Caricatures from photos; hand painted vs Digital

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Hugh Laurie Caricature
Hugh Laurie

If you are considering commissioning an original piece of caricature artwork then one of the first choices you will be faced with is whether to go for a digital image or one created in traditional media.

If your number one consideration is price then the choice is easy and you will no doubt go for one of those online photo tracing factories – if this ticks the boxes for you then go for it – if not then read on!

Luckily for us caricature artists, most people are looking for something more creative than this – comic exaggeration and distortion  that defies any ‘real’ lines and proportions to a produce a compelling likeness in a fresh and often surprising way!

Great work is created BOTH digitally AND in traditional media but one thing that is interesting is how many digital artists (and much of the software they use) go to great lengths to imitate the appearance of paint. If you want something that looks like a painting, why not get a painting? The most interesting digital art fully embraces the electronic medium – check out the digital work of George Williams for example.

Digital artwork can be made more quickly and cheaply than equivalent traditional work, changes can be made or rolled back, extra elements can be imported, it can be copied, shared and printed effortlessly. For any kind of publishing or promotional use the advantages seem obvious – although, of course, paintings and drawings can be scanned or photographed. So what is the enduring appeal of traditional work?

The vast majority of caricature commissions are for gifts and, whilst  it might be fun to receive a series of 1s and 0s it isn’t quite like having a physical hand made artefact. The fact that digital art so often tries to mimic traditional media goes to show how much affection people have for pen, ink, pastel and paint. More importantly perhaps, there can be limitless identical copies of a digital file but every painting or drawing is inherently a one off. We humans have a natural inclination to prize the unique!