How a Maple Grove Resident Became a Professional Caricature Artist

Caricature artist, Lisa Chudyba makes her living by making people smile.
Lisa Chudyba sketches this month's feature subject, Keith Marler.

Maple Grove resident and caricature artist, Lisa Chudyba is inspired by people’s faces. In fact, she has a tendency to automatically see new faces as caricatures and gets excited to draw them. Chudyba earns her living drawing caricature portraits for guests at parties as well as corporate, school and family events. Chudyba has lived in Maple Grove for over 28 years. Her background includes a degree in fine art from the American Academy of Arts. In school, Chudyba studied realistic drawing and concentrated on creating still life portraits. “They didn’t teach caricature in art school,” Chudyba says. But later, she came across a community education class in caricature. “I never thought I could do it,” says Chudyba. “It’s so different from drawing realistic portraits. But I ended up being good at it and have never stopped.” That was 15 years ago. Visualization is the main reason Chudyba thought drawing caricatures might prove to be a challenge. Caricature artists must broaden their thinking beyond traditional art school skills. They must not focus solely on things as they are but search for the uniqueness in a person’s features in order to exaggerate those features in the art. “Some portrait artists are never able to make the switch to caricature,” Chudyba says. Her technique is to focus on head shape. She notes whether a person’s eyes are close or wide set. Do they have thin lips or a large nose? “I try to keep things tame unless I’m given free reign,” says Chudyba. “I don’t want to offend anyone.” She admits she likes drawing college kids best because they are usually up for anything and let Chudyba draw whatever she pleases. Chudyba has drawn infants, folks as old as 104 years old and every age in between. She’s drawn Ian Leonard from Fox 9 News and says she’d like to caricature President Obama. “Some people’s faces are more easily suited to caricature,” Chudyba says. “And the President has the ears thing going. So that could be fun.” Caricature drawing has provided Chudyba work on a cruise ship, on Stillwater paddleboat tours and at the 3M Championship Golf Tournament. She also works from photographs for caricature portraits that make great surprise gifts for retirement or anniversary parties. Once, Chudyba even created a 24-by-36-inch corporate caricature piece that featured all of a company’s employees as animals in a jungle. As a member of the National Caricaturist Network, Chudyba has met and been inspired by caricature artists from all over the world. “The conventions are great,” says Chudyba. “There are guest speakers and famous artists who demonstrate new and different techniques. Some illustrators use computers or iPad type devices to draw their caricatures with a stylus. The craft is evolving.” Chudyba’s work never gets boring. She says, “Every face is different and I love to talk to all the different people I get to meet.” When she’s not out drawing caricatures, Chudyba also enjoys painting animal portraits in her studio at home in Maple Grove. If she could have been anything besides a caricature artist, Chudyba says maybe a psychiatrist. “I learn a lot about people when I draw them. I have to stare at them, which makes some people uncomfortable. I discover what they’re interested in and what makes them tick. Whether they are shy, confident or arrogant. I imagine psychiatry is kind of like that.” Her advice to anyone interested in caricature art is to find as many books on the topic as possible. “It’s all about putting shapes together,” Chudyba says. “Features are basically shapes. You must train your brain to see more than realism. Have fun with it.”