My First Artist Interview

Portrait of a caricature artist

How did you get started in the field?

I’ve always loved art. My grandparents were artists and they influenced me heavily. As a child I was in love with Mad Magazine. I used to copy the drawings and paste them on the walls of my room. With my mother’s encouragement I attended a high school that specialised in art. About a year ago I was comissioned to do a few bar mitzvah caricatures that were to be placed at the entrance of the party to be signed by the guests. I went on to market this idea with logos for simchas, welcome packages and other personalised gifts. I also began drawing guests live at bar mitzvas and other events as a memento.  


Why caricatures?

Looking at political caricatures, I was always amazed at how a few lines could capture a person. A cartoon can often tell a story better than words. I also love getting out of my studio and drawing live. There is something special about contributing to the atmosphere of an event. As a caricature artist I can sit quietly in a corner and just enjoy the happiness and laughter when they see the pictures forming.  


Do you need proper training to be a caricature artist?

As far as I know, most caricature artists are self taught. There are great books on the subject, but at the end of the day the only way to get good at it is through constant practice. I also had a bit of a head start because I have been doing portraiture since I was in high school. Many of the skills are similar so I was able to develop into a professional caricaturist.  


Why do you think that caricatures capture a person’s essence better than a portrait?

The likeness of a person comes from the relationship between the features, so a traditional portrait artist starts by measuring everything in a very mechanical way. If the measurements are correct, the portrait will look like the person. A caricature artist studies a person, assessing what essentially makes up his likeness. He then emphasises that and de-emphasises everything else. What results is a portrait with the volume turned up.  


Do you need to be good at drawing to be a good caricature artist?

If you come to my weekly workshops, you will see anyone can learn to draw. People who don’t believe that they can create more than a stick figure are able, with careful instruction, to bring people to life on paper. The results are outstanding and the creative excitement is palpable.  


What makes a good caricature artist?

A good caricature artist can capture the essence of a subject better than a photograph can.  


How do you walk the fine line between exaggerating a detail and not insulting the client?

In order to create a good caricature, the artist must draw what he sees. At the same time, if the subject has a feature that is not so flattering, he might draw it as it is but emphasise some other feature. This draws attention away from the feature.  


Can caricature be used for marketing?

A caricature or mascot can be a powerful element in the branding of a company. I expresses the the personality of a business as personal and approachable, even adding a little humor. It adds a human element in a world of cold impersonal corporations.  


Nowadays, all artistic fields have been changed via technology, for example Photoshop and Lightroom are necessities for  photography. While a lot of caricature work is done on the spot, is there any technology that corresponds with your field and how do you use it?

I do a lot of my painting work digitally, in the studio. It’s unbelievable how the computer is able to imitate digital media. You can create caricature with any medium. Obviously the advantage of a computer is that you can correct mistakes and make adjustments until you are happy with the final product.  


Tell us some more about your studio work.

Studio portraits basically are caricature portraits created from photos that are emailed to me by clients. They are similar to the live caricatures but since I invest far more time into them, the final product bears a deeper resemblance to the subject. They are a great gift idea and can be used as family portraits or corporate gifts.  


What do you find the most exciting part of your work?

I love bringing my art to people. Art is usually a very solitary thing, so I enjoy bringing it to simchas and watching people enjoy my creations. That’s what makes caricatures such a great activity for bar mitzvas. It’s not only a great souvenir to come home with, but it creates great energy and fun for the simcha! The thing I love about art is creating something that didn’t exist before. I also love expressing funny and wacky ideas through my art.  


About the artist Darrell Mordecai is an accomplished artist with an amazing ability to express mood and personality through his cartoon illustrations, caricatures and company mascots. Darrell creates studio portraits, draws live at simchas and offers classes and workshops.