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A caricaturist is an artist who creates portraits of people in which features are grossly distorted, but the subject of the portrait is still recognizable. There are a number of venues in which a caricaturist may work, ranging from sidewalk street fairs to the editorial departments of magazines. In order to work as a caricaturist, an artist needs the ability to work quickly, in addition to possessing a strong ability for illustration and the development of accurate likenesses. Some people approach this career with no education, while others pursue degrees in art, illustration, and related subjects to hone their skills.
When a caricaturist is presented with a subject, he or she looks at the subject to identify unusual features or features which deviate from the norm for the purpose of finding features to exaggerate in the finished drawing. The caricaturist may also attempt to learn something about the subject, so that he or she can include commonly recognized symbols in the portrait. For example, a banker with small lips and big ears might be caricatured in an illustration with monstrous ears, tiny lips, a monocle, and a top hat.
Some caricaturists work in political cartooning, turning the events of the day into illustrations which can be used to provide information or commentary. Political cartoonists want the subjects of their cartoons to be recognizable to readers, but they also want to play with the presentation of their subjects; the goal is not accuracy, but lampooning which everyone can clearly interpret. Working as a caricaturist in this field requires a high level of political awareness.
Caricaturists can also hire themselves out at events. Weddings, parties, conferences, and other events may have a caricaturist on site to draw quick portraits which are used as mementos or ice breakers. Working at an event can be interesting for an artist as it exposes the artist to numerous different kinds of people and a wide array of facial variations. Similarly, a caricaturist can work as a sidewalk artist, drawing quick caricatures of passerby for a small fee.
This type of work requires a high level of artistic skill, despite the sometimes childish appearance of caricatures. It also requires patience and the ability to draw large amounts of work. A caricaturist at an event like a wedding, for example, may make dozens of caricatures in a single day, and each has to be unique, engaging, and interesting.
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