Understanding Caricature: An Artist's Practical Guide to Creating Portraits with PersonalityGreg Houston

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A Monacelli Press title.

A truly comprehensive and laser-focused examination of a really wonderful, expressive art form. Understanding Caricature offers artists, aspiring artists, students, journalists, bloggers, etc. a lviely guide to an old and respected art form. A great caricature in one that not only captures the subject's look and personality but amplifies them significantly. They are almost always funny and very often (but not always) mean spirited.

Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hairline, cheeks, eyebrows, teeth, chin: There’s no facial feature (or any other body part, for that matter) that can escape the sardonic scrutiny of caricaturist and illustrator Greg Houston. But though he cleverly twists, exaggerates, and distorts each subject’s image, he always makes sure the person remains recognizable—an absolute must for successful caricature. Whether on assignment or simply drawing for his own perverse pleasure, Houston loves skewering the high and mighty—movie stars, moguls, politicians, and assorted other VIPs—especially when they misbehave. Caricature, says Houston, is a very sharp weapon for the powerless to use against the powerful, and he can teach you to wield it, too.

After defining caricature, differentiating it from other forms of portraiture, and delving into its centuries-long history, Houston gets down to the nitty gritty of how to do it. He focuses sequentially on the face, the hair, the body, and what he calls "accoutrements"—distinctive items of clothing that help viewers immediately identify celebrities. You yourself will learn to poke artistic fun at the famous through a series of demonstrations that let you follow Houston as he constructs caricatures of Jake Gyllenhaal, Masie Williams, Dwayne Johnson, Rainn Wilson, and other notable victims of his wicked pen.

But Houston doesn't focus solely on his own approach. A whole chapter of Understanding Caricature is devoted to other contemporary caricaturists and the signature mediums they work in, ranging from traditional oils and watercolors, to digital drawing and painting, to sculpture and even puppet-making. And the book’s final chapter displays the work of students who’ve studied with Houston at his Baltimore academy. Brilliant in their own right, these pieces also demonstrate how any artist, with Houston’s guidance, can become a skilled practitioner of the caricaturist's art.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Size: 254 × 216 mm (10 × 8 1/2 in)
  • Pages: 176 pp
  • Illustrations: illustrations
  • ISBN: 9781580935647

Greg Houston was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. He earned his BFA from Pratt Institute and has been illustrating professionally since 1988. His portfolio is large and stylistically vast. Greg Houston is an award winning illustrator with 30 years of experience. He's worked for all types of clients in nearly all areas of the industry. His goal is simply to continue to create images at the highest level for as long as humanly possible. Specialties: Drawing (ink, color pencil, charcoal, graphite); painting (acrylic, watercolor); portraits; caricatures; landscapes; editorial illustration (narrative, conceptual, stand alone images, sequential images); graphic novels (writing/illustrating).

Greg is a co-founder (since 2015) and instructor at Baltimore Academy of Illustration. Greg also taught at MICA (Maryland) in both the college and pre-college programs and at the online arts site, Craftsy/Blueprint. He's the author of Illustration that Works, Monacelli Studio, 2016. He lives with his wife in Baltimore, MD.