Joe Bluhm’s “Rejects”

August 20th, 2007 | Posted in General


Live caricature is an artform unto itself, combining fast art skill and technique, split second caricature observation, quick wit and a certain amount of showmanship. It’s not an easy thing to do well, and those who do it well are worthy of praise and admiration.

One guy worth a lot of praise and admiration is Joe Bluhm, one of the best live caricaturists I have ever met… and that’s saying something as I have met approaching a thousand of them in my 22 years “in the business’. I blame Joe for much of my recent displeasure in my own live work, which I have been running down a bit here lately. I keep looking at my stuff, comparing it to his and feeling a bit like a rookie all over again as a result. Joe’s work is truly amazing. Here’s one he did one me at a National Caricaturist Network convention a few years ago:

Me by Bluhm!

That brings me to “Rejects“, Joe’s new self published book. As a rule I’m not a big fan of self published sketchbooks. Most of them are cheaply done and not very original in conception. Joe’s book is far from that. He got the idea one day to do a book full of a lot of the drawings he had done over the years at various theme parks that were rejected… meaning they were not purchased for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t think it looked enough like them, sometimes they were pissed off about the exaggerations… there are multiple reasons caricatures get rejected. Their loss is our gain, as each drawing is more fun and fantastic as the next. I wrote this little diatribe a while ago about how some artists use the excuse of “you don’t understand caricature” to explain away the rejection of a drawing when it is often a bad job on their part trying to exaggerate but ending up distorting instead. I wrote that only a handful of artists I’ve met can apply an extreme level of exaggeration and still maintain strong likeness, and that ability is rooted by a superb level of drawing skill and a deep foundation of portrait/realistic skill and talent. Joe is one of that elite handful, and I have no doubt every one of these ‘rejects’ is a result of the subject being unrealistic about their features. The only thing the book is missing is pictures of the people depicted in the caricatures. It would be true justice for the readers to be able to see how well Joe captured the likenesses, demonstrating how moronic they were for not buying these terrific pieces of art.

Joe was kind enough to ask me to write a foreward for the book, which I gladly did. If you have an interest in caricature, be it live or illustrative, this is a truly inspirational book. Highly recommended.


  1. Mark Hill says:

    Joe sure does do terrific work. He employs some daring exaggerations that, as you pointed out, not only don’t go too far, but also help to establish the likeness. How nice that he asked you to write his book’s forward.

    On that caricature of you, Tom, I noticed some blue lines in the underlying pencil work. Do you know if that’s non-photo blue pencil or simply a conscious color choice he used for some depth in your piece?

  2. Tom says:

    He did a sketch in non-photo blue and them added some blue at the end for some color accents.


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