4.1 Caricature and Character

Task

Pick a well-known television celebrity or personality who has a public persona on screen that might contrast with their private life or who has a particular reputation – for example, an aggressive interviewer, a philandering sports person or a vain actor. Your examples don’t
have to be negative, but caricature tends to focus on people’s failings rather than their successes.

Produce a character portrait of this personality. Aim to make the portrait recognisable. This can come from both from the portrayal of the person and by adding in other visual clues. You may want to work from photographic reference material as a starting point.

Then produce a much more satirical caricature of the same person in which you use exaggeration to hint at the other aspects of their personality you know about. Try and maintain a level of recognition, so people know who you are drawing.

Reflect in your learning log whether you have been successful in achieving this. You may want to test your drawings on a friend or family member. Do they know who it is and what traits you are trying to caricature?

Plan

I chose Bob Geldof for this project. Originally this was because of the link through Live Aid with Ethiopia which I am planning to work on for Assignment 5. Also because of the many contradictions in his personality, life and aims. And the controversy surrounding his lack of self control/plain speaking/swearing and making money off the back of charitable activity.

Research

My starting point was to do a simple Google search on ‘Bob Geldof caricature’. It was obvious that he was very easy to caricature in rather cruel and facile ways. There were many caricatures already on-line either just exaggerating his eminently caricaturable facial features and expressions, and also highlighting the widely perceived contradiction between his wealth and promotion of charities like Live Aid in order to reinvigorate a faltering music career.

Paul Moyse Bob Geldof caricature
Tonio caricature of Bob Geldof

See Google search

Cartoonstock directory: with captions such as ‘Feed my Ego’ and ‘Multi-millionaires for economic justice’

Website

http://www.bobgeldof.com

Has photos and music. An interesting use on on-line promotion and web effects to bring everything together.

There are some obvious contradictions in his attitudes. The Feed the World initiative and particularly his earlier characterisations of Africa have been criticised as being patronising and superficial – Africa is a big and diverse continent and most Africans are not waiting to be saved by Western philanthropy. He tends to oversimplify issues based on gut reaction and love of controversy, then changes his mind – as for example his various somewhat contradictory contributions on Brexit where his style and hype often offends both sides. See Guardian article on fisheries and various articles from Daily Star and Daily Express on hi U-Turn (Google search Bob Geldof Brexit U-Turn)

Some of his actions and attitudes have been widely criticised as hypocritical and self-serving – particularly his attitudes to big business investment and tax avoidance. See for example the 2014 article The Hypocrisy of Bob Geldof by Samuel Rutishauser Mills. And highlighted in You Tube videos like:

However, his political convictions are far from fake. Live Aid, whose patronising charitable attitude of ‘Feed the World’ is by no means uncommon and did start a greater level of commitment amongst the Western public towards development issues. Later similar charities like Comic Relief are doing pretty innovative work (and funding some of my own work). Many of the issues where he becomes vocal are not at all clearcut  –  his recent business investment approach in Africa has on the one hand a much less patronising attitude, but is very unclear in its actual benefits from investing in big export businesses.

I also did more background reading on his life. A 2014 article for the Guardian by Miranda Sawyer: ‘We are a normal family. And one of us didn’t make it’ and another 2001 Guardian article by Caroline Sullivan ‘Songs in the key of death’  put him in a rather different light. In the Sullivan article he talks his personal life and the background to the album ‘Sex, Age and Death’, trying to come to terms with his profound hurt surrounding his divorce to Paula Yates and subsequent vilification. Miranda Sawyer stresses his extreme high nervous energy and intelligence. He talks of his unending sadness at the tragic death of his daughter Peaches, and the extent of depression and addiction in his close family. Even though he himself suffered from neither. In both of these it is apparent that he throws himself into music as a means of dealing with personal emotions he cannot express publicly.

This sadness is reflected in his rendering of 2016 rendering of ‘I don’t like Mondays’ which I found really very moving.

Another revealing video shows his attitude to life, morality and religion.

 Development of the image

Based on my research on contemporary caricature  I wanted to take a more in-depth multifaceted approach to caricature rather than simply exaggerating features. Given that I do not have the artistic skills of the satirists I most admire like Steve Bell and Martin Rowson I decided the best approach would be collage – drawing on my research on collage artists like Hannah Hoch and others that I am developing for Assignment 5.

I started by collecting some contrasting photos. These had different expressions.  I also bought a copy of his favourite newspaper the Financial Times to use as a background – choosing the stocks and share page.

I printed two copies of the photos out at full page size and started to cut out different elements. 

I was particularly interested in the one of him as an astronaut. It was almost regal in his grandeur of space travel – an archetype of the rich aspirations. Although possibly he could have made as much of a fortune just with his business investments, his espousal of world poverty concerns had certainly opened doors and is in somewhat stark contrast. I decided to use this as my base image – sporting the American flag. I then saw the collar as an upside-down halo and decided to cut this out from my second copy of the photo as a lopsided saint.

The second element were the hectoring hands and scolding mouth from the telegraph photo.

Then the soulful eyes with their big bags. I cut out an eye from the third photo in the shape of a teardrop to represent the obvious suffering in his personal life. I wanted to make the mouth look somewhat complacent. I do feel that although he gets angry about politics, and the shortcomings of other people’s charity, he does not seem particularly self-critical. The shock of white hair on the left of his head and the cap are part of his self-image of eternal youth.

From the financial times I then chose cutout words of some of the companies he now works with, and I liked the power/share/noticed from one of the adverts for management consultancy on how to get one’s brand noticed. And wrote on two contrasting quotes: Feed the world, then his statement ‘ I do pay my taxes. My time? Is that not a tax?’

 

As it stands this collage gives an overview of what I see of the main facets of Geldof’s personality. The back image he is confident. But the facade is a contradictory mess. I could work much more on this – maybe as the basis for a digital painting.

Physical collage has the disadvantage that you always need to know at what size to print each element before cutting and gluing. Things might be more powerful if I could somehow combine the front and back images into one through digital manipulation. Then maybe reprint and collage.