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Market Drayton caricaturist Chris Ryder talks about her work

By Heather Large | Entertainment | Published:

Chris Ryder is fascinated by faces. So much so that she has made a career out of capturing different personalities on paper.

For the past 17 years, she has been working as a caricaturist and has drawn thousands of people from wedding parties to celebrities.

She travels all over the country with the aim of bringing smiles to the faces of everyone she draws at an array of different functions.

Her caricatures have ended up all over the world and for the past six seasons she has also been drawing fans in the hospitality suites at Liverpool Football Club.

"I feel like I'm leaving a little legacy to people and leaving them with something they will hopefully treasure forever," says Chris, who lives near Market Drayton.

The former primary school special needs teacher is a self-taught artist. "I grew up drawing. I would come home from school and start drawing every night and experimenting with different materials.

"I was always fascinated by faces and I started doing animal and people portraits. I never thought it was something I could make a living from and I did my degree in teaching.

"Over the years my portraits evolved to have more of a caricature style.

"Then a friend of mine married a magician and set up an entertainment company. They told me I could do what I was doing as a business and pushed me through the doors of a sixth form ball. The rest is history," explains the 50-year-old.

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Since then she estimates she has easily drawn hundreds of thousands of people with famous faces including iconic Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and former long-distance runner David Moorcroft.

"I've lost count but it really is thousands upon thousands upon thousands. I can do 80 in a day if I've got a wedding during the day and another in the evening," adds Chris.

Speed is important when she is doing caricatures at a function because she wants to ensure she can get through as many guests as possible during the event.

Chris either uses a brush pen and paper or, more recently, her iPad Pro and an Apple pencil to bring her pictures to life.

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An on-the-spot drawing can take around five minutes per person and can sometimes be even quicker, if Chris is drawing three people on one sheet of paper, such as a family or team group.

"I'm looking for something that stands out on their face and how they smile. I have a way of working that helps me to be quick and I can do about 12 to 15 an hour.

"I start each caricature with the nose, then the right eye and right eyebrow and then left eye and left eyebrow before the rest of the face.

"I can tell by the individual or the type of event as to whether I can exaggerate a feature or tone it down a bit. Some people will like exaggerated features while others will want something less so.

"People can be very nervous especially if their friends are standing behind me and can already see what I'm drawing.

"I keep chatting to them as I draw to make them comfortable and then there is a big reveal. Everybody loves it, I think because it's a bit of fun and a great momento to have from an event.

"It's a great ice-breaker at an event too and brings people together," she tells Weekend.

Chris also does commissions working on size A3 or A4 paper and in colour or black and white. These are often purchased as gifts for people while she has also done drawings, including the England cricket team and cast of Aladdin at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury.

Technology has changed the way she works with customers keen to have digital copies of their pictures.

"The art of caricature is really changing and we have to move with the times. I now use an iPad Pro and an Apple pencil and that means I can add colour and I can instantly email them the caricature," explains Chris, who has also created her own drawing kits for children.

The only challenging part of the job can be a gruelling schedule but she says it's all worth it.

"At the time of year, I'm going from one party to another so it can be quite exhausting when I'm drawing non-stop all night but the adrenalin keeps me going - I love it," Chris tells us.

"I'm really grateful to have this skill. It's transformed my life. I've been to places I would never have had the chance to go to and met all kinds of different people. It's been a real privilege to work with Liverpool.

"I've met people from all over the world and my drawings have gone back to places like Norway, Australia and America and that's a really lovely feeling.

And she knows just what it's like to pose for a picture. "I was working at an event with eight caricaturists so we all had a go at one another which was really fun," says Chris.

"I really enjoy people watching. I'll be sat in a cafe, spot someone and think 'I would love to draw their face' or 'haven't they got fabulous hair?'.

"It's a great job to have. Every day I wake up and think what a great job I have. I love meeting people and playing a small part in their lives," adds Chris.

*To see more of Chris' work go online to www.wittypics.co.uk

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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