So I draw little caricature-doodles for fun and am decently good at it. Sometimes people ask me (very casually, not for pay or anything) to draw them. What if this person is overweight or has an obvious flaw like a big nose or acne? Should I draw that in or try to make them look attractive?

Now, I know a really self-conscious person won't ask me to draw them in the first place, but nobody has 100% self-confidence. Do people expect me to make them look attractive even if they know they are not?

However, if I leave off a flaw then the drawing will not resemble the person. Also not drawing in an obvious flaw will ironically highlight it because it says I've noticed it and know it is unattractive enough to modify my drawing.

Is it considered rude to ASK such a thing? Sometimes asking is considered bad like if somebody wants to know if they are fat and you respond with "do you want the truth or flattery". I'm much in the same position

Ok: to stick very close to the interpersonal skills guidelines, here are my official questions:

  1. Do I modify my drawing or not? This is an action to be taken in response to the interpersonal situation of offending somebody by highlighting their flaws.

  2. Is it rude to ask directly if I should make them more attractive?

  3. What phrasing should I use in 2 such that the phrasing doesn't overtly say "should I cover up your ugliness"?

2 and 3 are subject to the person LYING to me, then magically expecting me to know how to act. Americans love to do this. So this brings me back to 1.

  • 10
    Whether you should may not be a question we can answer, since it depends on your customer. So you should ask them. How to ask them is a question we may be able to answer, so you could change your question to ask that.
    – JAD
    Sep 25, 2017 at 6:41
  • Not sure of "caricature-doodle", but if you mean a caricature the definitions of it might help. However, you need to emphasize what the "interpersonal skill" question here is. As written, there is no way to know how the other party might react. You might add some scenarios you envision though. Or some actual experiences.
    – user3169
    Sep 25, 2017 at 20:14
  • 1
    What is the reason for reopening this? There are no examples or situations where interpersonal skills can be specifically applied. Just opinions of what one might expect to happen.
    – user3169
    Sep 25, 2017 at 20:17
  • Are you asking how to "ASK such a thing?". Have you decided what you want to do about this because otherwise your question is still opinion-based and a bit aggressive. You almost sound bothered by those you draw. Have you had people complain to you about including their flaws? How have you handled this so far? Sep 26, 2017 at 10:23
  • Yes, I'm asking how to I nicely phrase "but what about your big nose"? I'm also wondering if people will tell me the truth, or expect me to automatically know that they don't mean what they said? I really have poor "mindreading" abilities and have had situations where I explicitly ask something, get told to do X, but people actually expect me to do Y
    – Flurpy
    Oct 5, 2017 at 2:54

2 Answers 2


Luckily since Cromwell ('warts and all') and photography you will be able to draw exactly as you like.

One caveat.

If the asker never has seen your work. At least announce that you do caricatures. When really in doubt, ask 'do you want pretty-you or real-you?'.

Second caveat.

If the subject is dismayed when looking at the result, either give it in a discrete unmarked envelope or shred it where you stand. Express your dismay they didn't like it.

Third caveat.

Children. Make em nice.
To elaborate: Children have less experience and though pretty resilient can be more fragile than adults. They have less experience in life and so are less able to put a caricature in perspective. So best avoid adult cynicism and err on the side of caution.

So the real answer? Pay attention, follow you instincts. Have you ever had an unsatisfied customer? That will hurt, you'll have to refund.

  • 5
    actually, I would answer: ugly-funny-me :)) as per Wikipedia - Caricature a caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way through sketching. So it couldn't be either pretty or real, don't you think?
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 25, 2017 at 7:39
  • 1
    Can you elaborate on the third caveat? I have some guesses why you would advise that but not having kids, I'm not certain :)
    – Em C
    Sep 25, 2017 at 12:51
  • so I mentioned this is NOT formal or for pay. I get asked really spontaneously because somebody "heard Flurpy was good at art" and I'm bored enough to oblige. The whole doodle would take literally 5 mins with a ballpoint pen. I wouldn't go around with a portfolio of previous works!
    – Flurpy
    Sep 25, 2017 at 15:54
  • To me, it doesn't matter if it's not formal or for money, if do it for art (as it seems you do, unless I misunderstood), right? Therefore, it seems legitimate that you stick to the caricature art of making, and emphazise what needs to be, don't you think?
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:25
  • 1
    @Em C Added some elaboration about handling children
    – Bookeater
    Sep 25, 2017 at 17:22

I'd recommend that an artist should not judge appearances as flaws; rather the flaw is the eye of the beholder. If somebody has a 10 foot long nose, then that's how their nose is, so just draw that; do not condemn it or try to fight with it.

If you wish to flatter, work to make the lines and technique look good within whatever your style is, and avoid mistakes and compositional disharmony.

Grab an anthology of American Splendor and see all the different ways its many artists interpret Harvey Pekar, he's seldom depicted handsomely, yet his personality comes through.

Caricature can draw on the whole chain of visual perception, not just the optic nerves input. Consider the abstraction of the style epitomized by Hello Kitty... it abstracts away the merely visible and hits upon a diagramitic represention of part of the algorithms our brains use to recognize kittens and babies.

  • I agree with you on principal, but aren't caricatures often used for humor by exaggerating features?
    – apaul
    Sep 30, 2017 at 6:07
  • @apaul34208, Yes, often. But not always, (see revised answer above for a less Pekarian example).
    – agc
    Sep 30, 2017 at 16:20

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