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Stephen Hawking

By Mark Hammermeister
Web: Open Site
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Date Added: 20th September 2013
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Painting a great caricature is about more than just drawing someone with a big nose and calling it a day. You need to encompass the individual’s personality and create an image of the person that sums up what you “feel” a person looks like.

The wonderful caricature artist John Kascht best described a caricature as a “Portrait with the volume turned up.” That’s a philosophy I readily subscribe to. Here are some of the steps I follow when creating a caricature painting.

I was commissioned to do a caricature of the brilliant physicist Professor Stephen Hawking for The Celestial Teapot magazine. I was given free reign by the editor to do whatever I wanted. I have tremendous respect for Professor Hawking, so I knew before going into it I didn’t want be insulting with my caricature, instead emphasizing the man and his tremendous intellect.

Thumbnail Sketches

Whenever possible, I gather as many reference photos of the subject as possible, preferably shot from different angles to get a fuller understanding of what features really stand out to me. Then, after gathering all my images together, I begin drawing little thumbnail sketches to give my mind a chance to wander and figure out what the person really looks like.

I don’t have any set number in mind. I’ll draw as many of these sketches as I feel I need to in order to get a sense of the direction I’m going to take with my final sketch. I generally don’t spend more than five minutes or so on each thumbnail.

Eventually, I’ll narrow it down to the thumbnail that I think best captures the individual’s likeness and use that as the basis for my bigger sketch.

In the case of Professor Hawking, I didn’t want to show his wheelchair at all, so I focused tightly on just his head. Because the Professor suffers from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the lack of motor control creates a very noticeable slant to his features that I chose to emphasize even further.

After creating several thumbnails Mark settles on the one that captures the subjects likeness best


In Photoshop, I created a new canvas that was 4800 wide by 3456 pixels high at 300 dpi. I don’t always sketch in Photoshop, but when I do, I use the pencil brush created by Jan Ditlev Christensen.

I redraw and refine my thumbnail sketch until I’m satisfied with it. It doesn’t need to be perfect, since I’m going to eventually paint over the entire thing, but I do prefer it to be tight enough to be an effective blueprint for the rest of the painting.

Mark refines the sketch until he is happy with it

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