Contact Us Studio Store Me Gallery Client List News & Blog About The Artist Caricatures Mad Art Portfolio.php
About The Artist

Archive for the 'Mailbag' Category

Sunday Mailbag- What’s with all the Presidents?

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Hey, clod–what’s with all the furshlugginer caricatures of the U.S. presidents? P.S. your Benjamin Harrison sucks and looks nothing like him.

A: On Saturday of this next week I will reveal the reason behind my project of doing caricatures of all 44 U.S. presidents. It will be incredibly anticlimactic.

Thanks (I guess) to A. E. Neuman for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Sunday Mailbag: American Sniper??

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Were you surprised that Mad Magazine picked “American Sniper” their next Movie Parody?

A: Actually that was a nice surprise. As I have written here recently, for many reasons MAD has been sort of forced to stick to big blockbusters for their film parodies the last decade or so. “American Sniper” is a great departure from that.

MAD‘s approach to the parody was also very clever. To do a straight parody of something as politically charged and controversial as “American Sniper” would have been hard to do without coming off as either left or right wing centric, and other than the silly “fake baby” thing there is not much you can make light of in the film. Instead they chose to make fun of how the right and left see the film as being a completely different animal than the other side sees it, and can make jokes from both perspectives while sitting back and enjoying the show themselves. Smart and effective. Writer David Shayne did a fantastic job with the script.

I’m always lobbying for more of this kind of thing. The big blockbusters are fun and all to do, but doing some more dramatic fare would be nice.

Thanks to Harry Thornton for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Sunday Mailbag- Empty!

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

I haven’t had to post this image in a long time, but I am fresh out of questions for the Sunday mailbag!

Well, it’s not really completely empty, but the only ones I’ve got right now are either repeats of previous questions or of the “can you teach me how to cross-hatch?” or “how do you exaggerate people in caricature?” variety which aren’t really questions so much as they are requests for long and involved tutorials, and are needing a lot more time than I can give for this weekly feature. A good Sunday Mailbag question can certainly involve an image or two and a somewhat long answer, but anything like a tutorial is a different matter.

It’s entirely possible that people have run out of questions. I have been doing this every week for almost nine years, and there are only so many questions people might have about freelancing, illustration, etc. So maybe this feature has run it’s course. I guess that’s up to you.

So, if you have questions concerning cartooning, illustration, freelancing, MAD Magazine or other similar subjects I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can. E-mail me your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!

Sunday Mailbag: Storing Original Art?

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Do you have any tips how to store original art? How do you store your drawings? How do you protect them against men, mice, bugs and time? 

A: Everything on your list of things to protect against is quite easy to do after you have completed a piece of art… the exception is time. That you need to think about before you draw a single line.

Protecting originals is pretty easy and straightforward. You simpy keep them dry, clean and contained so nothing can get to them. Container stores and places like Target or office supply stores cary a wide range of plastic tubs or organizers withing which you can stack many pieces of art, and then seal up nice and tight. That protects the art against dust, bugs, mice, water damage and pretty much anything else that cannot open your container. The only thing I would recommend there is place a piece of acid-free paper or two between each original. Also, store it in the least humid place in your house (not above the bathtub).

Time is another matter. How well your art holds up against time depends largely on what you created it with. Using archival materials like acid-free paper or illustration boards, good quality paints or real inks will last a very, very long time. Many lifetimes in fact. Introducing non-archival materials like marker, some dyes and chemical-based pigments like Dr. Martin watercolors, glues, etc, will not last long no matter how you store it. I have some wonderful old MAD originals from the 1950’s that are in pretty rough shape thanks to the rubber cement they use to glue the typeset words on the art. Not only are the cropped typeset pieces all yellowed and fallen off, bit where they were pasted on to the art there are big, brown “burn” shapes. Back in the day no one gave a thought about the longevity of original comic book work. Once the comic was printed, the art was disposable. MAD publisher Bill Gaines had the foresight to save all the originals from EC and MAD, but no one considered (or likely knew about) the archival quality of the materials they used.

It’s becoming a moot point these days as more and more work is produced digitally with no originals at all. Sad. You can’t hang pixels on the wall. Prints are nice but there is something about having the physical piece of art someone whose work you admire actually touched and slaved over.

Thanks to Dominik Zeillinger for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!



Sunday Mailbag- If You Weren’t an Artist?

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: If you couldn’t draw or work in art at all what do you see yourself doing for a living?

Depends on what you mean by “art” under your restrictions. If, by your question’s rules,  I just could not draw but would still be allowed to work in the creative fields, I think I would have tried to be a writer. I’m not sure I could have pulled off a career in that field, but I think I would have given it a try.

If my entire right-brain creativity center was short-circuited and I had no aptitude in the creative arts at all, I would have been either a litigation lawyer (BOOOO HISSSSS) or a computer programmer. I was actually a pretty good student in school. I graduated with a 3.86 GPA and won a state math award my senior year in high school, was in the National Honor Society, and did other nerdy endeavors like competing in forensics (the dramatic readings, not the dissection of dead people). I even did a little computer programming on (what was then the brand new) Apple II at a time when “Castle Wolfenstein” was the most advanced of computer games. I apply all that left-brain juice (or what’s left of it) to running my business and other things now. Also doing my taxes, and trying to figure out my cell phone bill.

Thanks to Clive for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Sunday Mailbag: Parody and Copyright and Prints?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

These are a couple of follow up questions I’ve gotten via Twitter or email on the subject of selling prints of copyrighted characters:

You mention that making limited edition prints is allowed. I’ve never heard that before. Do you have any source for that?

I would not say it’s “allowed”. I’d say it is better defensible under a First Amendment defense because “fine art” is better recognized as a traditional vehicle for free speech. That advice was imparted to me by lawyers I consulted in a Chicago based firm specializing in Right of Publicity and Copyright issues when researching an article I was writing. They cited a related trademark case: Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. v. Novak, 836 F.2d 397 (8th Cir. 1987). In that case the defendant Novak used the Mutual of Omaha logo as “Mutant of Omaha” with the tagline “Nuclear Holocaust Insurance” and a severed head version of their “Indian head” logo to decry the use of nuclear power. Novak lost the case in part because, while they were clearly voicing political opinions on nuclear power and this was obviously a parody, they produced this parody on T-shirts, mugs and ball caps. The courts cited these commercial and mass-produced items as commercial merchandise and not recognized vehicles of free speech, rejecting a first amendment defense. They really lost the case on other grounds, but that was part of it. In a similar case, L.L. Bean Inc. v. Drake Publishers Inc., 811 F.2d 26 (1st Cir.), appeal dismissed, 107 S.Ct. 3254 (1987) the defendant won that one (in part) because their parody using a variation of the L.L. Bean logo in the article “L.L. Beam’s Back-to-School-Sex-Catalog” in High Times was published in a magazine, which is a well documented form of free speech, as are books, fine art and, by inference (see: Andy Warhol) limited art prints. Whether you sell those things, as magazines and books and fine art clearly are, is immaterial. In ETW Corp. v. Jireh Publishing, Inc. 332 F.3d 915 (2003), Tiger Woods sued artist Rick Rush, who created a painting sold as a limited edition print and a large edition lithograph, that featured Woods in the center in several poses. The painting, which celebrated Woods’ 1997 victory in the U.S. Open, also depicted several past winners of the tournament superimposed over the leader board in the background, a caddie and a golf scoreboard. Woods was clearly the dominant focus. Woods argued this was nothing but “sports merchandise” and not worthy of First Amendment protection. The court disagreed, in part citing that limited edition prints and lithographs are recognized vehicles of free speech as “fine art”. He really won the case because they determined that the images depicted went past being about Woods and were depicting the artist’s own ideas and expression, but the fact these weren’t being sold on T-shirts and mugs helped Rush’s case. That one is being appealed right now, BTW.

However, there are other precedents that, even in dissent, allow that free speech should be independent of unusual venues of expressions. In Comedy III Productions v. Gary Saderup, Inc.,The California Supreme Court upheld an award against portrait artist Saderup in favor of the estates of the Three Stooges over t-shirts and prints bearing images of the Stooges by Saderup. It was originally argued that art on a “t-shirt” was not a recognized vehicle of free speech and therefore not defensible by the first amendment. While the CSC did still uphold the award, they rejected this argument citing: “First Amendment doctrine does not disfavor nontraditional media of expression.” That would seem to imply it makes no difference as to the way the art is presented.

That lawyer I interviewed told me selling T-shirts or a mass produced poster, even if you call it a “print”, is not as defensible via the First Amendment as a piece of original art or, at the very least, a signed and numbered limited edition of a piece of original art. Whether that advice holds up in court is another matter.

You mention that you don’t use copyrighted images in your prints. First, isn’t the Batman logo copyrighted? Second, how do you deal with the issue of actors having the rights for their likenesses? I understand it’s representational of your work, and I know I could make a sign showing that I drew a caricature of Jay Leno, and that much of your caricature book is fair use, but selling a print of multiple actors seems like there would be issues with it.

I do use copyrighted images in my prints, I never denied that. James Bond, Doctor Who and Batman are all copyrighted characters. The point is I am making fun of them, saying something about an entire series of entertainment and of the genre to which they belong. I believe that this is fair use under the umbrella of “parody”.

First, the trademarks i.e. the Batman logo you mentioned: I did not draw the Batman logo in my “Bat’s in the Belfry” print. That is a trademark and much tougher to defend using. I also did not use any copyrighted things like the sonic screwdriver or the Tardis in my “The Doctor is In” print (although the costumes are probably copyrighted), nor do I use “Batman”, “Doctor Who” or “James Bond or 007” in reference to these prints. I do this on purpose. Those kinds of elements are much harder to defend depicting, especially trademarks like logos or names.

Regarding the actors and their individual rights for their likenesses, that is probably the least of the gray areas here. What you are referring to is the Right of Publicity, which is a famous person’s right to protect the earning power of their likeness. They do that by demonstrating someone’s use of their likeness is damaging them by either selling something because of their celebrity and not the skill of the seller (which damages their ability to sell a similar item) or by insinuating the endorsement of a secondary product (which damages their ability to sell their own endorsements) and other considerations. Parody aside, it would be hard for any one of these actors to bring a RoP suit against me because they would have to prove that their likeness is what is selling these prints, and they are one of many different caricatures in each piece. That’s why artists like Sebastian Kruger can sell books full of caricatures of different celebrities, as no one can claim they are the reason the books sells. It becomes about the artist’s art, expression, and ideas rather than the one individual. Were I to sell individual prints of each of the different “Sherlocks”, for example, I would be hard pressed to argue against a RoP claim.

Arguing about something being a parody of a fictional character via bigger cheek bones & eyebrows is flimsy. A legit parody of say Batman would be something like a similar spoof called Macman or a Robot Chicken sketch. What exactly is being spoofed/mocked in your prints?

To be fair this series of prints is a little more than just caricatures of the different actors. The intent of the series is to examine, exaggerate and poke some fun at the differences in the portrayal of a single fictional character by many different actors. In my “secret agent man” print for example, I tried to portray Connery as over-the-top suave, Lazenby as the oddball, Moore as a campy goof, Dalton as far-too-serious, Brosnan as just a pretty face, and Craig as the only one that ever looked like they’d really been in a fight. There is some commentary in there, although I’m not hitting you over the head with it.

If anyone wants to argue that I am not really doing a parody here, and that caricatures of the actors alone do not constitute any real expression of opinion, then that’s a valid argument to make. I disagree. One day that may be up to a court to decide. The reality of all of this is that anyone doing an image of a copyrighted character they either do not own the copyrights to, or do not have permission from the copyright owner to do, is open to a copyright infringement lawsuit regardless of if they think they are in the right or not. Lawsuits can be filed whether they have merit or not, and only until they go to court will certain defenses arguing fair use or the First Amendment be decided. This kind of thing will remain common at comic cons until copyright owners start playing hardball and taking people to court and the courts render decisions that set precedent.

Personally, I feel I have good defenses in that the work I sell as prints can be argued to sell based on my art as much as the subject matter, that it is enough of a parody in that I make enough fun of the subjects to be sufficiently a First Amendment issue, and that the collection of many different caricatures makes a right of publicity case unsound. None of that means a damn unless I present it to a court and they tell me it does, or does not. That day may or may not ever come.

Thanks to assorted folks for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Sunday Mailbag- MAD Content Ownership?

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q:  In regards to recurring characters like Spy vs Spy, Melvin and Jenkins, and Monroe etc does mad own the rights to those characters (I’m assuming they DO own Spy vs Spy) or does the original artist/ writer still own them?

A: Since it’s inception, all the work done for MAD is created as work-for-hire. That means MAD owns the copyright to the specific work and any and all characters or concepts created through that work. That means MAD owns “Spy vs. Spy”, “Melvin and Jenkins”, “Monroe”, concepts like “Celebrity Death Betting Odds”, “The MAD Fold-In”, “The Lighter Side of…” etc. MAD can reprint them as they like, or assign new artists and/or writers to work on them (like Peter Kuper doing “Spy vs. Spy” or when Tom Fowler briefly did the art for “Monroe”). MAD owns the rights to all the art I do for them. I needed special permission from Warner Bros to print some of it in my book in the chapter on how caricatures work in a MAD parody.

Work for hire is generally a bad deal for creators, and because of that some cartoonists refused to work for MAD. Arnold Roth famously refused to do work for MAD in its early days, even though he was pals with Harvey Kurtzman, because of the work for hire thing. I would never fault anyone for refusing to do WFH. I usually do not agree to it, but MAD is an exception I have no problem making.

I am not sure about more recent characters, concepts and properties. It’s possible that some of the “Strip Club” work or features like “Planet Tad!!!!!” have special agreements with MAD wherein their creators still retain the rights, but I doubt it. Subject to the correction of the MAD editors, I believe all work that appears in the magazine is © MAD Magazine/ E.C. Publishing and owned by them.

Thanks to Clive for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Sunday Mailbag- Legal Retail Caricature?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: I was wondering if you could give some information about drawing live retail caricatures (as in setting up on a sidewalk or in a busy tourist area.) I was curious about making things nice and legal.

A: That’s a question that is too specific to answer in general. The legal necessities for do retail caricatures differ by state, venue, circumstance, etc. Most of my expertise in this area would be drawing at theme parks and tourist retail centers or malls.

In almost all instances you would need to be licensed as a business in the spot you intend to draw at. If it’s a mall or a theme park, registering a legal “doing business as” (DBA) name with the state is probably all you’d need, but some counties or cities might require you to have an actual retail business license. Caricatures are taxable items in all states that I’ve ever encountered, so you would need to apply to the state you do business in for a sale tax number and account, and make monthly or quarterly tax payments. Other licenses might be necessary. It might be wise if you intend to make drawing caricatures a part of your ongoing income to register your DBA name with the feds and get a federal employer identification number (FEIN). That is basically a business’s social security number, and allows you to have a bank account under it and not use your social security number for business related accounts.

Setting up on the sidewalk in a busy tourist area likely needs some kind of vendor license. Cities all have different rules. You’ll need to contact the city government center and ask about vendor or “busker” licenses or what the requirements for that are in their city. One way around that is to approach a store that has a large storefront area and make a deal with them to set up doing caricatures in front of their shop. Some cities might object to that, but often they allow shop owners to use their sidewalks to sell merchandise so long as they don’t block the walkway too much. Giving the shop owner a percentage of your sales to generate traffic in front of their shop might be of interest to some, although if you get  big crowd and block their shop entrance they might regret it.

Most shopping malls and tourist retail centers operate a “specialty retail” area which are those pushcarts you see in the halls and along the walkways. These are small, self contained shops and are treated just like their bigger inline brothers. Specialty retail is who you approach to set up in a tourist retail center. You would need a business license, state tax ID number and a commercial liability insurance policy for certain to work specialty retail.

Theme parks are a little different. They usually collect the money and so they take care of the sales taxes, and your deal with them is a percentage of the net sales that they pay you. You don’t need a state sales tax number for that, because you are providing a professional service and earning a commission for that service. You’ll still need the business license and commercial liability policy.

Everywhere is different, but no matter where you are thinking about setting up I can guarantee there is already a system in place to make you pay tax, license fees, or whatever to set up and draw there. Ask the owners of the property or, in the case of a city sidewalk, City Hall for the necessary requirements.

Thanks to Kody for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Sunday Mailbag- Portfolio Review?

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: You did a lot of comic book conventions in 2014. Have there been any people coming to you, showing you their drawings and asking for your professional opinion? Could you give them some kind of advice? Did you like it to do? 

A: Yes, that happens a lot.

This can be an uncomfortable situation, especially when the work being shown is not very good. You hate to crush people’s dreams, but you also don’t want to give someone who is years (or maybe never) away from doing anything that might get them work in an industry they clearly love the idea they are “almost there”.

I’ve found over the years that very few people are really looking for an honest critique of their work. 95% of the time all they really want is simple encouragement. Sometimes they just want a little attention from a working cartoonist… someone to say “very nice, keep on working hard!”. For the people who show me clearly amateur work, I give them the encouragement they are looking for, but I also am honest enough to say “you have a lot of work and learning ahead of you”. I always temper that with a little lecture on how great artists are a result of a dash of talent and a truckload of hard work. I advise them to forget about superheroes with big thighs and impossibly long capes and learn to draw trees and cars and ordinary objects. They usually dismiss that but it’s good advice. Even if you eventually get good at drawing pin-up shots of mightily muscled superheroes, they will look terrible when the building they are leaping over looks like it’s made of legos and the trees in front of it look like scrambled eggs on a stick. That advice applies to the vast majority of the work I get shown in that kind of situation. There are only so many ways you can say “you have to learn to draw better”, and with very amateur work that’s really the only advice you can give. I just try and do it in a way that encourages them to keep drawing. Whatever I say will not change whether they ever get good enough to make a living in comics or not, but encouraging an aspiring artist to keep drawing never hurt anyone.

Very occasionally I get someone who shows me work that really has something going. If I get the sense that the person showing it to me really wants a real critique, I will take a good look and try to come up with some things for them to work on. I will still point out what I think they are good at, but with decent work you can usually see some specific things that an artist needs to work on. It might be their composition, figure work, etc. I make sure they know I really see something in their work, and encourage them to pursue art as a career if I think they have the chops for it.

This isn’t my favorite thing to do. That said, if someone thinks enough of my work that they take the time to come to a comic con and show me some of their art asking for advice, I always try my best to give them something real to say to them.

Thanks to Dominik Zeillinger  for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Sunday Mailbag: Is Comic Art Real Art?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: I have a question with regards on seeing Comics/Graphic Novels as Fine Arts. How do you view comic art? High Art? Low Art? I’m asking as I’m currently facing scorns and that “question mark” look from many of my “fine art” peers on me using comic inking style as a style to paint on canvas etc. And how do you draw the line between fine art and Fan art? or is there even a line to began with.. 

A: Ah… Comic art/illustration vs. “fine art”. Like discussions involving politics, religion and Mac vs. PC, This is a debate that has no winner and no end.

For some reason much of the disdain fine artists have for illustrators and comics artists seem to stem from the commercial aspects of the work. There was a time when illustrators like Norman Rockwell were scorned by the fine art world, and commercially successful authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are often dismissed by critics and more high-brow authors as “schlockmeisters”. Even within the realm of “fine art” there are some artists who are looked down on as “sell-outs” or artists of lesser skills but successful because of appeal to the Great Unwashed as opposed to art snobs. Thomas Kincade comes to mind, as does Thomas Arvid. Both produce (or produced in the case of the deceased Kincade) work catering to a target audience featuring mass-appeal subject matter (idyllic, fantasy-like nature scenes for the former, wine bottle/glasses still lifes for the latter).

Back when I was in college in a small art school in St. Paul, MN, there were two camps of artists… the “fine artists” and the “illustrators”. The fine artists considered the illustrators to be unoriginal automatons, who simply reproduced references according to the ideas and direction of others (art directors, authors, etc) and called us “wrists”. The illustrators dismissed the fine artists as “artists who couldn’t draw”, and who hid their lack of talent behind high minded “concepts” that didn’t require the ability to actually paint or draw with any skill.

Nobody liked the graphic designers… but I digress.

Anyway both camps were wrong. There were some tremendous talents in the fine art program who could draw and paint like masters and some of the illustrators who produced work with narrative and conceptual value that was of amazing originality and insight. But, the snide remarks, clique mentality, and general divisiveness continued for some.

Personally I look on all art as simply “art”. It does not matter to me why it is created or where it hangs, is seen, printed, or posted. It’s art. I either think it’s good , bad, or somewhere in between. That includes art created by established artists or professionals, or so-called “fan art” created by anyone. It’s just “art”. Art is so subjective that the opinions of others on its validity are basically irrelevant to anyone but the person expressing their opinion. One creates art according to the purpose and intent of the artist. That purpose might be commercial, personal, or some combination of the two. The reason for the creation is irrelevant to the art itself, which is created and exists regardless of purpose. One can appreciate it or not appreciate it. It is entirely up to the eye of the beholder. Going back to my previous examples, The Lovely Anna and I dislike Kincade’s work, and wouldn’t buy or hang a print of his in our house if you paid us. However we have several Arvids on our walls, as we love the subject matter and his realistic but painterly oil style is appealing.

I can appreciate great comic art as “art”, some of which I would be delighted to frame and hang in my house (and do). Comic art as done by the best of the best rank as impressive to me as any fine art painting. Likewise I can really appreciate many fine art pieces, although I tend to like realism or representations of real life scenes and subjects as opposed to abstract art. If an artist decides to combine comic art techniques in their fine art, who is to say that is wrong? It worked for Roy Lichtenstein. More power to you.

The bottom line is that there will always be opinions about any art. It’s up to the artist if they want to assign any validity to those opinions. I’ve always found that those who criticize and condemn the loudest usually do that in an effort to somehow validate their own work by putting down another’s , or to demonstrate their intellectual “superiority” to some like-minded group of which they are part of the herd mentality. Ignore them and do what you want to do. That is what art is all about.

Thanks to Dante for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


Home ||Portfolio | MAD Art | Caricatures | About the Artist | The MAD Blog | Client List | Me Gallery | Studio Store | Contact Us

All images on this site are copyright © byTom Richmond, (except those specifically credited to other artists, in which case are copyright © by the individual artist) all rights reserved, and cannot be duplicated, printed, displayed or used in any fashion without the express written consent of the artist. Third party vendors such as Google use cookies to serve ads on this site. Visit aboutads.info for information on how to opt out of ad cookies.

National Cartoonist Society
International Society of Caricature Artists