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The Art of Caricature – The Hobby that Became A Passion

In Hans Deconinck’s home town, celebrities don’t live in mansions the size of mega-malls. Their breakups and breakdowns aren’t flashed across national TV. In fact, the one person everyone knows in West Flanders, Belgium, lives a quiet, unassuming life, and not everyone would even recognize his face. But, everyone knows his name. And, almost everyone has a piece of his artwork.

“In this part of Belgium, not many shops, laundrettes, or pubs don't have a painting by master caricaturist Rik Delneste (more commonly known as “Nesten”) in the window,” Hans said. “A caricature of the owner, or the business, is funny displayed in the glass.” Caricature, done well, is seen as an art form and caricaturists like Nesten have a special place in the community. “At events, [like] sports events, he's always there. He works extremely fast and accurate. Everyone knows him, even without his brushes or canvas.”

“The hobby became a passion,” Hans continued. “The passion has never stopped.”

Hans Deconinck

It was Nesten who first got Hans interested in caricature. “Ever since I was little, I have been drawing,” Hans said, “I discovered a few caricatures on the windows from shops, pubs, garages, etc., all done by Nesten.” Hans began drawing on his own, emulating the “master,” but he found his art to be a source of frustration. “I drew many caricatures, but of poor quality and gave up,” Hans said.

Things changed when the world went digital. “I discovered a little pressure sensitive tablet and a free painting program that came with it,” Hans said. “From that moment on, drawing caricatures was all I did. The airbrush made it all look so clean, so smooth. I admit, I’m an addict.”

“The hobby became a passion,” Hans continued, “The passion has never stopped.” For many years, however, the passion remained a hobby. “I did it to relax after a hard day’s work,” Hans said. “I never published anywhere, never earned a cent with it. I made caricatures for my Web site, or to return a favor (a revenge caricature) to an upcoming talent who drew me. Or, as a present to a friend.”

“This is the version that will turn heads. Now, Paint Shop Pro has stepped up to the level of the ‘big guns’.”

Hans Deconinck

Eventually, Hans' passion lead him to Paint Shop Pro. “At the time I started drawing caricatures, I was always buying magazines related to digital art,” Hans explained. “One of them came with a free version of Paint Shop Pro 4. I had seen many programs – but a user friendly one like that – even bundled with a browser? Wow!”

Hans continued using Paint Shop Pro for his caricature work. But, he didn’t become a die-hard Paint Shop Pro user for some years. “I used Version 4 occasionally until Paint Shop Pro 7 Anniversary Edition. That was the change of my world! Here was an inexpensive, very good, professional package that still provided me with lots of fun. Quick touch-ups of pictures, resizing and signatures made from a Picture Tube… these were the jobs that passed my hands daily.”

Paint Shop Pro remains a favorite for Hans. “First and foremost, [I like] the ease of use and the fun of using it.” Hans stated. He believes Version 9 marks a turning point for Paint Shop Pro. “This is the version that will turn heads. Now, Paint Shop Pro has stepped up to the level of the ‘big guns.’ ”

Similarly, Hans is also going through a major change. He has won two caricature contests, his Web site is gaining popularity, and there has been interest regarding several professional projects. But, this success is not going to his head. “Success to me means making people happy with my art, and [seeing] the happy reaction. No need for more. I'm a happy man.”