Although I normally discuss some aspect of art history, or some broad subject interesting to, or pertaining to artists in general and painters in particular, for once I'm going to try something I've never done before--an art lesson. It'll be short and sweet...or in this case, perhaps sour. It's a lesson in how to amuse and alienate most, if not all your friends by making them look silly. First, you wheedle a picture out of them. It may or may not pay to tell them what you want it for, but just get your hands on a nice clear head shot--something on the order of a high school yearbook picture--only hopefully more recent than that. Then get out a piece of ordinary typing paper and an ordinary #2 pencil (we don't stand on ceremony around here). Next, study the photo. Be objective and highly critical. What is the poor sap's most prominent feature? A high forehead, big eyes, big nose, tiny mouth, WAY too much hair, monstrous smile, skinny face, double chin, Clark Gable ears--whatever you do, find something.

DON'T start by drawing that prominent feature. Start with the eyes...BOTH of them, one eye width apart, cartoon-like, no shading, only lines, exaggerate them if they are the most prominent feature, shrink them if they are a little small. Draw lightly so you can erase because you WILL erase--a LOT. Follow the old rule: "Draw it light 'til you're sure it's right." Then move on to the nose. The nose is the LEAST attractive part of the face so here's where you can really shorten your Christmas card list. Remember if the nose is tiny, make it tinier. Remember also, no shadows, only lines but you CAN crosshatch if you feel you must. Next move on to the mouth. Big smiles are always flattering and if the face is a walking toothpaste ad, really pull out all the stops. Okay, if you can't see a likeness yet, stop now and work on it. Use whichever end of the pencil is most effective.

Okay, when you can see some resemblance, install the jaw line. Here you can almost always exaggerate, size, curvature, size of the chin, LACK of chin, NUMBER of chins...remember, blasphemy is hard to prove in court. Follow this up with hair and ears. Keep it simple, tip of the pencil for the hair--one hair at a time (no, don't COUNT them...geesh!) Exaggerate the size and shape of the hair if you want, or if the figure is bald, be kind and give him the benefit of the doubt--draw at least ONE. Follow that up with the neck, usually too long or too skinny, or BOTH. Tiny shoulders work to emphasize the head, accentuating the cartoon quality, and for best results, make a body DOING something appropriate to the character. Finally, when finished, slip the drawing into a plain, manila enveloped addressed to the victim, seal it, then wipe it down for fingerprints. And, if you're really good, think about changing your place of domicile.