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Bill Crowley talks kindness and the art of caricature 

The Cut

click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper

A few years back, earlier in Bill Crowley's ongoing time in a studio in Cottonwood Center for the Arts, a local TV news team was on-site, so he set up his easel in the atrium. He offered to draw one of the TV personalities — who it was, he won't say, beyond female and blonde. But she refused, vehemently, knowing only that Crowley draws caricatures.

"The word 'caricature' frightens people," says Crowley, a New Jersey native celebrating 25 years in the Springs. That's no surprise — having one's features exaggerated to cartoonish proportions can slip from funny to hurtful. But that hasn't stopped this self-described humorous illustrator from making them a major part of his income through his company, Caricatures America.

It's actually informed his approach to his work; every caricature he draws features a big, bright smile.

"Most of my work is gifts or awards," he says. One of the first questions he asks himself is whether his subjects will want to hang his work up.

After he left his job as editorial cartoonist for the Trenton Times in 1968, much of his caricature work was as a contractor at conventions, working for companies like Lockheed Martin. Lately, much of his work is for the military, as farewell gifts for people who've received Permanent Change of Service (PCS) orders.

One of his favorite regulars is the Campbell County Fair in Gillette, Wyoming. The county hires him every year, paying him so fairgoers can get caricatures for free.

"This is where I hear stories, like: 'We check the paper to see if you're going to be up this year, because we have a new grandbaby. We have all of them hanging up, and now we want the new drawing,'" he says. "That's why I go for the positive."

  • "The word 'caricature' frightens people."

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