Currently based in his hometown – Batavia, Genesee County, New York, Rob is a full-time caricature, portrait and cartoon-comic artist, having graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2005.
We have invited Rob today to share with us some of his caricature/cartoon artworks and the art tools that he uses, as well as offer some insight to caricature art.
Qn: How did you get started on what you are doing currently? And how did you learn the ropes?
I got started drawing caricatures at a theme park near Buffalo, NY. Six Flags Darien Lake. I submitted a portfolio to Kaman's Art Shoppes, which is a concessionaire that runs art operations in theme parks across the country, assuming I would be a portrait artist. They seemed to think I'd be better suited to caricatures so I entered their training program and a week later I was on the midway drawing for customers. I did a lot of learning on the job. I was lucky to be surrounded by some great experienced artists. I would occasionally visit other parks and got to work with a bunch of other talented artists which allowed me to pick up on new techniques. To this day I try to surround myself with other artists whom I admire, in order to continue to improve. I attend the ISCA (International Society of Caricature Artists) convention every year, which allows me to work side by side with artists from all over Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Qn: Can you share with us more about your art-tools used, traditional and digital, for your drawings?
If it's studio work, I usually start out in pencil. I do a bunch of thumbnail sketches of the subject to try to pinpoint the best way to capture the person while exaggerating and maintaining a likeness. After I pick and choose what direction I want to go with it I do an initial pencil sketch on paper. If it's a larger drawing, 11"x17" or more, I use a Chartpak fine tip ad marker for the inks. The Chartpak has kind of a bullet tip that allows a lot of line variation so I can get some nice thin to thick lines. If the drawing is smaller I use a variety of brush pens. I really like some of the Kuretake pens as well as the Tombow you can see in the photo. For color, I often use Prismacolor art stix which are great for covering large areas quickly. They're basically the inside of a normal Prismacolor colored pencil in block form. I'll also use the colored pencils since the color palette is more limited for the art stix. Occasionally I'll use a combination of Prismacolor and Copic markers for coloring. I'll even mix marker with colored pencil over the top to create some texture. I like drawing on tonal pastel paper too that can give an interesting texture to a piece. In these cases I'll also use a white gel pen or white out pen to fill in areas of white or highlights. If I'm coloring on thinner paper I'll place a few sheets of paper underneath along with a foam pad underneath. This helps smooth out the color of the art stix and eliminates white spots that show the grain of the paper.
If I'm working on a digital sketch, I either scan in a black and white line drawing to be colored in Photoshop or I draw on the Ipad in my art studio.
Qn: Do you prefer to sketch with traditional or digital tools? And why?
Personally, I do prefer traditional. I feel that digital still can't quite reproduce the same effects you can get with traditional materials. I do hear that the Cintiq offers the closest to a traditional feel, which I do not own yet but could change my mind.
Qn: Care to share with us some of your favorite or most memorable art-pieces? And what did you use to draw/paint them?
Most of my favorites are pieces I've done at the ISCA convention. So these are all drawings of other caricature artists. Also there's more freedom of creativity on the theme since I'm not accommodating a clients request. The first is Tom Faraci (who is producing a documentary on caricature called, American Caricature) and his girlfriend Allie. It had struck me that he had the perfect mouth that made him look kind of like an alligator. So I drew him as an alligator with Allie as the animal trainer doing the head in the mouth trick. This was done on a grey tonal paper with brush pens for the inks. It was colored in a flat layer of marker with highlights done in colored pencil. The white areas were filled in with white gel pen.
The second is Torren Thomas, who is a big guy, as Majin Buu from the Dragonball Z anime. This was done on pink tonal paper which shows through for the main color of Buu's body. The coloring technique is the same as the Faraci piece with marker, colored pencil, and white gel pen.
The third is a drawing of Mike Graessle which is done on a peach colored tonal paper and colored entirely in marker. With white gel pen for the eyes and reflection on his glasses.
The fourth is of Jessica DuPreez. She is mainly colored in marker as well on peach tonal paper. The background is done in colored pencil to achieve the textured look of the paper.
The fifth is of an artist by the name of Tasiir, who's last name escapes me at the moment. Tasiir has these big long dreadlocks that reminded me of Davey Jones from the PIrates of the Caribbean movie, which is basically just a dude with an octopus for a head. Tasiir also has those distinctive red lips, bushy beard, and the bandana he liked to wear which would make him instantly recognizable even as an octopus. This was done on tan paper and utilized both marker and colored pencil.
The sixth is a sketch of Sean Evans which is done on tan tonal paper. It's colored entirely in colored pencil. This was one of my first successful pieces using the tonal paper. Sean had this funny emo haircut that was constantly covering his eyes. I was able to exploit that along with his upturned nose and acne for what I think is a really funny sketch.
Qn: Can you offer some insight into life as a caricature artist? What do you think are some of the essential skills/traits one should have, other than possessing artistic talent, to succeed as a caricature artist?
Other than being able to draw well in general a good sense of anatomy is key. Particularly facial anatomy since a lot of times that's the only part of a person you're drawing. Even though you're reshaping and exaggerating the features, they need to make sense and be believable. You need to know the rules before you can break them. It also helps to have a good sense of humor. Without it your caricatures just aren't going to be as funny. You also need to be a little unsympathetic. You can't worry about hurting a person's feelings. If you worry too much about someone not liking their big ears, you might be more inclined to make them smaller than they actually are, which is the exact opposite of what needs to be done to get a good likeness. It also takes a lot of discipline. Caricature artists are generally freelancers unless you're working in a theme park. This means there's no guaranteed paycheck each week. So you've got to find the jobs and put yourself out there. You also need to draw constantly. It takes years to get good.
Qn: What are some of the most challenging experiences you encountered as a caricature artist?
In terms of challenges there can be many, especially if you work live. Drawing in a theme park or at parties means your drawings are under the scrutiny of an audience as you produce it. This can lead to any number of uninformed critiques which can be hard to take for most artists. Especially since most artists are used to practicing their trade in the comfort of a studio away from prying eyes who might pick at every move. The biggest challenge I believe I've personally faced was complacency. One can get to a certain point of success and be happy with that while losing sight of room for improvement. Early on I'd gotten to a point where I thought I was pretty good. And I got plenty of reinforcement on that from the people I drew for. So I didn't push myself much to improve. Luckily, I was exposed to some other artists who put my work to shame. I was able to realize that I did have lots of room to grow and lots to work on if I wanted to get better. I think a lot of caricature artists can find themselves falling into this complacency because the general public likes their work and thinks it's good. And while it might be good, there's always room for improvement. There are also plenty of people who don't understand caricature and will hate your work. Or they might take offense or even cry in the case of small children. The challenge is to not take this personally and understand that some people just don't like caricatures in general, and it has nothing to do with the quality of your sketch in most cases.
Qn: Do you have any advice to offer to aspiring artists on the choice/use of art-tools/materials?
I definitely recommend using the Chartpak fine tip ad marker or brush pens. One can even use a Copic brush pen. These all offer the ability to draw with great line variance which will make any sketch more dynamic. Do not use a Sharpie! The Prismacolor art stix are great for covering large areas and they blend wonderfully. This is definitely the easiest material to work with for color. Though some artists use airbrush or watercolor. Even regular copy paper is good to draw on. You can smooth out the color by placing a foam pad with 2 or 3 sheets of paper on top, underneath the paper you're drawing on.
Qn: Have you read any art-book/s or instructional mediums related to art?
Tom Richmond, who draws for MAD magazine, has a great instructional book on caricature. Joe Bluhm has a book called, Rejects, that showcases a number of drawings that I've found helpful to learn from by analyzing Joe's choice of color, lighting, and exaggeration. Sebastian Kruger has many books filled with his photorealistic caricatures that show how one can make extreme exaggeration believable.
Qn: Which other artist/s do you think we should approach next for an interview?
I would suggest a comic book artist. There are some very talented ones out there. Some of my favorites are Jim Lee, Ryan Ottley, Alex Ross, Hiroaki Samura, Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, and Ivan Reis.
We are thankful to Rob Dumo for sharing his artworks, art tools and experiences in this informative interview. For more about Rob and his artworks, you may visit his website at robdumoart.com or freelanced.com/robdumo
Rob also regularly shares his artworks on his twitter page - https://twitter.com/robdumo/media