TWISP, WASHINGTON (March 19, 2015) — Jeff Palmberg, pastor of Community Covenant Church, admits he often exaggerates. At least when he’s drawing caricatures.
By definition, caricature involves distortion, but Palmberg says the art form actually helps capture the essence of a person—or at least part of their story—better than regular photographs or paintings do.
Palmberg has regularly done caricatures of friends and executives in the Covenant. He created roughly 30 at the Covenant’s Midwinter Conference in January. “Normally I work from photographs so it was a great stretch for me to do it with the person sitting there,” he says.
Palmberg earned a bachelor’s degree in art at North Park University and taught school for a year before deciding to do youth ministry. But he had been inspired when he was younger by the work of Matt Drucker at Mad magazine and wanted to devote more time to drawing caricatures.
Following college, he did a summer stint working at the Covenant’s Mission Meadows Camp in Dewittville, New York. “I decided to draw a caricature of the entire staff,” he recalls. “That was my first big project.”
The projects continued in the early 1990s, when he took church youth groups on mission trips to Mexico and drew a caricature of the entire team every year. “It was more fun than a photograph because I was able to include inside jokes,” he says. “So I have a collection of about 25 years of these pictures and can look at that one and say, “Oh, I completely remember that trip.”
Family and friends began asking him to draw pictures of them. Then little by little he had other opportunities. Eight years ago, when he wanted to bring in some extra income, he started JP Custom Caricatures so he could draw caricatures as a side business.
In the continuum of caricature styles, ranging from an image in which the subject is barely recognizable to those that are nearly straight portraits, Palmberg refers to his work as “cartoon portraits.”
One woman had one of his drawings printed on her husband’s birthday cake, another asked Palmberg to draw a picture of her, which she then had emblazoned on coffee mugs for her adult children with the words “Call, text, email Mom.” Another couple commissioned an image of themselves, which they framed with a matting that people could sign at their wedding.
He’s never really had anyone get mad for the way he has portrayed them because he’s not trying to make fun of anyone. But some people are harder to draw than others. “The hardest people are the ones who are just perfect looking and there’s nothing particularly distinguishing about them,” he says. “They’re certainly not as fun to draw.”