Hanoch Piven
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My Trouble with Women
posted: January 12, 2007
The teacher of that only comics class I took in The School of Visual Arts was the great Harvey Kurtzman although he was alreadyy very sick and could barely talk, so most of the teaching was done by Sarah Downs....


Every caricaturist will agree that drawing women is more difficult than drawing men. Specially if you know the women and even more if you have to show them the caricature.
Apparently in my first year of studies in The School of Visual Arts I had already experienced some problems with this issue as you can appreciate in one of the very few comix I ever did.
We can appreciate several other things here:
a- it was already very clear that I can't draw..and the world did not loose a comic artist
b- somehow 2 years before I began doing minimalist caricatures with objects I joked with the notion that the less information you put in a face will bring greater involvement (and probably more satisfaccion) of the viewer with the image.

Even now, I try (and not always succeed) to put as little information needed, but enough so the face would be recognized. The optimum for me is when the viewers spend some time with the caricature until they realize who the person depicted is.
Then I know for sure that the viewers became involved with the image and used their own heads to complete it.
7 comments
J.D. King January 12, 2007
True that. And you took a class with Kurtzman the Great!
Zina Saunders January 12, 2007
Ha! Well, this woman thinks the comic is great! And I'm interested to learn your idea that your caricatures not be immediately recognizable...though, to be honest, they always are, to me!
piven January 12, 2007
yes, but his situation was quite sad. he had parkinson disease (if I remember correctly). Nonetheless he managed to communicate his lack of enthusiasm with my cartoon and made me wish I'd arrived to NY earlier.
Robert Saunders January 12, 2007
Hanoch, it's very interesting how less is more, isn't it. I think that it definitely can involve the viewer more than if everything is spelled out in a piece. An unfinished piece is often more compelling and emotionally satisfying than a fully completed one...in the same way that an academically correct, clear work can be boring and conventional next to a work whose intentions are unclear, enigmatic and lacks refinement, polish or resolution. This is always an issue for me, who in my work tend to finish beyond the point where I need to. Two examples I think of where less is more, are Letterman's tendency in his monologue to trail off before finishing a sentence, and Glaser, who gained a reputation for uncompleted-looking images and faces without features. I see other examples of this principle around me all the time. Glad you brought it up. I think I'll start saving time by handing in my final art to the client unfinished.
Steve Wacksman January 12, 2007
A great lesson, especially as I'm trying to refine my portraiture skills. I find that I'm prone to seeing shapes and even patterns in people's faces that don't help the likeness and often hurt. Less...is...more. Got it! Hey, on the issue of Parkinson's - I've found out THIS VERY WEEK that 2 of my favorite artists ( Lowell Hess and Ralph McQuarrie) are living with it. And now Kurtzman. Do you think this is in any way related to toxicity of artist's materials? Lastly, Hanoch, I've found myself really enjoying your posts as well as your artwork. Keep 'em coming!
Adam McCauley January 12, 2007
Hanoch, I learned that lesson with my wife years ago! That said, as I was reading your article I immediately thought of your brilliant charicature of Barbara Striesand you'd done a few years back. Now THAT was a nose that you captured perfectly. Wonder what Babs thought?
piven January 12, 2007
Zina I guess what Im trying to say is that in the cases where not all features are there, then there is still some road to go towards the recognition and that road is made by the viewer (not by me) WITH my caricature. Perhaps earlier I was doing more of that by including less objects like the Streisand one Adam has mentioned. And in those cases the viewer completed the caricature with his vision of the person, just like the woman in my cartoon sees the empty face and says: "you got my nose so well". I like when something like that happens because every viewer ends up with a different image... (though don't now if I answered you question..) Robert I connect to what you say and I think there is a border between un-finished and non communicative. And the role of a good artist is to find exactly that point.. between being too obvious and too personal/abstract/non communicative. If you bring up Letterman I always hated in late night TV (when I watched) the drums after a joke is made in case you didnt get it...to me this is symbolic of being too obvious and expected...but then again 'repetition' is a 'virtue' on TV. Steve W thanks, Im getting addicted, posting what is interesting to me...its a good way to escape work..
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