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Editorial cartoons are powerful forms of communication, but they're not without their methods and formulas. You need to familiarize yourself with some common elements of these cartoons in order to get your point across effectively. This section gives you a leg up on the more traditional methods as well as the alternative route.

Grasping the art of visual metaphors

One of the primary functions of an editorial cartoon is to make a strong point to the reader. One of the best ways to accomplish this is known as visual shorthand or the use of metaphors to get the point across. Metaphors are comparisons that show how two things that aren't alike in most ways are similar in one important way. Editorial cartoonists use metaphors to make their cartoons more interesting and entertaining. To use a metaphor, you need to find one visual scenario and apply it to another in an effort to make a broader point.

Figure 11-1 shows a classic example of how you can use a visual metaphor to convey the message. The economic crisis of 2009 has President Obama promising to enact another round of stimulus to help the economy. Great news, right? Well, the downside (and it's a biggie) is that the U.S. will have to borrow the money to fund the stimulus, which Obama says will be in the form of tax cuts. Basically, that's feeding the growing national debt. Bingo. That last line is all a good editorial cartoonist needs to cultivate an idea. So you have to find some visual metaphor to express the idea of feeding the national debt.

Figure 11-1:

Depicting the growing U.S. debt as a hungry lion is an example of a visual metaphor.

Figure 11-1 shows a classic example of how you can use a visual metaphor to convey the message. The economic crisis of 2009 has President Obama promising to enact another round of stimulus to help the economy. Great news, right? Well, the downside (and it's a biggie) is that the U.S. will have to borrow the money to fund the stimulus, which Obama says will be in the form of tax cuts. Basically, that's feeding the growing national debt. Bingo. That last line is all a good editorial cartoonist needs to cultivate an idea. So you have to find some visual metaphor to express the idea of feeding the national debt.

Cartoon Metaphor

In this figure you have Obama feeding the debt, literally. The debt could have been drawn using a variety of animals or creatures to convey a hungry beast (a hungry lion in my interpretation). Drawing the stimulus as a big cut of meat naturally made sense from a visual metaphor viewpoint.

Using stereotypes to convey your message

Just like visual metaphors, stereotypes are another commonly used artistic tool often employed in editorial cartoons. A stereotype is a conventional and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image based on the assumption that members of a certain group have attributes in common. Stereotypes are forms of social consensus rather than individual judgments.

People usually view stereotypes in a negative light, so make sure you avoid certain stereotypes, such as those that target sensitive historical topics like race. You also want to avoid stereotypes about topics that instigate prejudice and false assumptions about entire groups of people, including members of different ethnic groups, religious orders, or sexual orientation.

Editorial cartoons do try to invoke generally nonoffensive stereotypes to make a greater, broader point about an issue. You may want to draw all your politicians and representatives as big fat guys who gorge on taxpayer money. The reality is that the politicians don't really do that, at least not literally. However, readers can relate to that characterization and stereotype because that's the way the politicians are sometimes perceived. Some additional stereotypes commonly used in recent editorial cartoons are:

✓ Drawing oil companies as fat cats

✓ Drawing lawyers as sharks

✓ Drawing terrorists as rats

One distinction that must be made is how and when to use a stereotype in a cartoon. For example, it's okay to stereotype terrorists as rats. It's a pretty safe generalization that all terrorists hate the U.S. and want to kill everybody who lives here. However, a bad stereotype would be to portray all Muslims negatively just because some terrorists are Muslims. The cartoonist should always use discretion when employing stereotypes so as not to distract or overshadow the point he's trying to make.

Letting the art make your point

The advantage to letting the art tell the story is that there's something powerful about a single, stand-alone image that conveys to the reader what you're trying to say. You want the art to deliver the message and act as the visual punch line. This simply follows the idea that "a picture is worth a thousand words." As a cartoonist you want to take advantage of a medium that allows the art to do the talking.

One of the most famous examples of art making a point followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The next day, a cartoon appeared in newspapers across the country by legendary cartoonist Bill Mauldin showing the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial with his face in his hands, mourning in anguish at the news of JFK's tragic death.

The image was powerful and contained no text. People who saw it instantly knew what it was saying as it so accurately conveyed the somber feelings and sentiment of the American people.

Going the altie route

Alternative cartoons typically are more text-heavy and rely less on the art to convey a message. This format utilizes more dialogue that tends to be more cerebral in nature. The practitioners of this modern interpretation of editorial cartooning seem to be more influenced by literature than the traditional cartoonists who derive their style from a long line of succession that dates back to Mad magazine.

Alternative cartoons usually follow a multipanel format with lots of dialogue, and the art in some cases is no more than talking heads. This format can be extremely effective if it contains dialogue that's well-written and makes a strong point.

Drafting Believable Caricatures

One of the most powerful tools an editorial cartoonist has at her disposal is the art of caricature. A caricature is a drawing that exaggerates the fundamental nature and essence of a person to create an easily recognizable likeness. Caricatures in editorial cartoons are usually viewed as less than flattering but generally serve a greater purpose in the larger context of the cartoon.

Politicians are great targets of caricatures. You can exploit and integrate the politician's weaknesses into your caricature. For example, even though former President George W. Bush was over 6 feet tall, many editorial cartoonists drew him as a small figure, with diminished height (as in Figure 11-2). This reflected his diminished popularity toward the end of his second term in office.

In order to draft believable caricatures, you need to study the facial characteristics and body language of the politician in question. This section examines several current politicians and leaders and teaches you how to caricature them using not only their facial features but also their body language and personality traits.

Figure 11-2:

The size of President Bush in this cartoon reflects his diminished popularity in the polls as a result of the war in Iraq.

Figure 11-2:

The size of President Bush in this cartoon reflects his diminished popularity in the polls as a result of the war in Iraq.

War Cartoon Pictures

Knowing how to capture a likeness

To capture the likeness of someone famous while caricaturing him is to pick up on key elements of his face and exaggerate them. When caricaturing someone's likeness, you want to study the following:

✓ Natural characteristics of the subject: Focus on features like eyes, ears, nose, and so on, because these are areas that are most recognizable to the reader. George W. Bush has a thin upper lip, and the space between his upper lip and nose is longer than most. Cartoonists exaggerated this in his caricatures while still allowing him to be recognizable.

✓ Acquired characteristics: Identify things like moles, scars, facial lines, and so on, because these unique features can help establish who the person is right away.

✓ The person's vanities: Focus on features like hairstyle, glasses, clothing, and facial expressions. When you have to draw the entire person and not just the face, playing up the mannerisms and body language add another important aspect and dimension to the caricature.

✓ Other key elements: You want to pick up anything else to emphasize and exaggerate in the caricature drawing.

You can see an example of characterization by taking former President George W. Bush as an example. If you study his face, you see that he has a slightly larger space between the bottom of his nose and his top lip. Notice also that his eyes are small and slightly close together. Next, notice his hairstyle. You can see these things reflected in his caricature (see Figure 11-3).

Figure 11-3:

President Bush's caricature reflects basic key elements in his actual face.

Figure 11-3:

President Bush's caricature reflects basic key elements in his actual face.

Cartoon Drawings President Bush

Drawing a president: The how-to

Ushering in a new administration and newly elected president means editorial cartoonists must forget the guy who occupied the office for the last four years and move on to the new guy. The new guy today is Barack Obama, and he's got an interesting face. I take a look and break it down to show how you can successfully caricature it.

You can easily identify the following unique to Obama's face:

✓ Long and narrow facial structure

✓ High cheekbones

✓ Wide smile that shows lots of teeth

✓ Prominent laugh lines on each side of his face and around his mouth

✓ Short, cropped haircut

When drawing President Obama's face, keep those traits in mind and follow these steps:

1. Sketch a long, large oval and draw the center guidelines in a vertical and horizontal direction, as in Figure 11-4.

Figure 11-4:

President Obama's face is long and narrow.

Figure 11-4:

President Obama's face is long and narrow.

Comics Setting Scene

Obama has a long lean face; the guidelines help you properly center and position his facial features.

2. Sketch in the area for his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.

To draw his mouth and nose, draw a line under the center horizontal guideline for the nose. Next draw another line under that one that spans the width of his face and that slightly curve downwards at the ends. President Obama has a great big smile that shows lots of teeth. Obama also has deep, prominent laugh lines that almost touch the sides of his face when he smiles. To draw his eyes, draw two small lines on each side of the vertical guideline. His eyes are squinting, so draw another smaller line under the lines for the eyes that meets towards his nose and moves towards the sides of his face in a slightly downward fashion. Don't forget his ears, which are round and protrude out from the sides of his head. Draw two large oval half circles that begin at eye level and move around and down and end at the middle of his mouth level (see Figure 11-5).

3. Add a shirt and tie to the leader of the free world, like in Figure 11-6.

His tie is slightly loosened and his collar is open just a bit. It was very common for Obama to appear this way, especially during the long days on the campaign trail.

Figure 11-5:

He's beginning to look presidential.

Figure 11-5:

He's beginning to look presidential.

Comics Setting Scene

Figure 11-6:

President Obama has a great, optimistic smile!

Figure 11-6:

President Obama has a great, optimistic smile!

Drawing Obama Smile

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  • pupa
    How to draw barack obama cartoon?
    2 years ago

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