Sunday Mailbag

May 27th, 2012 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I have seen your caricature of Michael Jackson (this one here) on display at a number of caricature stands, mostly at theme parks (i.e.Hersheypark here in PA). I know that you work with and train people at a number of theme parks, so does the fact they have your drawing posted mean you work/have worked with that park? Do you feel it’s a bit of a cheat or false advertising to have examples of someone else’s work on display?

A: There are different answers regarding this issue depending on the situation, including seeing actual copies of my artwork and another artist redrawing my artwork:

  • My artwork hanging in caricature concession operations I own: I operate caricature concessions in Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA, Six Flags St. Louis in MO, Valleyfair in Shakopee, MN and at Nickelodeon Universe in Bloomington, MN. Other caricaturists sometimes tell me they think it’s “false advertising” to have my samples hanging up in these theme park locations. That is ridiculous. These are my caricature booths, and while I do not draw in the parks very often, I do draw there sometimes. All the artists work for me, are working in the same basic technique, and my samples represent that technique. I could see an argument if ALL the samples up on the walls were by me, but that is never the case. The local artists who work the booths usually have at least one or two of their own samples up in each location, and overall my samples are usually less than half of the total samples . . . sometimes significantly less than that.
  • My artwork hanging in caricature concession operations I do NOT own: By this I mean taking actual prints of my work off the internet and hanging them up as their samples. This is never acceptable, and it happens way too often, especially with street caricaturists like in Times Square and other places. Totally unethical and frankly against copyright law. They are misrepresenting my work as theirs, without the permission I obviously allow those working in my own booths. I have said many times that it is impossible for me to go around sending cease and desist letters to transgressors, so I have to count on Karma to balance the scales.
  • Artists copying my work themselves and hanging them up as their sample: I’ve seen this many times as well, surprisingly by some of my former artists as well as ones I know personally. I saw a wall full of rip-offs of my samples up at a fair in Arizona once, done by an artist who I knew well and used to work for me in Atlanta. Another time I was at my local Renaissance Festival and saw a bunch of rip-offs of my samples up at the caricature booth of a local artist who had been doing professional caricatures for years. That one I confronted about it and he took them down and apologized profusely, claiming he had some personal issues that prevented him from doing his own samples for the fest, so he just copied a bunch of mine in a time crunch. ???? Whatever. Very unprofessional and very unethical.

I was disturbed to hear my Michael Jackson (I’m guessing a redraw of it, not a copy of the actual art) is hanging up at Hersey Park. That park’s art concessions are run by a big company that usually would not do that sort of thing. It’s possible what you saw was similar but still an original take on MJ by another artist, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt, but I’d be interested to see a picture of that.

Sadly this is all the result of putting artwork on the internet for others to see and enjoy. . . and steal. You can’t stop that last part from happening, no matter how hard you try. You have to take solace in the fact that most people are inherently honest at heart, and you can’t let the few unethical, dishonest people ruin it for everyone else.

Thanks to Ed Placencia 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!


  1. George Cook says:

    I admit I have a pile of cartoons, artwork, and photos of people I have found online that I have printed out on cheap paper for inspiration and motivation to work on my drawing. They are all kept separate from my pile of drawing books, which I will also admit that your book is on top of the pile, because its awesome! But I would never blatantly steal any ones artwork or pictures and call them my own! Too me, that is not only wrong, but really stupid!

  2. Bearman says:

    I’ll be in NY soon so I will keep a look out.

    Also congrats on your Rueben

  3. Ryan Roe says:

    I’d like to add to this post by saying that when people come up to the booth and ask who drew a particular sample of yours we always tell them that it was done by the owner of this location “Tom Richmond” and that you live in MN but visit your stands to train the artists and occasionally draw at them. I’d say that’s as straight-forward as you can get without any misrepresentation at all.

    P.S. These questions about your samples happen rarely since they are usually too enamored with MY samples to pay much attention to yours-ZING!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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