I discovered Chris Chua by accident. One day I was randomly searching the Internet for caricature artists, and came across a name that I didn't recognize(at the time Chris was not yet a member of the NCN) I thought he had a cool name that sounded like a candy bar, and noticed immediately that he was doing something so zany that gave me the impression he was taking dope and dog food. Chris' caricatures were a total departure from the exaggerated squash and stretch drawings I was accustomed to seeing. In fact, his renditions were reminiscent of looking through a kaleidoscope, or at times a broken mirror. The likenesses were definitely discernible from one angle, then when you looked at it again, the likeness you thought you saw, seemed to vanish, only to appear again! It was totally trippy!I remember reading about drawing a portrait on a distorted grid, and this is something he seemed to do naturally.Shortly after finally joining THE NCN, I noticed,that many of the members didn't quite "get Chris" (although many of the members might deny this now)I recall discussions on the forum criticizing his caricatures as not being consistent, or lacking a likeness if the subject. I recall watching Chris with fascination defend his way of drawing, and knew that he was on to something really edgy, different and unique. I wrote him several times encouraging him to close his ears to the naysayers, and to realize instead that soon his style would become a force to recond with, and would give Birt to a host of admirers and imitative. (turns out I was right)
AS ONE OF THE LEADERS IN THE NEW SKOOL OF CARICATURE, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN AN ELITE GROUP?
Umm...I didn't know I was one of the leaders? says who?...so I don't know how it feels...but I like the way "skool" is spelled, so I'm glad to be a part of it! yeah! Oh yeah! skool-aid man! heh.
YOUR STYLE OF CARICATURE CUBISM ,ABSTRACT EXAGGERATION,REPRESENTATIONAL REARRANGING OF PEOPLES FACIAL FEATURES HAS CAUGHT ON IN A BIG WAY . DID YOU ALWAYS DRAW THIS WAY?
Huh?! Again, who are these people that are saying it's catching on?! is it my mom? it's prolly my mom, heh. Actually, my mom is just confused a lot of times when I show her some of my work, heh. Anyhoo to answer your question, no...I was pretty into cartoons and especially comic book artwork for most of my life so my art reflected an amalgamation of those influences...ok, I just wanted to use the word amalgamation...hope I used it right, heh. I was always interested in shapes/design and slowly became more and more stylized and experimental. It wasn't until I caught the caricature bug with my nifty net later on that I played more with abstracting the face more. But the one consistent that I've always done and I think most people don't know about me and still do to this day (although a little bit less) is practice drawing more realistically for practice to keep myself in check so I don't use style as an excuse or crutch. I've always tried to balance moving more and more stylized with improving my knowledge of traditional. I love all styles of art, from abstract to realistic and everything in between and that goes for caricature styles too. I feel that I can learn a bit of something from it all and increase my bag of silly rabbit trixs.
I NOTICED YOUR KNACK FOR DOING THIS YEARS AGO WHEN YOU FIRST CAME ON BOARD THE USS NCN NOW KNOWN AS THE STARSHIP ISCA. AT THE TIME THE NORM WAS DOING KRUGER-esque TYPE OF EXAGGERATED PORTRAITS. DID PEOPLE REACT TO YOUR OFFBEAT STYLE IN A NEGATIVE WAY?
People, as in other caricature artists? or customers? well, I guess it's kinda irrelevant, as I don't think I've gotten that much negative reactions from either...or maybe people just kept it to themselves, heh. But for the most part, fellow artists have been very welcoming and encouraging to my style which has been awesome! I honestly have been blown away by the sheer amount of awesome, friendly, way more talented than me caricature artists that I've already met in the few years I've been associated with caricatures. Seriously, most caricature artists are amazingly cool, willing to divulge their process, down-to-earth fun people! Oh, except Sean Gardner, he's a jerk and a hack. just kidding, heh, he's actually one of my best buds as whale as one of the best caricature artists!
I HAPPEN TO KNOW THAT THE THEME PARKS HAVE A "HOUSE STYLE"THAT EVERY ARTIST ADHERES TO, SO AS TO ACHIEVE A UNIFIED LOOK WITH THE TOURISTS. SINCE YOUR STYLE IS A DEPARTURE, HOW DOES THE CROWD, AND MANAGEMENT VIEW WHAT YOU DO?
I don't necessarily agree with your statement of the "house style" that artists HAVE to adhere to. I've drawn at half a dozen theme parks and have never seen that being enforced...maybe I've just been lucky? At the park I work at and help train I encourage individuality in styles and I'd say pretty much all our 15 or so artists all have their own distinct style, no one really draws like anyone else. Our sales are VERY solid as well and it's rare that we run into any customer issues either. I believe if you can sell it, and regardless of style if it looks professional/executed with confidence and looks enough like what a caricature is, it's fine. As far as crowd reaction, I don't always draw extreme, I pick and choose, sometimes it's based on how much I think a customer will enjoy a more out-there caricature, other times, I'll just do it if I feel like it. I don't think management has much issue with what I do, I'm one of the top sellers in my park because like I said, I don't go crazy on every sketch. I'm a pretty decent hustler and feel like I go about things in a smart enough way to still have fun and do what I want and still make money for my company and myself. Well, I do have a reputation of taking WAY too long on some sketches but I balance it with quicker, tamer sketches and my sales are still very solid, so I can't really see them having too much issue. I rarely get rejected drawings and usually if I do it's oddly enough the more tamer ones where I purposely try to draw a more pleasant and customer pleasing sketch. And when I do the more out there ones, sometimes they are kinda confused, but like I said, I usually am choosier on what customer I think would enjoy that so I rarely get a strong negative reaction.
HOW DID YOU START DRAWING LIKE THIS?
Mushrooms. next question. just kidding. Drugs are bad kids! Stay in school! I mean skool! Actually, it's funny, as I used to get asked every so often if I did drugs when they saw my art, which I don't. and this is before I got into live caricatures where I started pushing it even more too. Anyhoo, as far as how I started drawing like this, I've always been one to keep pushing my art and experiment, never satisfied with most of my work or current style. I've heard people say that you shouldn't worry about style and that it will just come naturally...and to an extent I agree but I pretty much did the opposite of that and have always been aggressively conscious of trying to find my style. I'd intensely study artwork I like and try to take the things I like and incorporate them all into my own art stew style. This was much easier said then done, because I liked SO many different styles of art, like cartoony, graphic, realistic, minimalist, highly detailed, angular, curves etc. it was hard to figure out what even I really wanted especially since a lot of the aspects I liked contradicted each other. I'd say it's only in the last year or so that I feel like I'm starting to figure out what I want, at least the general direction I'd like to take...and even still, I still feel I change my viewpoints a lot from day to day...and especially depending on if I have shrooms or not. just kidding! drugs are bad kids!
WHAT ARE YOUR INFLUENCES, AND HOW DID THEY CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR CURRENT WAY OF WORKING?
Ever since I got the caricature bug/started doing live caricature at the end of 2006, other caricature artists, especially fellow park caricature artists that use similar marker/artstix have really influenced as well as been tremendously inspiring. When I was starting out and trying to teach myself live park caricature, I looked at Brian Oakes' work a lot for inspiration and influence. Other caricature artists that influenced and/or greatly inspired me early on were: Al Hirschfeld, Philip Burke, David Cowles, Steve Brodner, Turcios, Tom Bachtell, Kruger, Grigor Eftimov, Paul Roustan, Aaron Philby, Nate Kapnicky, Joe Bluhm then later on artists like: Andy Urzua, Tomo Tabata, Matt Zitman, Alex Clare, Dan Hay, Marlo Meekins, Sam Gorrie, Pablo Lobato and many more. Also those old great cartoons such as Looney Tunes, Tex Avery cartoons and all that stuff on TV I loved, as well as Ren and Stimpy, Animaniacs, Samurai Jack, Powerpuff girls, some older awesome 2-D Disney films like Aladin, Emperor's New Groove, Hercules. Some anime like FLCL. Hey look! I like to list things! I like all kinds and styles of art, but especially liked things that are more on the stylized, graphic or very cartoony side, so anything I see that falls in those veins I'd say has influenced me. I'm always looking out for inspiring artwork or cool designs, like recently the cartoon animal labels for Suave shampoo for kids really caught my eye. Go google image those and tell me how awesome they are! Comic book art which was my 1st love for most of my life until I found what I feel is my true calling with caricatures so it's definitely influenced my style. Although I'm not sure how much it's influenced my caricature work...well, my live caricature work maybe not so much, but some of my studio caricature work where there's more line work I'd say it's definitely from my comic book art influence. Oh I also loved those old "Garbage pail kids" cards. Those prolly shaped some of my love of demented humor and puns, heh.
IM PRETTY FLUENT IN A VARIETY OF STYLES MYSELF, FROM THE MINIMALISTIC TO THE EXAGGERATED, YET YOUR STYLE I'VE FOUND TO BE THE MOST CHALLENGING TO INCORPORATE. WHAT IS YOUR THINKING PROCESS WHEN YOU CREATE THESE?
My process and way of thinking is in constant flux almost on a weekly/daily basis so it's kind of hard to say a definitive...I do a LOT of sketching of caricatures on a daily basis and make lots of notes on things I want to work on, things to try and/or to remember. I take a lot of pictures of my live caricatures and often go back and study/resketch them to see what I could have done better/differently. A few things that I think have been a more mainstay in my thinking process are: trying to breakdown the face and understand it's unique proportions so if I go for an extreme caricature or even any caricatures really that it hopefully still retains decent likeness, try to come up with solutions that are unique, max out contrasts, avoid patterns/being predictable, a lot of times I don't have a real game plan and just improvise based on the previous line drawn and think more as a design. Also..."wow, how do I fix/save this" goes thru my head a lot of times and sometimes being forced to come up with a unique solution to that problem turns out some of my more favorite and unique drawings.
ON AVERAGE, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR YOU TO DRAW ONE OF YOUR CARICATURES IN A LIVE SETTING?
My live caricature style and speed can vary A LOT. Sometimes if it's busy or I just want to get it done, I'll draw really fast and tamer which can take me 5 minutes or less for each color face. Then if it's slow and I have time I can take 30 minutes or more on each face especially if it's one of the more complicated out there ones. On average for a decent caricature that I don't go one extreme either way and something I can be moderately be happy with I'd say around 10 minutes a color face.
AS A LIVE CARICATURE ARTIST MYSELF, MY MOST CRITICAL AND TEMPERAMENTAL CUSTOMERS ARE WOMEN. IF THE GIRL DOESN'T WANT OR LIKE HER PICTURE, YOU LOSE THE BOYFRIEND TOO. AND THAT'S IF YOU DRAW HER DECENT LOOKING! IN ALL DUE RESPECT, CHRIS, I CAN'T SEE A WOMAN ACTUALLY "WANTING" ONE OF YOUR PICTURES! LOL! HOW DO YOU CONVINCE THEM TO SIT?
Hmm...I don't seem to have as much issue as you do with women customers being critical as you do, like I said before, a lot of it is reading the customer and figuring out if they are ones that would be more accepting of something more extreme. You can exaggerate and stylize to extremes and still make it non offensive or vicious and in some ways make it more customer pleasing than a less exaggerated caricature. Also, when something looks less human and more graphic/iconic it can be less offensive because the viewer associates it less as human and thus the direct connection of "them" is less...hope that made some sense...cause I don't know what I just wrote, heh.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF, WHO YOU ARE, WHERE YOU WORK, AND WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO.
I like cake, buffets, bbq, french fries and long woks on the stir fry. I work as the assistant manager for Kaman's At Shoppes at Dorney Park, in Allentown, PA. My good buddy and one of the best caricature artists, Matt Zitman, is the manager and along with our awesome staff we pretty much rule and have tons of fun while ruling, heh. I look forward going to work every single day, drawing, interacting with our staff and customers. As far as why I do what I do, I truly love the art of caricature and the challenges and limitless potential it has in interpreting someone's face into unique works of art. Doing live caricatures adds a whole other level of unique challenges that is both nerve-racking and tremendously exciting.
WHAT ELSE ARE YOU WORKING ON BESIDE CARICATURE?
ANY PARTING SHOTS?
Most of my work is caricature related whether it's caricature commissions or personal work that is caricature. What can I say, I LOVE caricature! I do still dabble in some freelance illustration and comic book art when it comes up. I wrote and illustrated 4 pages for Marvel Comics' "Strange Tales vol 1." issue #3 called "Suenami Cupcake!" that will prolly make your eyeballs vomit, heh. I also drew in a ton of cameos of my awesome caricature friends...as sea animals. Also, there's lots of violence and silliness. and puns. yeah, I like puns. and cake. yeah, I mentioned it twice. I trade caricatures for cake, heh. no really, hit me up :)
SEE MORE OF CHRIS CHUAS WORK AT....
http://chrischuaartturtle.blogspot.com/ and my webcomichttp://www.tentonstudios.com/webcomics/turdles/
Assistant manager Dorney Park
Kaman's Art Shoppes