How long have you been drawing caricatures?
I’ve been drawing caricatures professionally in the Bucks County, Philadelphia and New Jersey area since 1997. Prior to my professional career I was an amateur caricaturist, sketching wherever and whenever I could – my friends at parties or my teachers in an unflattering light on the back of tests and textbooks.
How did you become a caricaturist?
In 1997, Sesame Place came to my high school art class to generate interest in summer work as a caricaturist. That job sounded way more interesting than Pizza Hut and I was pretty good at drawing. So I presented my work, got the gig, and became an official caricaturist. I had no clue what I was doing at first, but after a lot of practice, I became really good.
After high school, I moved to Elkins Park, Pa. to study design and illustration at Tyler School of Art. It was during these financially-challenging years that I decided to capitalize on this unique skill. What started as a desperate need for cash turned into a pretty successful business, helping to purchase textbooks, design software and art supplies. I could even afford to eat once in a while, which was nice.
As word spread throughout Bucks County, Philadelphia and New Jersey, I started drawing on a regular basis. These days I keep very busy, drawing caricatures at birthday parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, Phillies games and corporate events.
Is this your full-time job?
No, I wish! I was fortunate enough to study both graphic design and illustration at Tyler School of Art, which enabled me to grow and enhance both skill sets to a professional level. The ability to jump back and forth between caricatures and graphic design keeps me inspired and challenged, keeping me from getting burnt out on one or the other.
How did you learn to draw caricatures?
I was always artistically inclined. When I was young, I was passionate about drawing Marvel comic book characters, Disney cartoons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I drew all the time. I would get in trouble for drawing on the backs of tests and on my paper-bag book covers. When I was in third grade or so, my parents let me paint murals on our basement walls. My life-long passion for art is how I ended up in advanced art class that day the Sesame Place caricaturist came to recruit art students for summer work.
Sesame Place provided a brief crash course in caricature basics, but it didn’t help me much. It was the hundreds of thousands of caricatures I drew and the years of experience I accumulated over my career that was my education. It isn’t something that can be taught easily…it is something you learn from experience. When I started I was horrible. I see old pictures of my work from the first few summers at Sesame Place and I cringe. But with every sketch, I learned something new. Not just how to create a better illustration or capture a likeness, but there are so many little nuances and things that caricaturists need to learn like how to get the best line quality from the marker, how to commit to a line without worrying you’re going to mess it up, how to cope with drawing in front of a live audience and more importantly, how to not get discouraged when a person in the crowd says negative things about your work. How to draw a child who is crying and how to draw an ugly child and make it look cute (trust me it happens)…I can go on and on.
Can you teach me to draw caricatures?
I’ve learned caricatures over a career that has spanned fourteen years. The best way to learn is to just do it, and don’t give up…even when your sketch is horrible!
Have you ever had a caricature rejected?
Absolutely! The art of caricature is a truly subjective medium, where the artist interprets and exaggerates a person’s features. Sometimes your interpretation and exaggeration doesn’t sync up with how the subject perceives him/herself to look, or you get that mother that thinks her child is much cuter than it actually is and you don’t make the sale. Either way, having a caricature sketch rejected is a rite of passage for caricaturists. It’s always the best work that gets rejected, but you will never become better without taking chances and pushing yourself. If you set out to please everybody, you will spend your career doing uninspired work. There is an awesome book called “Rejects” by caricaturist Joe Bluhm that is a compilation of all his rejected caricatures. You’ll find that all his “rejects” are actually fantastic caricatures that prove some people just have no sense of humor and don’t appreciate great art.
What do you hear the most when you’re drawing a subject?
“I can’t even draw a stick figure.”
What is the second-most thing you hear when you’re drawing a subject?
“I can’t even say the word car-ki-ter. How do you say it?”
What does the word caricature even mean anyway?
The term Caricature is derived from the Italian caricare—to charge or load. An early definition occurs in the doctor Thomas Browne’s 1716 publication Christian Morals:
Expose not thy self by four-footed manners unto monstrous draughts, and Caricatura representations.
With the footnote “When Men’s faces are drawn with resemblance to some other Animals, the Italians call it, to be drawn in Caricatura.” Thus, the word “caricature” essentially means a “loaded portrait”.
Some of the earliest caricatures are found in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, who actively sought people with deformities to use as models. The point was to offer an impression of the original which was more striking than a portrait.
Caricature experienced its first successes in the closed aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where such portraits could be passed about for mutual enjoyment.
I’m sure you feel very enlightened now that you know what the word Caricature means. You’re welcome!
How many caricatures can you do in one hour?
For full-color and body I draw approximately 15-20 caricature sketches per hour. The most time-consuming aspect of the caricatures is color, so if you are expecting a large turnout (like a large corporate event, Bar Mitzvah or wedding) I can draw even more caricatures per hour in black and white, which is approximately 20-25 per hour. Read my article “Why black and white caricatures are ideal for large events” for more information on the differences between black and white and color caricatures.
Can you do gift caricatures from photos?
Yes. I actually do a lot of custom gift caricatures by photos submitted through email. All you need to do is email me 3-5 clear, high-resolution photos as well as a brief explanation of what you’d like to include in the caricature. Please do not submit photos taken from FACEBOOK, Twitter or other social media websites. They are compressed and too-low of a resolution to zoom in and see the detail in the subjects face. I require a 50% deposit upon commencement of the caricature, and 50% upon completion. Once the full balance is received, I’ll email the digital copy of the caricature and/or ship the original artwork via USPS.
How did you become a Phillies caricaturist?
Since 2008, I have been providing caricatures at Citizens Bank Ballpark during Philadelphia Phillies games. This opportunity presented itself when I met caricature artist Emily Anthony at a New Jersey Bat Mitzvah job. Between sketches, she told me that caricature artist Bruce Blitz was looking for more experienced artists to draw at Philadelphia Phillies games. I was sold as soon as she mentioned Bruce.
It’s a pretty sweet deal. Bruce is extremely flexible with his artists schedules, and since I work a 9-5 during the week, he lets me work only weekend Phillies home games. We charge $13 for black and white and $20 for color caricatures at the ballpark. We are not associated with the Phillies, we simply rent space from the organization to set up in the concourse area as a vendor. And I can’t get you tickets, but if you’re at a weekend game stop by and say hi.
Do you require a deposit and/or contract for drawing at events?
I require a 50% deposit to reserve the date, and 50% at the end of the event.
Booking, prices and travel
I charge an hourly rate (contact me for current rates) with a 2 hour minimum and will travel to the following areas: In Eastern Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Bucks County, Solebury, Montgomery County, and Delaware County. In New Jersey: Trenton, Princeton, New Brunswick, shore points, Mount Laurel and Mount Holly, north Jersey areas such as Parsippany and south to Vineland.