While I’ve always expressed disdain towards my family’s suggestions of becoming a caricature artist, I do draw mutant portraits of people at conventions. Zombie portraits were a popular thing for a while there, so I decided to do something similar, but based more on ideas I’d explored through projects like Embrace Infection.
Most of the folks who get them are pretty attractive, a fairly even split between men and women. I get a kick out of getting paid to turn them into monsters. I ask them what size sketch they want, make them take a selfie on my Kindle Fire (which is always fun to watch, some are pros and others act offended by this step), and go from there. Occasionally I’ll ask if there are any specific features they’d like to have. Sometimes they’ll ask for certain things, but usually I’m just left to my own devices, putting extra eyes and lumpy parts wherever I want. I always skew towards comical, absurd features. I really don’t want to freak out or offend anyone, and I’m always mindful not to do anything that they may consider insulting towards them.
There’s a sentimental level to it. I’ve done sketches for people who later drag over friends or loved ones to get me to draw them. I had a couple friends throw down an absurd amount of cash at a recent con so I could draw them and their pets. I did so many drawings of children at Free Comic Book Day a couple weekends ago that I lost count. People, no matter what they look like, seem really into letting me turn them into horrible monsters. They find it endearing. I feel fortunate to be able to create something like that for them. These things connect with people in a way that my actual comics and prints I sell can’t, which is why I usually do more sketches than anything else.
It’s nice to take my obsession with body horror and transformation, based on my own insecurities, and turn it into something fun. It’s like some kind of cathartic magic. I don’t get it, really, but I like it a lot. It somehow makes me feel better about my own appearance, as I will probably forever look like a 14 year old still fighting acne problems no matter how nice of a tie I wear to a convention. I hope that it helps the people who buy them feel good about themselves, too.
That’s another reason I started this project: when I draw somebody, I really enjoy looking closer than usual at their features, things I may casually overlook, and doing my best to illustrate them. There’s potential in drawing to take something you may find ugly about yourself and make it interesting and cool, like how I enjoy drawing my own acne even if it makes me wince in the mirror. I think I tried to get that across in the first comic about myself, but I don‘t know how well I pulled it off.
In a couple days I’ll be at XCON in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I’m hoping I get to do a lot of mutant portraits there. I hope to do more pets too, those are kind of my favorite.