person you’re drawing has a big chin, You’ll instantly judge how much bigger it is than this chin. If the person you’re drawing has ears that are a little small, you’ll instantly judge how much smaller.

2. At Cartoon Vegas, we don’t do any underdrawing. We don’t do any sketching. When someone sits in front of us, we just grab the marker and start. You need to get very, very comfortable drawing directly with the marker. And it’s hard. It’s difficult enough trying to get a smooth line in the right place without worrying about varying the weight and not wobbling while you do it. Drawing this face over and over again is a crash course in line quality, placement, and control.

3. It’s a test of you. Drawing this face twenty times is boring. It’s frustrating. It’s not as easy and fun as you think it’s going to be. And it’s just the beginning. No one will stick with this unless they really love to draw. No one will stick with this unless they really want to gain the ability. You’ll find out just how dedicated you are. Everyone makes mistakes. Most people make the same mistakes each time. When you’ve got twenty drawings of the same face, you can look over them all and find your common weaknesses.

Don’t throw away that drawing you just made! It’s terrible, right? Embarrassing? Save it! Hide it in the basement, and dig it up in a couple of years. You’ll be entertained and amazed by how far you’ve come!


Don’t sketch!


A visual of drawing versus sketching

Draw! Don't sketch.

Draw each line once. You have to get it right the first time.

If it’s wrong, don’t try to fix it. Just draw it again.
There are two separate areas that you’ll be improving at the same time with this exercise: The quality of your line, and the accuracy of your observation.
You need to draw each line once. You need to draw it in the right place. And it needs to go from thick to thin to describe forms and shadows.
You need to be able to instantly gauge the size, shape, and distance of the features to each other, and the size and shape of the head relative to the features.

4 thoughts on “Lesson One: The Basics

  1. Jim Morrison says:

    You answered my question on Yahoo Answers. Thanks for sending me to your site. I found it worth while and will be doing the exercises you suggest. Jim

  2. My caricature drawings are not as great as yours, but yes twenty times on the faces is a gentle burned into the grey matter, enjoy the thought process you take us through.

  3. This was a fantastic lesson. I can’t wait to go home and just use my marker. I love to sketch and draw but I never quite understood the caricature. I will try this and if I can’t get it to work, I will ask you to do it for me. Thank you!

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