Up Close and Personal with Ramish Safa

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Taskeen Zahra chats with the super cool owner of The Caricature Shop about MAD Magazine, getting into the zone and funny clients

Tell us a little about what you do.

That’s the kind of thing I’ve had trouble explaining to people for a while now. Actually, half of my family is still trying to grasp it. It’s easy to tell someone you’re a banker or a dentist, but telling them that you’re an illustrator who specializes in cartoons, comics and caricatures tends to confuse them. If I tell them I am an artist, their second question is almost always, “Yes, but what do you really do?” So to make it easy for everyone, I am going to say I am a “designer”.

Tell us a little about your educational background.

I went for my O Levels as a pre-engineering student and disappointed my family of engineers by sucking terribly at math, chemistry and physics. In A Levels, I switched to commerce and found my calling. 5 years later, I graduated from business school and this is probably where you start wondering what happened to art school. Well, I never went to it.

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How would you describe your aesthetic and style?

I think my drawing style is a mixture of several of my influences. So it’s MAD magazine meets Cartoon Network meets Marvel comics. There’s a lot of line-work and a lot of cell shading instead of digital painting.

How did you get into making caricatures?

That would be thanks to MAD magazine. I remember picking one up at a “raddi paper wala’s” theila back when I was maybe 10 years old. And it opened up a whole new world for me. I mean, I was a fan of comics and cartoons before, but seeing these expressive, exaggerated drawings really got me excited. I absolutely loved the style. But it wasn’t until my late teens that I actually started drawing them. Up until that point, I would just collect those magazine and get fascinated by the artwork.

Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you begin a new piece and what inspires you?

I start by asking the client to send me a detailed description of what they want, and to list their influences. Then I doodle some casual drawings until I get the feel of it. Once that’s done, the hard work starts. There’s cleaning up the doodle, laying down the line-work, filling the drawing with flat colors and then shading and rendering. The weird thing is, I listen to the same song over the course of one artwork. Every art piece has a specific mood, and so I find one suitable song for it and play it on a loop for hours. It’s weird but it gets me in the zone.

Roughly speaking, how long does it take to make a caricature?

About 4 hours, depending on the amount of detail the client has asked for.

When do you know a piece you are creating is finished?

Sometimes, to be honest, you don’t. Sometimes, you get so engaged in a piece that you just don’t want to stop. For all other cases, I know it’s done when I’ve put my logo on it and saved the file. That’s my que, haha.

Are people generally appreciative of your work?

Oh, absolutely. When I started this, I didn’t really think it would come this far. There’s no doubt about the fact that some caricature artists make really, really ugly drawings. I am not saying their artworks aren’t cool, it’s just that from a customer’s point of view, they’re not very flattering. I think I haven’t pushed my style that far. I don’t make fun or mock people’s features. Instead I treat them with respect and the end result is, pretty much always, appreciated.

What is your favourite caricature so far?

It would definitely have to be one I made for these three ladies who were fans of The Cookie Monster. It was actually one of my defining caricatures, and I switched my style up after that. I love it and put it up on my portfolio to this day.

The cookie monster caricature he mentions as his favourite in the interview

Is there an artist’s equivalent of “writers block?”

There is. However, when you’re in the commercial art business, you learn to deal with it because you can’t afford to have one. Artist’s block also means cash block, haha! And that’s the kind of block you don’t want to be cursed with.

What are your plans for the future? What are you working on right now?

Right now, I am looking at expanding. I need a bigger team to cater to the growing demand for caricatures. This is also an open invite for digital artists who want to work. Come forth and apply.

Advice you would give to a younger you?

Get a haircut.

What is the funniest encounter you’ve had with a client? 

I think the funniest for me is when people send me their photos thinking it’s a free service and go like, “Hey, please make this”. But as far as unreasonable go, I had this one lady once who got super pissed because I made her face seem bigger than her husband’s in a couple caricature. I thought it was a great piece. She just didn’t see it.

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If you could gift a caricature to someone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

If I respond to this, I am agreeing to the fact that I do free caricatures. I don’t. I DON’T!

Follow him on: https://www.facebook.com/TheCaricatureShop/

Find him on instagram @safadrawstheworld

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