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Interview With The American Caricaturist Rodney Pike

Still with caricature fans! I had previously published post around caricature from the past few weeks, but here let us penetrate deeper with the amazing American Caricaturist Rodney Pike, one of the most successful artists in this field! You may know him as rwpike, which is his username at several sites he’s a member of. Pike has a very great experience in caricature and digital illustration. His clients include companies such as FHM Magazine, Tennis Magazine, Bauer Media and Miller Publishing group. As well, he is a member of the ISCA and NAPP. Actually, all of his works characterized by high accuracy, unique and have a good imagination in exaggeration approach.
I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy his art! It would be an amazing source for both traditional and digital artists alike.


First of all, I’d like to thank you Mr. Pike for giving us the opportunity to conduct this interview with you despite your preoccupation. Let’s start with how did you get into realm of digital art in general and caricature in particular?

Art has been a part of my life as long as I can remember but my art had taken a back seat to raising children and supporting a family. I put my art aside for about 25 years and over those years lost my passion for creating art. It wasn’t until very recently that my passion and desire for creating art was rekindled. In April of 2010, I entered my first Photoshop contest at FreakingNews.com. I had finally found my niche. Photoshop and photo-manipulation was the medium that I had been searching for all my life. Since that day, my art has consumed me once again as it had when I was a young man. I have been working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week since then studying other artists such as Sebastian Kruger, Max Sauco, Jason Seiler and others while learning photo-manipulation in Photoshop. It was May of 2010 when I first discovered Sebastian Kruger and Jason Seiler and made my first caricature attempt. That started something totally new to me. Photo manipulated caricatures and illustration. It has very quickly become my career and that was not my intent. I started doing photo-manipulation and caricatures because it was fun and it’s still fun, I just get paid for what I do now which totally blows me away especially being so new to this. My clients include such companies as FHM Magazine / Bauer Media, UK and Tennis Magazine / Miller Publishing Group, UK as well as several smaller publications. I also have several deals in the making for some other large international publishing companies.

Artist’s relation with his work is always exceptional, the public doesn’t realize its dimensions. I wonder how you feel after completion of each artwork?

Every piece I do is a learning experience for me. I am very new at this and I have an awful lot to learn so to be quite honest after finishing a piece, I feel like I could do it better the next time. I am very hard on myself because I have so much I want to learn and achieve in my lifetime and I’ve already let half of it pass by. This time, I’m going for it. No limits, which means the work I did this morning honestly does’t have much meaning to me other than it was a learning experience. The work I have already done is history. I have much higher expectations of myself so I take what I’ve learned and I press forward to improve with every piece I work on, or at least that is the intent. I never revisit a project. Once it’s done, I’m focused on bigger and better things. That’s probably not the answer you were expecting but it’s the truth.

The road to creativity might be full of pitfalls and difficulties, whether initially or thereafter. So, what is the greatest difficulties you have faced in this field and how you overcame them?

For the most part it has been smooth sailing. I’ve had a few people who didn’t share my vision of a certain subject but I walk a fine line so I can expect a certain amount of that. As a whole I have really had overwhelming positive support from all over the world and I’m very grateful for that. One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face doing what I do is gaining acceptance from the caricature community. I do photo-manipulated caricatures as apposed to traditional or digitally painted caricatures mainly because I used a mouse until very recently. I have had tremendous acceptance and support from the general public but some traditional caricature artists haven’t accepted my work or me…yet. It’s strange though; I have received acceptance and support from artists like Jason Seiler, Dominic Philibert, Jason De Graaf, Denise Peterson, Pamela Wilson and David Jon Kassan. These are big name artists at the top of their game so I guess that’s good enough for me.

Whatever the artist has achieved successes, and whatever the targets have approached to verification, there are targets and wishes still waiting for the opportunity. What are your wishes which you still want to achieve?

I am a humorous illustrator. I have worked in all mediums but I think Photoshop is where I was meant to be so I will continue to study Photoshop and the art of caricature. I’ve tried my hand at fine art and I did ok but I don’t aspire to be in museums or galleries. I think my work appeals more to every day people who look at an image and can appreciate it for what it is even if it’s just funny. I see my work one day as a framed magazine cover on the wall of a quaint barber shop or in a magazine rack at the checkout line of the local grocery store where those ordinary people pass every day and stop because they see an image that makes them smile. That’s my ultimate goal.

Frequently, the artist may be exposed to the exploitation of creative by pushy selfish people.
How’s your reaction to such situations?

I’ve honestly never had to deal with anyone like that. The magazine publishers have tight deadlines but that’s to be expected. I do get a large number of requests for free work. Some have bugged me a bit about it but I’ve never dealt with pushy or selfish people. Maybe part of the reason is my personality. I have no problem telling clients no or refusing jobs because it appears to be that kind of situation, so I guess I stop a lot of it before it happens.

The caricature artist is always expresses his opinion courageously through his works whether in political or social issues, and as is known, the caricature image is always more informed and louder than speak. For instance, this was evident in all your works about Obama. My inquiry, how do you choose your characters? Is it based on a political issue or there are certain features provoke you as a caricature artist to working on?

Sometimes I choose non-commissioned subjects because I see something in the image that inspires me. It may be an expression, a pose, distinctive features or a funny situation, or potentially funny. Obviously it makes sense to use figures that are internationally recognizable and political figures are always in the news, they are well known, they create hilarious situations or get themselves into messes that make for good illustrations. Political satire is also a historical tradition. People expect it and it’s popular all over the world. I will also say this. I am an up and coming artist and my work needs exposure so I have used that to my advantage. If the image goes over well and is spread over the internet, I stand to benefit from it as far as recognition goes. There are time though that I want to make a particular statement or just do something out of artistic expression which may not be as popular but is often more self gratifying.

From your point, what’s the most challenging thing about Caricature?
Well, it’s all kind of challenging to me at this point because I’m just learning it. I don’t know the first rule to caricatures. What I’ve done to this point is purely instinctive so I look forward to taking formal lessons. No doubt my work it will greatly improve as a result.

Could you briefly describe how you creating your work, how long time do you take, and what are your programs and tools of the trade?
I have no process or method. Everything is experimental and subject to change on every piece I work on. I can tell you this much. I start with a face. I study it and then I take two small versions of the image into Liquify. One to do my “liquify sketch” and the other for reference so I don’t lose track of the likeness. This is a very quick sketch, 2-5 minutes. I then take both images and put on a layer beside the subject for reference as I work always maintaining three images on my screen. The sketch so I can see what direction I want to go in, the small original thumbnail to refer to so I don’t lose likeness and the third is the actual work I progress. That’s about as much of a method as I have to this point. Then I start working on the caricature. I do use adjustment layers and masking. I am trying to get myself in the habit of non-destructive editing which has many benefits and lends much more versatility. Anyhow the bottom line is no big secret, no fancy stuff and no magic tricks. I use Photoshop CS5.5 with no extras. I use the warp tool for 95+% of my work. I do take the image into liquify for minor tweaks and getting to those areas that are hard to get with the warp tool. There are many artists out there overusing the liquify filter and you can tell. It damages pixels. No way around that so use it sparingly. You can refer to my blog and search (WIP) and find several posts I’ve made showing these techniques. Remember, these are my methods, I’m not saying they are the correct ones. Study the Masters.

How did you improve your work and technique?

By working my ass off. Don’t know if you can print that but  it’s the truth. I am 100%, totally, completely and utterly consumed by my work and learning the art of caricature. I work from the moment I get up until I can’t see straight and then I go to bed. I also study other artists and the way they interpret things as well as their styles and techniques, but don’t try to copy someones style. Create your own. It’s a natural process and will come with time. Another thing as I mentioned before is continually seek inspiration. It’s the fuel to creativity. I am in constant pursuit of inspiration in everything I do.

What does caricature add to you as a person?

For the first time in my artistic life I get fulfillment from my work. I’m never satisfied with my work but I do enjoy it immensely. Also knowing that so many people enjoy what I do and some find inspiration in it is very gratifying and humbling. Every compliment I get is precious to me and though my friends number in the tens of thousands, every one of them is important to me, and if that ever changes, may someone smack me up side the head with a brick.

Caricature as a funny satirical art may be accompanied by some funny or strange situations. What’s your most unforgettable situations with your art?

I guess the most memorable caricature project I’ve done and I think it’s one of the funnier ones was “The Obama Sisters”. That was one of the most complex manipulations I’ve ever done using over 150 different source images. The idea came to me in bed one night and I just had a blast on that piece. Doing Obama as his own two sisters just really struck me as funny and I giggled through the whole thing. It’s not my best caricature work but most people like it and I really enjoyed that one.

Without feel, have to shot a sudden laugh especially when seeing them for the first glance!
Huh! They are really incredible! XD

Last but not least, do you have any tips for upcoming caricature artists?

I think inspiration is everything. Surround yourself with people and things that inspire you and experiment with new techniques and practice, practice, practice. In other words, be willing to work your ass off.
I think that talent is nothing more than the shear desire to achieve an artistic goal. The only limit to your success in art or anything you aspire to achieve is the limit you put on yourself by your own doubt. I don’t set goals. I believe goals are limits. I try to set milestones, moving from one to another continually striving to improve and get to the next level. Why put a limit on yourself. Aim to be the best, believe you can be the best and work with passion to be the best (without doubt), and if you want it bad enough, you will achieve it. There is a quote that I love; “The question is not how far. The question is, do you possess the constitution, the depth of faith, to go as far as is needed?” ~ Unknown author.

I liked how spontaneously you are! you answered extensively, and didn’t hold back.
I repeat my thanks Mr. Pike for the rich dialogue!  It was really informative for both amateur and advanced artists. We’re honored to have you here and look forward to seeing your next projects. =)


Where to find and come into Rodney Pike on the Web:

Behance | Deviant Art | Facebook | Twitter | Blogspot | Google+ | Linkedin | About Me


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