All of us have visited festivals or theme parks where street artists are sketching faces for money. Most often the drawings aren’t true to the person but are caricatures bearing similarities with exaggerated differences. The artists are quite good and most likely can draw faces accurately, but what makes it fun is producing pictures in which one facial detail is highlighted and drawn larger-than-life.
The artist first studies the face he’ll draw, looking for a dominant feature. Maybe it’s a turned up nose or freckles or heavy eyebrows. Then he creates a picture around that feature. Passers-by enjoy watching the face come to life on paper, chuckling as the artist reveals through charcoal or chalk what facial characteristic he’ll overstate.
The one being drawn nervously awaits the end result, knowing he or she will be paying for something that resembles their reflection in a fun-house mirror.
When I was in 7th grade, my family went on vacation, and my face was caricaturized. Although signing up for one of these drawings is risky and the end result often insulting, this artist was kind. I didn’t get a nose and my freckles were pronounced, but “Davo” gave me bright blue eyes and a lovely ponytail.
When Nate was a young lawyer in Chicago’s Loop, an acquaintance was practicing his cartooning and asked if he could draw a caricature of Nate.
He, too, was kind, making Nate look like Robert Redford in an action movie. He gave him the jaw line of Superman and the heavy hair of a Kennedy, and we had the picture framed and hung for many years.
To me, the most interesting part of an artist’s caricature is the moment just before he puts chalk to paper when he’s studying the face in front of him to decide what feature(s) he’ll amplify. It reminds me of how we often see ourselves. We exaggerate certain features in our minds and think other people are judging us as a caricature rather than accepting the real us.
The other side of that is our looking at someone else and judging them unfairly based on one physical feature or even just one facet of their personality. What if the Lord looked at me that way? What if he said, “Margaret, you missed a chance to help your friend today; therefore you’re lazy and self-centered, never lifting a finger to help anyone. That’s how I see you.”
But he doesn’t do that. Instead he sees me through the perfection of Jesus Christ and sets judgment aside because of that.
An artist creating a caricature looks at me with the desire to transform my face with humorous characteristics. God looks with a desire to transform me into a person of improved character. There’s a big difference.
“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:11)