The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Convention Memories

I don't really have any convention memories. But back in the late 80s I approached the Washington Post about maybe going to the Democratic or Republican convention to do some drawings. It didn't work out, which in retrospect is just as well; I don't do my best work with the kind of distractions and deadlines that it would've entailed.

But I did these drawings of George H.W. Bush, as practice, but also because he was and still is just about the most fun politician to draw, short of Richard Nixon. Somebody said years ago that the English produce the most caricature-ready politicians on earth, and GHW Bush seemed to have a face imported from the Sceptered Isle. But it wasn't just the face, it was the facial mannerisms, or espressions he pulled. And the expression is the most important part of a caricature, I think. GW Bush makes some of the same faces but he's more round and baby-faced while his dad is more elongated and tall-headed, and I'll go with drawing angular over doughy any day.

So really this is just another excuse to post old stuff I still like. These were never published, though I plundered them a few times for various freelance jobs. The last pencil sketch below is my favorite of the Bush Suite (as I've just named it) and I used it a coupla times, like in the color piece below it. That was done for either US News & World Report or Mother Jones, I can't remember which, to illustrate Bush's hyperactive mannerisms and, because I gave it to Art Wood back when, it's now held in the Library of Congress with most all the rest of Art's collection.

That last sketch was inspired by a photo of an Iroquois mask that's in my old copy of Gardner's History of Art from college. In doing caricatures you can fall into a rut; the same-old-same-old head, nose, mouth, etc. for a particular subject. I once heard the great caricaturist John Kascht say he was stuck on a job that wasn't coming together the way he wanted, his sketches weren't inspiring him, he was drawing the subject the same old way, he was having a bad day. Then he looked at a crumpled up paper bag lying in his studio and bingo, there was the face (I can't remember whose it was, somebody with crumpled up features). Since hearing that I've always made it a point to leave a lot of trash all over my studio floor, just in case some gum wrapper might suddenly resolve itself into Dick Cheney

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

In the late '90s the National Gallery in DC had a big show of the great 19th century French painter J.A.D. Ingres, and I drew this cartoon. I like Ingres' work a lot, with that kind of awe that such perfection of technique inspires, but I've never yet pronounced his name correctly. It's kind of AHNggghh, all the way in the back of the throat, using mostly your tonsils.

So I did this cartoon with that usual feeling of, Who's going to get this? My editor just asked if this guy was real, and was his name spelled right. And the Post printed it, a few people read it, and life went on.

Then some time later I got a call from a curator at the Metropolitan Gallery of Art in New York City. The Ingres show was about to move up there, and she said someone had brought in the Pronouncing Ingres cartoon and passed it around and they'd chuckled at it duirng a meeting, and how'd I feel about them putting it on a T-shirt for their Ingres Show Gift Shop? I said sure, though there wasn't much actual money involved, but you know, I figured the cartoon had found its audience and how cool is that? The curator also invited me up to the opening, which I couldn't make as we had a new baby in the house or I was busy or something.

Then a month or so after that I got a call from an editor at the Wall Street Journal asking if they could reproduce the cartoon, and I said sure, and he said thanks and hung up. A day or two later a friend stopped by with a copy of the WSJ and in it was an opinion piece on the cultural pages excoriating the Met for selling these trashy T-shirts with cartoons using the word "anal" from the low-class Washington Post printed on them. Well! I thought about sending a strongly-worded letter to the editor, but I didn't know exactly what to say, so I never got around to it. Like I said, we had a new baby in the house and I was busy.

The other thing was, I never got the drawing back from the Met, though they did send a T-shirt (the above was redrawn from a copy off the shirt). I let them keep it so I could say that my work is in the permanent collection at the Met.

And today Jean Louise Dominique Ingres would've been 228. Happy Birthday!

Update: below is the opening bit of the WSJ column. It later says, "It's no surprise to learn that the Met's T-shirt originated as a Washington Post cartoon." But does it mention my name? No! Ha ha, I'm glad I'm not bitter! And I only kept the article because I've been too busy to throw it away.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I forgot to draw a balloon around the words "adult swim" in today's strip. It doesn'st kill it or spoil the joke, but it would've looked sharper to have the words tethered by a balloon. It'd have added more oomph & direction & organic flow & stuff like that.
And I know how it happened. I lettered "adult swim" last, with a Speedball B-3 nib, and the ink was taking forever to dry, and I thought "I'll add the balloon later, after the ink's dried", and I never did.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


This is for a story in the most recent Atlantic Monthly, just now hitting the newsstands. The article is about bipartisanship; which candidate is most capable of dealing with the other side, and is dealing with the other side still possible? The author, Ronald Brownstein, isn't real optimistic, especially as the campaigns hit the downhill slide into election day and their rhetoric gets more toxic.
I like this drawing ok, it's nice and simple, and it's not often you get to do caricatures of presidential candidates with Mickey Mouse gloves.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today's Poor Almanack

For a while I've had the idea to do a cartoon about that sound that's used in political attack ads to describe how unsuitable the Other Guy is for elective office. You know, that deep, dark chord like somebody putting both arms down on a piano keyboard, only it's enhanced and overtoned and uglified until it sounds utterly depraved. The TV screen ges darker, the announcer's voice gets ominous, they show a photo of the Other Guy, and you hear this BWRRAANNNGG. And if you're susceptible you don't vote for the other guy.
They've been using that sound for a while, years and years I'd guess. And I've never really heard any comment on it anywhere. So I did this cartoon, which only says part of what I wanted to say, or only says it badly. What I really needed was some kind of chip to actually make the noise, or a better onomatopoetic spelling, or just a better idea to start with.

Petey Buys Some Pants

It's almost Back to School time here in Arlington County, where most schools let out late for the summer and starts up right after Labor Day. And time to buy new pants. This is from a few years ago and, once again, torn from the pages of the Cul de Sac book.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Long as we're talking about places of enforced mass fun, can I bring up amusement parks? I have a love/hate relationship wih them. I love going to them, mostly for people-watching and fried food, but I really hate rides, unless they're "amusing" rather than "thrilling". We've got four or five parks within driving distance, spread between Hershey Park to the north and KIng's Dominion to the south, and we hit one of them once a year, maybe. We're evenly divided in our interests; my older daughter and I stay on the ground, my wife and younger daughter get on the rides.
I've only been to the Grand Behemoth of amusement parks, Disney World, twice. Once eight years ago with my family and in-laws, and that was a lot of fun, and once, when I was about 25 with some friends, and that was ridiculous, though fun. Both times it was around Thanksgiving, and when we went as a family it was so crowded you couldn't swing a mouse, never mind a cat. But when I went with friends in the early 80s Disney World was, well, not empty, but pretty sparsely attended, so much so that when we got on the Jungle Cruise Ride, it was just the five of us and the tour guide in the little boat.
The tour guide was only slightly younger than us, and we gave him a hard time and kidded around with him because he wouldn't deviate from his script. I don't remember if he actually told the "my mother irons and my father steals" joke, but most of his patter was from one of Henny Youngman's older routines, like he'd been given a list of acceptable jokes that were approved back around 1928.
Finally one of us, probably Dana, was asking the poor guy what it was like working for Disney and his Tour Guide facade cracked. He said (and I'm paraphrasing from memory), "We get an hour break in the employee lounge and the employee lounge is RIGHT NEXT to the Tiki Room, and you go in there and try to relax and you hear this 'Tiki Tiki Tiki' coming through the walls the whole time". I don't know if you've ever seen the Tiki Room, but it's kind of a big nervous breakdown in animatronic form and the thought of these beleagured Disneyites trying to get some R&R anywhere in its vicinity was almost too much to bear. I think we all said wow that's rough, and slapped him on the back or something. But anyway, he shook himself and returned to his Tour Guide duties and when he emptied his pistol blanks into the rubber hippo I think he was mentally taking aim at the damn birds in the Tiki Room.
So like I said, I go to amusement parks to people-watch. Extreme conditions always bring out the most interesting responses. And unrelatedly, the tangle of rollercoasters in the second panel was maybe the most fun thing I've ever gotten to draw.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Fair Play

Here are the Otterloops at their county fair, wherever the county may be. It's mostly drawn directly from life, just all out of order and with the names changed. And, if more impetus be needed, these are from the early reprints in the CdS book, availble soon. Or stop by my house and I'll show you a copy, from a distance.
And my regards to all you fairground/street/party caricaturists. I tried that once at a charity and I still have nightmares about drawing people who were sitting five feet away.

Fair Warning

I grew up in Gaithersburg MD, just a few miles from the county fairgrounds. During fair season, especially at night, you could hear the grind of the tractor-pulls and the screams from the midway and you could smell the fried food and the livestock sheds. So I'm a sucker for county fairs, though I've missed the last few (you go too often and you start recognizing the animals, and they recognize you too).
Here's a double extra bonus Almanack, two of 'em joined into one long endless cartoon, and by the time you get to the end of it you'll be tired and hot and sweaty and ready to go home. Just like the county fair!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


You might've noticed it's been August for almost two weeks, and if you're in DC you might've noticed you're practically the only one here. Me, I kinda like it like this.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Remembering Elvis

And yet I forgot to post this on the 16th. Though I do remember where I was when I heard he'd died; on the way to a party at John Montrie's house. The party was pretty memorable, too.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One More Beach Cartoon

I've just drawn a week of daily strips about the Otterloop's last days on vacation, and I've cannabalized some from this Sunday strip from last year. The last night on vacation is always poignant, of course, and I'm always torn between sneaking off and finding a place to stay for another week and jumping in the car and leaving at 4 a.m. so I can get home even sooner. But instead we compromise by staying till around noon and hitting a pancake house (see previous post). Except this year, this year we left the beach in an unpancaked state. So I still need vacation closure, and pancakes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

LIbrary of Congress Control Number 2008926290

Yesterday the mailman brought me two early copies of the Cul de Sac book, fresh from the printers in Singapore via Kansas City MO. The knowledge that thousands of copies are about to descend on an unsuspecting world where they'll be bought, read, enjoyed, given as gifts, puzzled over, regifted, remaindered, shelved and mulched fills me with glee.
As I expected it all goes downhill after you read the foreword by Watterson, though the book does have its moments. The only error I found was in the reprints of the earlier color Sunday strips; the first of the Dander's Search for Love sequence is out of order. But it doesn't ruin the story arc, or whatever you call it. The mistake may actually enhance the book's collectability: First Edition with errata, corrected in second edition, $300. As long as it's also dog-eared from use that's just fine by me.
The image comes up real big if you click on it because I forgot to resize it. So pleae consider it an exclusive Cul de Sac poster or wallpaper for you! And I mean actual wallpaper, not the computer screen kind.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Seafood 'n' Pancakes

Oh boy, more beach stuff! When we go to the beach we eat a lot of seafood, unsurprisingly, but somehow we usually end up at a pancake restaurant too. So I combined them in this strip from about four years ago. I just drew some more beach trip daily strips that cannabalized some of these older ones and pretty shamelessly too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Slapstick Galore

So yesterday, in the midst of trying to finish inking a week of strips and do some roughs for a freelance job, I walked across my studio with a cup of coffee and tripped over a stack of drawing pads, bounced a few times off a bookcase and sat down in box of books. It was a hoot if you were watching it unfold from a distance like a silent comedy, less so if you were more intimately involved in the processs. I'm fine, but there are coffee stains all over the place, a hole poked into a nearby cabinet (nothing fancy, the hole slightly improves it) and the box of books looks like somebody sat in it.

In more pressing news, it's been decided that the correct nomenclature for bugs that fly around in your back yard and light up is "lightning bug", the final tally in our poll being lightning bugs-65, fireflies-57, electro-galvanic gnats-18, other-6. I'll alert the Society of Entomologists or whoever decides these things. And thanks to all who voted. The winner of a free dessert with a small coffee is- Mike Rhode!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Public Service Announcement from Our Friends at the Totoro Forest Project

Totoro Forest Project Tickets Available Monday 8/11 10:00am Pacific Time!

Many of you have been wondering when and how you can buy tickets for the upcoming Totoro Forest Art Auction Benefit Event to be held here at Pixar on September 6th. Finally we are ready to start selling these online! The first pre-sale will start monday 8/11 at 10am. Here's the options available - Please note that all tickets include the stunning Art of Totoro Forest Book (worth $40)

Forest Friend - 100$ regular admission + book.
Forest Sponsor - 200$ includes admission + book + signed limited edition print
Forest Champion - $300 includes middle VIP live auction seating + book + signed limited edition print + gift certificate to Blowfish Sushi
Forest Hero - $500 includes front VIP live auction seating + book + an original drawing by one of the artists

Tickets will go on sale here exactly at 10AM Monday! We have a rather limited numbers of tickets so we suggest acting quickly if you want to be part of this event. Remember many of the donating artists will be in attendance, this will be a night to remember!! All the "Totoro inspired" art is up for preview at All proceed will be donated to the Totoro Forest Foundation!! Let me know if you have any questions.

Unfortunately, I won't be there. So anybody who does buy a ticket please email me some photos and if they're serving those bowls of peanuts & raisins put some in a baggy and fedex 'em. I'd appreciate it, and we'd all appreciate your purchase of a ticket!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Games of the 29th Olympiad

This is actually from four years ago, the Athens Olympics, but it still makes some sense inasmuch as its roots are Greek. What I like best about the Olympics is that it's spread out so that I can be a sports fan every four, or two, years, and for me that works out just right.

Happy Birthday, Garrison Keillor

Although I'm two days late. About 15 or 20 years ago I read a string of Keillor's books, Lake Woebegone Days and collections of his random pieces, and I enjoyed them. He gets too folksy sometimes, especially on his radio show, but he can make me laugh, and I think he's at his best in the short comic sketches, like The Tip Top Club.
This drawing was done around 1987, when I was enamored with colored pencils. You can do wonderful things with them, if you've got time but who does? I still like this drawing just fine, though I couldn't replicate it today because I"ve gotten sloppier. I did it from a simpler pen & ink sketch that was drawn for the Wash Post Book World, and it went on to get a Silver Funny Bone from the Society of Illustrators. The SoC doesn't give out Funny Bones any more which is unfortunate as they make useful and attractive blunt weapons. I got a string of freelance work out of this piece, and the Beethoven drawing I did around the same time in a similar style, but eventually I found it was a mistake to promote this work, though fun to do occassionally when not on a deadline.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Panels & Pixels & Chat & Chew

A few months ago I talked on the phone with Chris Mautner, the noted nice guy, comics afficianado & critic who also works at an honest to god actual newspaper, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg PA. He must've taken notes or something because the whole thing has been posted on his comics blog, Panels and Pixels, which is right here.

Warning: the piece opens with a frightening photo of some unfocused-looking individual who's a dead ringer for whoever it was posed for my high school yearbook photo. Except his hair was even worse. To make the trip to the site worthwhile take a look at Chris's earlier interview with Jules Feiffer, and his current one with Darrin Bell, the genius who draws Candorville.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fine Arf

Happy Dog Days of August, which, if I understand correctly, has something to do with the prominence of the dog star, Sirius, in the night sky. Also it has to do with the whole DC area smelling like a big wet dog all month. And dogs are fun to draw, hence this cartoon from two years ago.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Home Again

We're back home now, in that drearily enjoyable semi-letdown that comes after a good vacation. My proudest achievement while at the beach was producing a week of daily strips without a lightbox, drawing table or a congenial radio station, but with enough distractions to make my head spin. And after I fedexed the dailies I let my head spin freely, which was actually my proudest achievement, never mind the dailies. My only regrets are that while we were there nobody launched a kite, took a nighttime beach stroll or played mini golf. But that's okay, there's always next year.

Here are two old beach trip Cul de Sacs, one from '07 and the other from '06.