To descend from the sublime to the ridiculous is the caricaturist’s constant effort.... Caricature, contrary to a popular conception, is not incorrect or bad drawing: it is good drawing, refined and controlled to produce a humorous effect. A well-drawn caricature has just as much and oftener more art beneath it than an ambitious painting hung on the walls of an art gallery. A beginner in the art of caricature can do himself no greater service than to get this great truth firmly fixed in his mind.
It is true that “the grotesque and the beautiful are not produced by opposite means, but by the eccentric application in the one of the same laws that govern the other.” It is obvious, therefore, that distortion through ignorance is simply bad drawing; but distortion with an understood motive, regulated by recognized laws, is not only right but more truly ridiculous.
It will be well for the prospective artist to free his mind at the start of any preconceived notions as to his natural ability as a draughtsman; for let it be dis- tinctly understood that some of the greatest artists that ever lived were the poorest draughtsmen, and some of the greatest draughtsmen were the poorest artists. Draughtsmanship and artistic instinct have no more relation to each other than penmanship and literary instinct....
A knowledge of drawing having been acquired, un- imagined pleasures and sensations are opened up to the happy possessor of this accomplishment. It is quite true that anybody of average intelligence can, if he will, learn to draw. It is also quite true that nobody of average intelligence will ever learn to draw, in the highest sense of the word, unless a strong inborn instinct impels him to do so.
A native sense of the ridiculous and a natural gift of sarcasm and repartee are necessary equipments for the comic artist; for a person who cannot make others laugh by the use of language, with which he is thoroughly familiar, cannot hope to do so by means of a few scratches of his pen or pencil in an art in which he has acquired proficiency comparatively late in life. Nothing can be more tiresome than the efforts of a person attempting to be funny who has no material qualifications for such a role....
Talent or genius is artistic perception — the ability to emphasize, select, and arrange natural facts in such a manner as to arouse lively feelings of mirth, sorrow, etc.; to stir any of the wide range of emotions of which the human mind is capable.
Wright, Grant. The Art of Caricature. New York: Baker & Taylor, 1904. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the Getty Research Institute. 19 June 2019.
Last modified 19 June 2019