The Abstraction – Reilly Method for Caricature Drawing

The Abstraction – Reilly Method for Caricature Drawing

So now that you have a successful concept
for your caricature, from your thumbnails and rough sketch, how do you take it to the
next level? How do you go from a rough sketch, to a finished
rendering? Improving your skill at caricature is more
about the art of visual development than it is about any kind of innate creativity. That means that you don’t need to have a special
gift for exaggeration to draw good caricatures. You just have to work hard. If you ask me, creativity is a natural outcome
of being persistent, bold and disciplined. Persistence, in that you need to do lots and
lots of bad sketches before getting to one good one. Bold, in that you need to take big risks in
your drawings and not worry about failing. And having discipline means that you constantly
work to improve your skills and follow a technical process to refine your rough sketches into
a finished piece. Today we’re going to learn a technical process
that will take you from a rough, sloppy sketch to a correctly-structured linear design. The Abstraction The next step is a pretty simple one, in concept. We’re going to do a tracing over the rough
sketch. But we’re not going to just copy the original
drawing. We’re going to change and improve it with
an abstracted version of the head. So the original thumbnail sketch will only
be a very loose guide. We’ll take from it what works, and continue
to make new decisions about it as we draw. This tracing stage is a great time to push
the exaggerations even further. But what is the Abstraction? Put simply, it’s a linear representation of
the head, using flowing rhythmical curves that trace the connections between shapes
and features. The rhythmical grid lines are based on the
anatomy, but they are not meant to be a simple wireframe of the head. They rhythm lines help you find the placement
of the features and how different parts of the head interlock and relate to each other. The Abstraction is a tool to help you improve
the construction of your drawings, and is especially helpful in drawing heads at extreme
angles. You may feel like we’re working backwards
here. We already had a realistic sketch. But now we’re re-drawing it with construction
lines and stripping away the details. But this is one of the best ways to refine
a sketch. We’ve already done the creative work of exaggerating
and finding a likeness in the thumbnails and rough sketch. But by tracing over the drawing and stripping
away the details, we can better find and fix those hidden errors and unintended distortions. The Process If you’re drawing on paper with pencil or
charcoal, use tracing paper or a light box for this next step. Or if working on the computer, reduce the
opacity of the rough sketch and create a new blank layer above it to draw the Abstraction
on. And start by redrawing the biggest shapes
first. But use much more controlled simple lines. Not short scratchy ones. Your strokes should be simple C curves, S
curves or straight lines And don’t draw every contour of the anatomy. Simplify the shapes so that the head looks
more like an abstract robot version of itself. After establishing the head shape, neck and
shoulders, trace the main center line of the face. This centerline is really important, because
you’ll be using it to build all of your other anatomical rhythms around it. Mark the divisions of the brow nose and mouth,
making sure the angle of those marks line up with one another in the correct perspective
for the tilt of the head. In my rough sketch of Putin, the ears didn’t
quite line up as they should, so now you can see how I corrected them in this Abstraction
sketch. Once the ears are in place, I can draw the
rhythm lines from the top of the ears to the sides of the chin. Those rhythm lines can be really helpful in
placing the features on a head at an extreme angle. Another helpful rhythm is that of the muzzle
area. This oval or egg-shaped rhythm follows the
edge of the fat pads of the cheeks down to the jowls or outside corners of the chin. The muzzle can be very defined on older people
and very hard to find on young people. Now that the big rhythms are established,
I can focus on the smaller features. As I‘m drawing the arcing rhythmical lines,
I am continuously referring to the center axis of the face. The center line helps me more easily see if
the eyes in my rough sketch were drawn with even spacing, or if one is further away from
the centerline than the other. The same goes for the angles of the bottom
of the nose and the mouth. By reducing the complex lines of the rough
sketch into simple geometrical lines and shapes, I can be a better judge of my own drawing. I developed this technique of using the Abstraction
to fix my own caricature sketches from years of portrait drawing classes at the Watts Atelier. When a student was having trouble with drawing
the anatomy, the teacher would often draw on top of the students work using the simple
lines of the Abstraction to show how the forms should relate to one another on the face. Applying a portrait drawing technique to caricature
turned out to be a great way of getting a more realistic, well-constructed sketch that
was still exaggerated. As I continue to abstract the features of
the rough sketch, I make subtle corrections to the features as I outline and simplify
them. And I indicate plane changes on the surface
of the face by outlining where pockets of fat and the ridges of the bones protrude. Now that I have the face almost finished,
I flip the drawing in reverse to see if I notice any obvious problems. I make little changes where necessary to make
the head feel more balanced. And once I’m satisfied it is, I now commit
to my light sketchy lines by darkening them. The only major change I make when I flip the
drawing is to one side of his head, which suddenly feels like has too much bulk compared
to the other side. So I highlight that area and move it in a
little. But not so much that I ruin the fun light
bulb shape of his head. Satisfied that the likeness and exaggeration
are still good, I clean up the area I shrunk down so it blends in with the rest of the
head. I’m not done yet, though. Since this stage of the process is all about
fixing minor drawing problems, I’m trying to be critical and objective about the shapes
and the alignment of the features. And if anything needs to be moved or redrawn,
this is the time to do it. At this point, I’m zoomed in close to work
on the eyes and I redraw them with more focus on their placement and angles. The muzzle rhythm and eyebrow shapes are also
changed a bit to improve the likeness and anatomy. Here I start adding a bit more detail than
I normally would for an Abstraction, like shading, more eye anatomy and wrinkles across
the forehead. Normally I would stop before this point. But I thought giving a bit more clarification
to the sketch would help make the likeness more obvious for people viewing this demo. Even though the Abstraction helps correct
major drawing errors, it can often strip a caricature of its personality. But now that the Abstraction is completed
and I’ve fixed the mistakes made in the rough sketch, it’s time to move on to the final
sketch and put the personality back into it. As I said before, learning caricature is more
about the process of visual development, than it is about hitting a homerun on your first
pitch. What’s Next In our next video, I’ll show how I use this
Abstraction sketch to create my final caricature rendering. Who should I caricature next? Tell me in the comments below and I may draw
them in future videos! Premium Section Get the premium caricature course to access
lots more videos of me using the Abstraction to draw caricatures with more extreme angles
and exaggerations. Also, Premium Students can download a step-by-step
guide to drawing the Abstraction that you can print out, and an additional in-depth
lesson on the origins, construction and use of the Abstraction in Caricature. This is a really cool and useful technique,
and we only scratched the surface in this free lesson. To get a true understanding of this drawing
tool, get the Premium Course. If you enjoyed this video, share it and tell your friends. And if you want to get updates on new videos go to and subscribe to the newsletter.

40 thoughts on “The Abstraction – Reilly Method for Caricature Drawing

  1. Great video, my teacher Cedric Egeli studied with Frank Reilly at the Art Students League in the early 60s. These lines were a large part of my training.

  2. I have been following Court's instruction throughout this caricature
    course. I am amazed, not only by how much better my caricatures are,
    which weren't too bad to begin with ( if I may say so) but also the
    remarkable improvement in my realistic/representational portraits (Even
    though I was already quite familiar with the Reilly abstraction)
    Focusing on the exaggeration as well as subtleties of what makes a specific face unique has really given me a better understanding of the features and how small
    changes can have such a significant impact on the likeness. Before
    following this course I definitely overlooked these "minor" details. I
    am truly grateful. Thank you Court!

  3. Great Video, as alway! I've been around on your channel for quite a while now and your content has always been very good!
    I only think that you miss too much as a non premium student.
    Not everybody has the money to subscribe to the premium lessons…
    Maybe you could change that a little…

  4. I wasn't taught this is my college course, my caricature ended up looking really weak and I was not happy with it. I think I might try again after learning this "hidden technique"

  5. This is not actually teaching the abstraction so u can use it in realistic heads. Why would anybody want to learn this before that?

  6. bueno sus video soy venezolano deseo tener sus guia de abstraction me siento motivado para dibujar, se lo voy agradecer si me obsequiar de todo corazon saludo gran programa. desde venezuela

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