Drawing smiles: The colorful world of Don Howard

single-meta-cal February 28, 2024

Don Howard knew he had the talent and the passion to be an artist. Then one day, he had the vision to bring it all together.

Howard was not always the renowned caricature artist whose work can be seen throughout Huntsville. He moved to the Rocket City to be closer to family after leaving his job at Disney Studios in California.

“I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I was going to do to make a living,” he said. “My father suggested I go and be an engineer, even though it was going to take a couple of years. I said, ‘Dad, this town is full of engineers. But there’s not an artist you can tell me of note in this town.’”

Now Howard is that artist. He’s sold pieces in 60 different countries and is a beloved figure in Huntsville’s art community.

“Huntsville has been great to me,” Howard said. “I mean, not just good but great.”

His work was featured in The Huntsville Times newspaper and that garnered him more attention. Now, you can visit Howard’s website and see caricatures of an array of famous people from musicians to movie stars to sports heroes. He’s also available for custom caricatures to celebrate special events.

Man in hat standing next to caricature drawing with many people at concert

Huntsville’s Don Howard shows off a caricature drawing of a Ray Charles concert that he said took him about 40 hours to draw.

Fun and lighthearted

His work has an undeniable touch. While caricature art typically emphasizes exaggerated facial features such as a protruding chin or a Pinocchio-sized nose, Howard creates an entertaining portrait without the over-the-top drawing. That’s not by accident.

“I must admit that I do this because I like to be invited back,” Howard said with a laugh. “I draw the person almost flattering them. I do alter noses, ear lobes, the mouth. I alter all of that. But I do it in a way in which they are going to look their absolute best. And their fans want to see them look their best.”

While caricatures are, almost by definition, a fun and lighthearted perspective, Howard takes his work seriously and appreciates the responsibility to help preserve Black history. His website displays drawings of the 54th Regiment in the Civil War whose story was told in the 1989 movie “Glory.” There is also a drawing of the World War II-era Tuskegee Airmen and the Civil War-era Buffalo Soldiers.

“It has always meant something to me to acknowledge our particular history in this country, which has been just interwoven all throughout from the first battles to the end,” Howard said.

As he grew up in the 1960 and 1970s, Howard considered it a “big responsibility” to be part of a generation that blazed paths for Blacks to pursue whatever they wanted in life.

“The single overarching thing that I wanted to accomplish with the skills that had been given to me was to basically show that if given the opportunity, I could use these (talents) and even be popular with them,” Howard said. “And, by the grace of God, I have been presented with both of those things. It’s a wonderful thing. It chokes me up when I think about it.”