If you have a face, caricature artist Brooke Howell wants to draw it

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Looking for a new Facebook profile picture? Brooke Howell can help. Her company, *LoL* Caricature Company, celebrates its grand re-opening on the 16th Street Mall this weekend and for just $12, you can get a digital caricature (drawn on an iPad), e-mailed to you to use on social media sites, or however you want.

Howell, an award-winning caricature artist, who is the first International Society of Caricature Artists member to live sculpt her pieces, took some time to talk to us about whether her clients ever get offended, the art of her work and her own most caricature-able features.

How long have you been drawing caricatures on iPads?

I just started. I've had a lot of people friend me on Facebook, who I've drawn, and they'll use photos of my drawing as their avatars. So that's where this idea came from. Sometimes the photos of my drawings are just cropped weird, or they cut their friends out, so random arms are on the edges, and when it's digital, they can just put the full-color image right in there.

Is the iPad very different than what you're used to?

The only difference is that I have to worry about technology failures and every program has its own nuances. I had to go through a lot of programs to find one where I can work quickly live and have my library of colors.

How long have you been drawing on the 16th Street Mall?

Just since last summer. I love it. There is an energy out there that is unique to the mall. I've always worked in a closed environment, like an amusement park, or the aquarium, so to be out in the middle of life happening is a totally different feeling, and it's really cool. Also, every big or cool city, internationally, has street artists. It's really cool to be representing that for Denver. Plus I meet and draw neat people from all over the world, which means I have art hanging in homes all over the world, too!

Does anyone ever get offended, when they see their caricature?

It's pretty rare. My job isn't to insult people, but to get an accurate and funny likeness. I have to banter with people, and get them to loosen up and realize that this is about an experience, but not a self-conscious experience. I'm not trying to create complexes. Every once in a while, somebody won't get it, but that's surprisingly rare. There are some artists out there who go for the jugular, but that's not really what we do.

But you also can't candy coat anything. A lot of the times people will say, "Don't do 'this' or 'that,'" but those are things that make you awesome or make you unique. When I first started, I was afraid to draw the really defining characteristics, but if you leave them out the caricature doesn't look like the person. It's important to draw what you see and don't make judgments about it. If you try to gloss over something that's a major feature, then you make it seem like it's a bad quality, when it's not. There's a whole psychology to it.

Have you gotten your caricature drawn before?

I've gone to an international convention and competition five or six times, where about 250 artists compete, and we all draw each other for three or four days. Then we hang up all of our drawing and judge each other based on certain criteria. I've been drawn probably 100 times, and I keep them all. Caricature artists are not afraid to make fun of other artists, so I've definitely developed a thick skin.

What feature is emphasized in caricatures of you?

I have a pretty long upper lip, and that sounds trivial, but that's the difference that will make or break a caricature of me. I also have a pretty triangular nose, from any angle, so those are the two things of me you have to get to draw a good caricature.

How's running your own business going?

Great. I think the thing that sets *LoL* Company apart is that it's the only walk-up caricature stand in Denver -- you don't have to pay admissions to get to us. Sometimes caricature drawing is looked down upon as a low brow art, but it's really starting to be recognized as a legitimate art form. There are people who do acrylic, oil, and now sculptures, and most of the artists I meet at the convention I go to, aren't just quick sketch artist, they are serious fine artists, myself included.

When I started this stand, I wanted to show the world that we're legitimate and we're really good. And I really wanted to have the best artists, like Ben and Mike. We just opened on weekends this month and we've already had people coming back to get caricatures, who came last year. A lot of people recognize the quality and say, "Wow, you guys really make these look like the person, and they're really good." And we really pride ourselves on that.

*Lol* Caricature Company's grand re-opening runs Friday through Sunday, 2 p.m. - 8 p.m., at the Glenarm block of the 16th Street Mall. For more information, or to contact Howell, visit *LoL* Caricature Company's Facebook page.

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