As an artist I’m not particularly skilled at likenesses. What’s a likeness you ask? That’s when an artist draws a specific person so it looks like that person. If someone draws a picture of John Wayne it is immediately recognizable as John Wayne. That’s a skill that artists posses in varying degrees. Some have a natural talent for it but in the end it takes practice and it’s not a skill I practice much.

There are two ways to capture a likeness. One is by looking at the person as you draw. The person poses for you. This is the classic artistic method that goes back to the beginning of drawing. You see the person and you draw the person. Sure there are various tips and tricks in drawing a person but in the end it’s drawing from life. The second way is to draw from a photograph of the person. This is by far the more common way these days as photographs are easy to find or to make. It’s a lot easier to find a photo than to find a live model.

Drawing from a photo can be further broken down into two methods of working. One is to just look at the photo and draw from what you see (using a grid over the photo would be a variation on this) and the other is to drop a piece of paper on top of the photo and draw right over the top of it. Though you have to make sure you draw. Don’t trace. There is a difference. Tracing leads to an amateur job. This drawing method can also be done digitally.

I bring this subject up because I was working on some likenesses this week. I decided I wanted to make some cartoon art cards of the cast of the TV show “Friends.” Cartoon art cards are the art cards on which I draw a character’s face and a word balloon and then write and letter something for the word balloon. I usually make up the faces or sometimes draw known super heroes but this time I wanted something different. I wanted some likenesses.

This isn’t even the first time I tried to draw the cast of “Friends” as cartoon art cards. Last year I attempted the same thing and failed. I picked an episode of “Friends” and took screen shots of the various characters to draw from. It was season seven episode five. I tried the drawing right on top of the photo method and failed miserably. Nothing came out right. It all looked terrible and I abandoned the cards. That’s never fun.

This time I decided to give it a try but not draw over the photos. I’d look at the photo and then draw. I’d try to capture a caricature or likeness without copying the photo. This method can be even harder but I gave it a try. Keep in mind the drawing is also very small. An art card is only 2.5×3.5 inches and there is a word balloon on top. That means the face is only about an inch and a half tall. That is a really small face in which to capture a likeness. Especially of such well known faces.

I remember being told in my early 20s that I had a talent for simplicity. I didn’t like that idea very much. Complexity is much more praised in the world of drawing and it took me a long time to embrace my talent for simplicity. Simple is also very hard. When drawing something with very few lines there is not any room for error. If I were to define a face with a thousand lines I could be off with fifty of them and no one would ever know. They blend right in. But if I try to draw a face with thirty lines I can’t be off with any of them. They all count. If one or two are wrong they stand out. There is no place for them to hide. So attempting to do likenesses with simple drawings is a tough gig. That’s why I failed the first time.

Of the six cards I drew I think Phoebe came out the best. I think that might be because her hair in this episode was so distinctive. I captured her face shape fairly well and her eyes are good but her nose and mouth are pretty generic. There is no way they really can be anything else. They are so small.

I think Monica is also okay but only because of her hair. She has long, straight, jet black hair in this episode and it’s pretty distinctive. I only did okay in capturing the shape of her face and I missed a bit with her eyes. But they’re only a sixteenth of an inch high so I did what I could.

Rachel’s hair is also okay but her face is generic. I didn’t manage to capture the quality of her jawline or her eyes and nose but it’s still an okay little drawing. In context I know it’s Rachel but if I saw it as an individual drawing I might not get who she is. I like the drawing though.

Chandler came out the most like a caricature. Maybe it’s the glasses but he looks like a cartoon version of Chandler more than the others do. He might be able to guest star on an episode of Scooby-Doo. I’m not sure if I want them all to go in this direction or not but I like this Chandler.

Ross is solid. His sticking up hair is close but just misses by a little bit. I think I captured something with his eyes though. Like Rachel he works in context but maybe not on his own. Room for improvement here.

Joey was the most trouble. I couldn’t get him at all through three tries. The one I show here works but I had to do it by the “Draw over a picture” method. No matter how matter how much I tried I couldn’t capture his look. I like the way his hair came out here but previously I couldn’t capture it at all. My first three Joeys looked nothing like him. Even in context he didn’t read as Joey. It was really frustrating and I gave up twice before switching methods. I’m much happier with this one.

Overall these likenesses, except for the first three Joeys, went pretty well. I’m putting them up for sale on my Etsy page and maybe someone will buy them. If they do I might do some more from another episode. We’ll see.


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