Cartooning, Caricature and Animation Made Easy

Cartooning, Caricature and Animation Made Easy

by Chuck Thorndike

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Written by an experienced teacher of cartooning, this volume combines The Secrets of Cartooning, the author's first and more elementary book, and The Art of Cartooning, his follow-up, in which he answered questions raised by readers of his earlier book. Each volume in this double edition is complete in itself as a series of lessons. The first part…  See more details below


Written by an experienced teacher of cartooning, this volume combines The Secrets of Cartooning, the author's first and more elementary book, and The Art of Cartooning, his follow-up, in which he answered questions raised by readers of his earlier book. Each volume in this double edition is complete in itself as a series of lessons. The first part focuses on such basics as drawing the head, hands, and clothing; creating expressions; conveying motion; and obtaining shading effects. The second section presents a series of lessons in anatomy, followed by advice about drawing caricatures and detailed instructions for creating images for animated features and political cartoons.

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Dover Publications
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Dover Art Instruction Series
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8.22(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.28(d)

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By Chuck Thorndike

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14814-4




In lesson one of "The Secrets of Cartooning," I explained the fundamental geometric shapes necessary upon which to base a cartoon head. On the opposite page is shown the superficial anatomy of the profile head, knowledge of which is necessary to make a complete and intelligent portrait, modernistic drawing, or cartoon of the same form.

You should not always try to just draw what you actually SEE, but draw what you KNOW is there. Most students concentrate too much upon unnecessary detail and thus lose the feeling of diametric symmetry which is essential in the modern school of art. Economy of line should be practiced in all your efforts. By learning thoroughly that anatomy which affects the form you will not be eternally groping in the dark.

I have reduced these anatomical charts to their simplest fundamentals thus not only making them easier to learn, but giving you the opportunity to concentrate only upon the IMPORTANT FORMS. In drawing a profile, whether it be a portrait, caricature, or cartoon FIRST DRAW A SQUARE. Then draw in carefully the shape of the head. By measuring, if necessary, you can easily ascertain whether the head shape fits the square. If it doesn't (which is often the case) the guide lines can be removed. NEXT LOCATE THE POSITION OF THE EYE. Then draw in very carefully the PROFILE LINE which is the most important line of the head from this angle. Next LOCATE THE EAR and don't be afraid to use the guide lines as shown. Then draw in your jaw angle and lower maxillary process (that part of the jaw bone running from the jaw angle to the end of the chin) and the sterno-mastoid muscle. The temporal arch, Zygomatic crest, and muscles are the forms which help determine your lighting effects.


1. Upon what horizontal lines is the "second widest" part of the head usually found?

2. In what respect does the skull of modern man differ from that of the Neanderthal man?

3. Is the sinus bone projection as prominent in the male profile as it is in the female profile?

4. In using the head (from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head) as a unit of measure, do you measure from the top of the hair or the top of the skull?

5. What is the average distance from the iris of the eye to the bridge of the nose?



First of all, compare the muscle forms as shown in this chart with those in the profile view (see lesson one). When their location is learned thoroughly you can apply them to the head when drawn from ANY ANGLE. Note the geometric shapes at the top of the page. The simpler and more basic you can tell your drawing story the less irritating and more pleasing it will be to your audience.

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that anatomical diagrams have been applied to humorous drawing in a book. It is true that some artists "get by" with a tricky technique or slapstick drawing, but they are in the minority and have been unduly favored by Lady Luck. One good rule to always remember is that "the eye sees color but the MIND sees form." There are reasons for the shapes and lines on a person's face and the reasons are either muscles or bone structure. I want you to note especially the cartoon head with the light and dark values. Whenever a light is thrown on a face, the FORM of the face naturally shapes the shadows. Remember too in the case of a portrait or larger modernistic head it is usually necessary to show the "between tone" that is the halftone between the light and dark values showing the roundness of the form.

Many students are afraid to copy, measure, or use guide lines having such an innate belief in their own ability that they don't believe it necessary. THIS IS ALL WRONG. You can't TRUST your eyes—it's your brain that does the drawing through your arm, hand, and fingers and your eyes merely see the result.

Don't let the Latin names throw you — as a matter of fact, whether you know Latin or not, they are easily translated into their English derivatives.


1. What is the average width of the space between the eyes?

2. What is the geometric shape of the head from the front?

3. If a vertical plumb line were dropped down from the tear duct of the eye, it generally touches the borders of what feature?

4. There are broadly three different types of chins. Name the types.

5. After the student draws the geometric shape of the head, what is the next step?



On this plate you will note that I have drawn on the left the bones of the male figure. I have also named the more important bones and I suggest that you learn them thoroughly. By using the length of the skull as a measuring unit you will note that the length of the body is seven and a half heads.

Below this drawing you will observe that I have drawn the muscles of the body and their relation to the bones. I have also named the more important muscles and I suggest that you learn them thoroughly. Please remember that there is no such thing as EVENLY- BALANCED or DUMB-BELL form in either the arms or the legs. These shapes are ALWAYS on the BIAS as clearly shown by the OBLIQUE GUIDE LINES on the muscle chart. Study the length, junctures, and shapes of the muscles thoroughly as they are MOST IMPORTANT to you in humorous drawing if you wish to get your work out of the "slapstick" class. If you wish to become thoroughly proficient in your work you should be able to draw both of these charts from memory.

Now note the SIMPLIFIED GEOMETRIC CHARTS I have drawn on the right to help you create your comic figure action. Observe how closely they apply to the comic illustrative figures to their right. The first step is to draw the oval for the head (be sure to TILT it right) then draw in your neck lines, then the SLANT of the shoulders, after this draw in the CURVE OF THE TORSO ACTION. The next step is to draw in the elipse for the SHAPE AND SLANT of the pelvis, after this draw a single line to show the action of the arms and legs. By using the small circle you will get your arm and leg joints EVENLY and CORRECTLY placed. This is a very important lesson. Copy it many times and learn it thoroughly.


1. Name the longest bone in the human anatomy.

2. Does the curve of the muscle generally follow the curve of the bones?

3. Can you find parallel shapes in the arms and legs?

4. Is there one projection or two in the pelvic region from the front view?

5. Will a superficial knowledge of anatomy improve the work of a cartoonist?



It is an established fact that a well-proportioned female figure is the most beautiful form in art. It is true that it is difficult to find a near perfect model. She may have a beautifully shaped or even exotic type head and her legs and arms may be perfect rhythms of curves, but her breasts may be flat and sagging or her hips too large. An experienced artist can of course, eliminate these defects but it naturally follows that the better the model the better the results. A good model must also KNOW HOW TO POSE GRACEFULLY and KEEP HER POSE. Hogarth's famous "line of beauty" had its origination in the female nude. (this is technically a long curve and a reverse short curve)

The majority of cartoonists even the professionals, cannot draw beautiful modern women. Naturally, the work of these cartoonists who have this gift is in much demand. If you can join a croecus or life class by all means do so and attend regularly. No matter how talented or well-known an artist may be he is always more or less a student.

Note in the opposite chart the directional line showing the curve of the torso on female figure at left of the plate. Observe also curving guideline keeping arms and hands at even length and balance. In as much as the weight of the figure is on the right, the right hip (or iliac crest and also great trocanter) is higher than the left. Note that the line of the breasts follow the shoulder line. Now apply this knowledge to the anatomical charts on the right and see how closely they follow the humorous illustrations. Your girls must be pretty, modern as to hairdress and figure, and above all FASHIONABLY DRESSED!


1. Does the line of the breasts change with the line of the shoulders?

2. Is the center of a woman's body exactly half-way from the top of the head to the soles of the feet?

3. Do the legs and arms extend in an exact straight line?

4. Can Hogarth's "line of beauty" generally be found in a female nude? If so, where?

5. About how many heads tall is the female figure when seated?



In this chart, notice especially the CENTER BALANCE LINE of the figures walking. In this position, the body weight is almost entirely upon one foot and therefore, to maintain the balance of the body, it must be in the center or directly below the head. Compare the differences between the man, woman, and child. The female figure is longer in the torso, narrower through the shoulders, and wider at the hips than the figure of the male. A baby is about four heads long, a child of five about six heads, a child of nine about six-and-a-half heads. Study the proportional measurements as explained in the chart and DON'T DISREGARD THEM AS UNIMPORTANT. Try to get movement in your shoulder, hip, and torso guidelines, thus getting the action in your entire figure.

Kids are very interesting to draw for a great number of reasons. They should always be drawn in cute attitudes though their mannerisms and "ulterior motives" can be very sophisticated. The tendencies in the modern cartoon is to depict the child in both speech, action, and expressions as knowing more about "the facts of life" than their parents.

It is quite essential to show definitely the AGE of the child in your drawings. Remember that the YOUNGER the child the larger the cranial box or skull in relation to the rest of the face. A baby's eyes are about one-third the distance from the bottom of the chin to the top of the skull. Students invariably make the mistake of drawing the cranial box TOO SMALL in a child. Also study the head proportions in regard to the various ages as shown in the plate. Kids are too nervous to pose long and therefore, you must make quick or memory sketches of them


1. Does the spine or backbone of a baby have as many curves as that of an adult?

2. Is a woman's body as wide through the shoulders as a man's?

3. Is a woman's body as wide through the hips as a man's?

4. Does a girl of five have the same relative body proportions of a fully-grown woman?

5. Is there much relative physical differences in body proportions between a boy of five and a girl of five?



I have been asked so many questions about CARICATURES that they have been featured to a large extent in this book. J. M. Barrie once wrote that happiness is not found in doing as you like—but in liking the things you have to do. I think that in the field of cartooning this is particularly true of caricature. It is caricature that probably approaches that mystical throne of "fine arts" more than any other form of humorous drawing. It is a field that requires special training, special ability, and most of all special desire. The life of your averaged recognized caricaturist has been and is no proverbial bed of roses because caricature like poetry is a criticism of life. Most caricaturists believe quite sincerely that we have only one means of coping with the fantastic events and characters which dominate life. We can be amused. In other words a smile can be better than a revolution and a pencil more convenient than a gun. Many people look upon it as an avocation rather than a vocation. Caricature has been defined as "a portrait in which the defects are exaggerated." A caricaturist, however, must not only be able to exaggerate outstanding physical features but he or she should be somewhat of an innocent mind reader and character-analyst capable of piercing the fog of human pretense.

Well, the truth will out, so I must tell you that the caricatures on the plate are of Edna May Oliver, Katharine Hepburn, and Claudette Colbert. Incidentally you must remember that your caricatures should, if possible, tell a story. In other words use "props" to get your idea over. Hepburn for instance reminds me at times of a "weeping willow" while again she seems to be sort of floating on top of the world. Alexander Woollcott is often shown as an "owl," Ann Pennington as a "frog," Fanny Ward as a "baby"—while other people are shown representing just about everything else.


1. Can you name a noted personage that reminds you of an owl?

2. Can you name a famous dancer who reminds you of a frog?

3. What does Katharine Hepburn remind you of?

4. Can you name a famous person who in your opinion reminds you of something similar in the animal kingdom?

5. Must a caricature head always be drawn large, as in the case of a very tall person?


You get three guesses as to the people caricatured on this plate! Note that in the upper- left-hand corner we have a "straight" or naturalistic portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, while to the right of this are shown the various notes necessary in making the different transitions to a caricature. Such seeming irrelevant things as the slant of the eyeglasses, the wrinkles around the nose and mouth and the size, slant, and placement of the ear are VITALLY IMPORTANT.

Roosevelt has a strong massive head expressing plenty of good character and joviality. These traits must be brought out definitely in your caricature. He also has a habit of throwing his head back and indulging in a hearty laugh. Observe how this is brought out in both the profile and three-quarters caricature immediately below. The Blaisdell pencil technique (gray tones) is applied to bring out the form of modelling of his face, thus adding to the likeness. Immediately below these are caricatures of Eleanor Roosevelt and John Nance Garner. These three great leaders are "naturals" for caricature. To the left of Mrs. Roosevelt's caricature is drawn a small naturalistic portrait. Compare these two drawings and see how the exaggeration is applied.

Probably the outstanding characteristics about Mr. Garner are his bushy eyebrows, the shape of his head, and the mode of his dress. It is only by studying these various things and then applying them in an extremely designed form that you can get both humor and likeness in your drawing. Study these drawings carefully, compare them with photographs, and then copy every sketch on the plate over until you have them down perfectly.


1. Can you get better results from just any photograph of a subject or should it be really typical?

2. Are some angles of a face more suitable for caricature than others?

3. What is the first step in drawing a caricature?

4. Should your caricature be instantly recognized?

5. Do public personages, as a general rule, like to have themselves caricatured? If so, give some examples.


"As soon as an artist has acquired a facility in drawing a head he may amuse himself in alternating the distances of the various lines, marking the places of the features whereby he will produce a variety of odd faces that will both please and surprise him." These rules laid down by a Captain Francis Grose in 1788 apply today.

In the lower left hand corner of this chart, I have drawn the actual silhouette shape of the heads of Jimmy Durante and George Burns. Next to these shapes are the caricatures of them. To my mind GETTING THE EXAGGERATED SHAPE OF THE HEAD is the first step in making a caricature. Of course, you must "over-estimate" the outstanding parts of the physiognomy to the point where it is humorous but not to the point where YOU LOST THE LIKENESS. Most important, I believe is to catch your victim in a TYPICAL or CHARACTERISTIC expression or pose, whether you be drawing from stills or from life. It is sometimes necessary to make many notes and changes before this effect can be achieved. Your caricature should be instantly recognized and above all, unusual. Of course, if your reader does not happen to know your subject there isn't much you can do about it. Caricatures can be experimented with in many techniques. Those of Wheeler and Woolsey, for instance are drawn with charcoal while those of Laurel and Hardy are done with a fine pen-and-ink outline and lamp-black wash.

You should, however, first do all your drawing with a soft pencil until you can develop some knack for caricature before experimenting around with too many trick effects.


1. Does the addition of a wash effect or pencil shading usually help bring out the likeness in a caricature, if so why?

2. Is it possible to make caricatures of certain people using only a single line? Can you name a few possible subjects?

3. Do you believe it expedient to use a "conservative" caricature under certain conditions rather than an "extreme" one?

4. Should a caricaturist know the mannerisms of his subject quite thoroughly in order to incorporate them in his drawing?

5. Do you believe that certain subjects adapt themselves to certain treatments in drawing techniques? Give a few examples.


Excerpted from CARTOONING, CARICATURE AND ANIMATION Made Easy by Chuck Thorndike. Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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