Illustrated Portraits

The art of exaggeration

Caricatures exaggerate or distort the essence of their subject. They’re often used to depict politicians and celebrities, so it is key to ensure that caricatures do look like their subjects.

“Once the likeness has been achieved,” says illustrator Stanley Chow (, “then it’s down to deciding whether I want to just concentrate on the head and shoulders or [go for] a full-length pose,” he says.

“The caricatures I do are essentially portraits done in my style; they only really become a caricature when I add a small body, thus exaggerating the size of the head.”

Stanley feels that a caricature can become “just cheesy” if based on a clumsy exaggeration of the features. Which features you exaggerate, and by how much, determines whether you stay on the right side of cheesy, he says. For his part, he usually chooses to accentuate the girth of the neck or the shape of the face.

Illustrator Sam Kerr ( produces humorous images that often stray into caricature. A prime example is his depiction for GQ magazine of musician Jack White playing a cloud-and-lightning guitar (top right). “The image was for a feature on White’s new band, The Dead Weather,” says Kerr. “The idea evolved from using weather as a theme, not just because of the band’s name, but also White’s shifting allegiance to different bands which, wait for it, changes like the weather!

“It’s important to capture a likeness, but for me the emphasis is on the idea, no matter how small or stupid,” he continues. “If you can get your point across in an interesting way, the rest is easy-ish.”

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Read Next...