definition from dictionary.com), yet even with the simple definition it can be reason for debate as it can be a delicate balance between the realistic and cartoon.
Many a discussion has been had in the Caricature Carving world related to this, with seldom an agreement. As with most things in the carving world it is open to interpretation which does not put limits on individual feelings.
It seems caricature was really derived from early published political cartoons as can be seen in articles on Wikipedia. As far as the woodcarving world goes, Caricature Carving is seeing steady growth in popularity. This growth can be attributed to many carvers through the years including the likes of the Tryggs (father CJ, and sons Carl Olaf, Nils, and Lars), Emil Janel, Andy Anderson, and of course, Harold Enlow. Please forgive any omissions but these are some real big-hitters when it comes to this style of figure carving.
In the years since I have been carving (15-20) three major items of note stick out for me, the first being the creation of an organization for the promotion of the style, the Caricature Carvers of America. This group holds an annual competition for just this style. The second for me was Peter Ortel's "Love" taking the first Best-Of-Show awarded to a Caricature Carving at the Affiliated Woodcarvers 2000 Congress, the show being the premier US Woodcarving show for non-birds. An image of this carving can be seen on their website (http://www.awcltd.org/past_shows/Old%20Show%20Reports/2000/2000%20Highlights.htm) .
The third is related to my own personal taste and that would be the one-piece creations of Marv Kaisersatt. If you have yet to see one, just do a google search for him or even better yet you can see a good portion of them on the Affiliated Woodcarvers website. He has consistantly won many awards over the past 10-15 years.
In writing this I feel I would be remiss in leaving out others who are well known and have had a large influence in the past 10 years. The one receiving the least credit but who has shared much would be Tom Wolfe. He has published many a book sharing his secrets in such a way as to allow many a carver to find enjoyment with this form of art. Many a time I have seen a version of one of his hounds or his Civil War soldier. I have had the pleasure of meeting this gentlemen and participated in many a Whittling Competition he has sponsored. Others who have contributed much with their designs, teaching, roughouts would be Phil & Vicki Bishop (excellent teachers and roughouts), and Pete LeClair (the man with a thousand faces), and Gary Falin (the man has a way with eyes). There are many more out there who are sharing with us and I look forward to discovering what each has to teach. Strike up a conversation with a Caricature Carver, they have much to teach and they don't mind sharing (albeit sometimes for a cost)
One trait of Caricature Carvers is that they do like to express their sense of humor in many ways. It makes for exciting dinner conversation thats fer sure! (Be wary as they do like to celebrate your birthday)
Getting back on the topic of Caricature, a good example of Caricature can be found in one of the US's most irreverent publications, MAD magazine. Tom Richmond does art work for MAD and has a fantastic blog that discusses the art of Caricature (http://www.tomrichmond.com/blog/). Tom posts frequent updates and usually is good for a chuckle at least once a week. He also has published a tutorial on drawing in the Caricature style in several segments. Much can be learned from what he is sharing.
I was recently asked, "why Caricature Carving?". I have given the question much thought and I would have this observation, when someone observes a bird or fish carving they remark on how it appears often by critically comparing it to animals they've seen, but when you watch a person looking at a Caricature Carving they often just smile. At that moment, your art has affected someone in a positive way. The memory of that image is often enough to keep you carving for years...