Ram Lama Hull has an unusual talent for making anyone look approachable. The cartoonist and illustrator specializes in creating imaginative, amusing caricatures of real people. Digital photographs become canvases for him to cartoonize his subjects. This week, he will be showcasing a portfolio of his works during Final Friday at Anna Murdoc’s Cafe. It’s an exhibit that showcases different dimensions of people while highlighting humanity in the face of adversity. It also celebrates the decorative nature of Halloween.
“I always have the goal of making the characters approachable,” Hull said. “If you saw this on a business card or a flyer, you’d instantly trust that person. I take an image where there is an emotional connection and I try to display that emotional connection so everybody can see. The artistic intent is evoking a fond sensation through the characters.”
Hull, 28, has been creating cartoons since he was 14. He said that in college he wanted to study comic books, so he fashioned a field studies program at Wichita State University around that ambition. His bachelor’s degree focused on illustration, creative writing, and communication. Since graduating, he has worked to build up a clientele interested in his niche. He spends a lot of his time doing commission work for people who want gifts for friends and family and also for businesses wanting sketches of their employees or images for their websites.
“What I do is get a photograph of someone and I do a bit of photo modification,” Hull said of his technique. “I enlarge certain parts, the most obvious being the head. I try to make it more identifiable, something you can empathize with. I then draw over the photo using Photoshop. Basically, I trace the photo and then enhance that sketch.”
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Most of his sketches have a humorous edge. That’s a dimension Hull says isn’t always intentional. It’s a frequent comment offered about his work by viewers, though. That element attracted the eye of an employee at Anna Murdoc’s this summer. After seeing Hull hang a few works for a fundraising exhibit at the cafe, he offered him a full show.
This show, which will be Hull’s first Final Friday exhibition, will feature 68 pieces, 40 of which are commissioned drawings being used with permission from the subjects. The photos offer an affable mix. There’s a father and daughter clapping their hands together at a dance party, a brooding young blonde guy lighting a cigarette in a kitchen, and a happy family posing for a photo-op at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Halloween became a focus for Hull as he gathered images for the show, and several subjects wear costumes. A distinguished, skeletal man in a top hat reads a greeting card during a costume party. A bloody baker sits by a riverfront as a cleaver axes his back. Zombie-like nurses, a bewildered bunny, and a Medieval-styled temptress also are in the mix of drawings. While the subjects have been transformed into cartoons, the original backgrounds remain in place, creating a unique blend of realism and animation.
Hull has also refashioned several photographs by Dorothea Lange, the photojournalist best known for her work documenting the Depression. Her subjects have been reimagined in a manner that manages to capture their warmth as much as it does their struggles.
“I really enjoy the sense of connection with American past,” Hull said. “The Depression-era photographs that she took, I find absolutely fascinating. Bringing humanity to darker parts of our past is something I like to do. At first, its awkward drawing people in this kind of cutesy way that my style has, but the point is to take compassion and draw it out so that when someone looks at this photograph, they see their whole humanity.”