Humor in a Jugular Vain

September 17th, 2012 | Posted in General

Ah . . . vanity. In a way, it’s the ultimate target of the caricaturist. Nothing falls harder in the face of an accurate but biting caricature than the unrealistic self-perception of a vain subject. Like Anderson Cooper here. At the end of this clip from CNN, he goes on and on about how little he thinks the caricature that artist Glenn Ferguson did at the RNC in Tampa looks like him:

Drawing live caricatures, you run up against a few truly vain people, and they never believe a caricature looks like them…even when it’s a dead-on likeness. Everyone else in the world thinks it looks like them, but not the subject themselves. Drawing celebrities is another matter entirely. I think it’s safe to say the percentage of celebrities who are truly vain is significantly higher than that of the rest of the world’s population . . . although “real” people who have positions of authority often share this defect to a lesser degree, and even the most ordinary of people might suffer from unrealistic self-image. Celebrities have it the worst because they are mostly surrounded by bobos who constantly tell them how fabulous they are. Cooper’s reaction here is not unusual coming from a celebrity, he was just unusually asinine about it on national TV.

I’ve drawn plenty of celebrities who don’t like the results, even though my caricatures are tame in the exaggeration department compared to most. In fact, I am very leery about taking on any job where the subject of my caricatures has any say in the approval of the image. I find it’s just not worth the aggravation trying to figure out what somebody THINKS they look like, when I am forced to work from actual images of what they DO look like. Recently I was contracted to do the cover of a CD that depicted a comedian. I did a round of pencils and, based on the initial feedback, I stopped work on the job entirely. It was obvious that the subject had what I call “The Matrix Syndrome”. In the movie The Matrix, how a person looks in the digital world is not how they really look, but a “residual self-image” that looks how they THINK they look. I could never figure out, if that was the case, why Morpheus didn’t imagine himself with a six-pack instead of that big belly. Had I continued that job, I’d have been beating my head against the wall trying to figure out the subject wants Clint Eastwood when he looks more like Clint Howard. Anyway, what people think they look like can be radically different than what they really look like. It’s a little like hearing your own voice on a recording. Few people think the voice they hear sounds like them, but everyone else knows it does. Many people have this to varying degrees.

Vanity is a little different. That’s not only having an unrealistic self-image, but expecting the rest of the world to have it also. Vain people actually get upset when confronted with the realization that someone does not think they are visually exceptional. It’s the reaction that usually tells the tale. The comedian from that job reacted badly to what was a pretty tame and likeness orientated caricature, and that was a big, red flag for me.

In Cooper’s defense, Glenn’s drawing of him was not a home run. The CNN people were adamant we tone down the exaggerations and make people look good. Glenn is at his best when he goes nuts with the exaggeration, so he was working with one hand tied behind his back. Still, his reaction was ridiculous. I’ve got news for you, Anderson: You are short. You have extraordinarily large ears, a lumpy nose and squinty, swollen-looking eyes. Sorry to have to break it to you.


  1. Cliff Roth says:

    I get that reaction from time to time. I generally tell them to flip the image around. Sometimes we get so used to looking at our reflections that we don’t recognize the right way. I know I often don’t recognize myself in pictures. I mean I know it is me but it doesn’t ‘look’ like me. The nose is always bent the wrong way 🙂

  2. Richard Buff says:

    haha great post

  3. Sagan Lacy says:

    Man, they shouldn’t have gotten ANYONE’s reaction! “It’s a uh… good, acceptable, fun thing to do.”

  4. justin wilder says:

    Way to stick it to the ….. man…???

  5. Steckley says:

    Aw naw you di’nt say that about my man, the Silver Fox!!

  6. Meesimo says:

    Ah man, what a nice refreshing post after a weekend at the park. Good stuff.

  7. micheal garisek says:

    interesting and enlightening

  8. Kelly McNutt says:

    I know for a fact that I look nothing like myself.

  9. Jack Myhervold says:

    I think he would get a giggle (or 50) out of your version. Looks really good, although he might quibble about being depicted leaning to his right. Other’s might argue that you have failed to capture his essence, based upon what seem’s to be a disturbing lack of any visible siver spoon in his mouth!. Beyond that, I think most people will find it spot on!.

  10. Tom Faraci says:

    Haha, these guys should be so lucky to get sketched by you or Glenn. Interesting reactions, though. Nice work on drawing The Dude. Is it intimidating drawing famous faces live in the chair?

    • Tom says:

      We didn’t draw them live. Pictures were taken of celebs as they came in, and they were sent to an iPad we had, and we drew from that while they sat and ate in the grill.

  11. Leandro says:

    What a ridiculous comment made by him.. but you right when you say that’s all about “vanity”. People want to look beautiful on the drawings, portraits, caricatures, whatever they appear… and it’s really pleasurable when you met people who can laugh by themselves: Rare and Specials.

    Congrats Tom and Glenn!

  12. julio cesar naranjo says:

    Hey Tom I think the guy if he had some complain at all he couldve said something later on if that was the case, which is not he wanted to make some publicity cause hes so famous that is not enough for him and CNN wanted to make it a little fun but controversial at the end. I think is not hard to draw famous people for you guys, you have to face with their ego thats the difficult part. Take care.

  13. jailerjoe says:

    The fact AC doesn’t have any personality unless a teleprompter’s in his face has just been confirmed. Yes, …it looks like YOU!!!

  14. Doug says:

    Please don’t let him know that only about a football stadiums worth of people watch him on television every night.


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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