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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Your Old Caricature from USN&WR for Today

A month or so ago U.S.News & World Report announced it was ending its availability as a subscription print magazine and switching to digital publication with some vestigial newsstand sales (see here and here). I freelanced for them for years, going back to the late '80s, doing spots and caricatures and at least two covers. In the mid '90s I started drawing for them every week, illustrating a column in the front of the book called Washington Whispers that featured inside-baseball political-gossip reporting. I'd known and worked with the art director, Michele Chu, for some time and she asked if I'd be interested in a weekly gig with a horrifying deadline that paid decently. Washington Whispers had run in USNWR for some time and several caricaturists had illustrated it, including Taylor Jones, and they were looking for a new one, ideally a local guy. So I said yes.

The deal was they'd give me the subject or situation on Thursday around 4 and the final was due on Friday around 11 (which often stretched into the afternoon). I can't remember who the first subject I did was, but I do remember it was a crummy overworked lump of a painting and they asked if I'd please redo it in a looser style, and quickly please, so I did. This is when Thursday nights first turned into all-nighters for me, a habit I'm still trying to shake. Over the next few weeks I got into the job's rhythm; get a call from Michele, do a sketch and fax it over by 5 or 6, ink the sketch onto (Saunders Waterford 140 lb hot press) watercolor paper with a lightbox and stretch the paper and watercolor it, interspersed with periods of dawdling and fretting. Then call them on Friday and a courier would show up, usually Shawn, to pick the finished drawing up. I did this for 9 years, about 50 times a year, and I learned more about watercolor and the limits of human patience than i ever would've otherwise.

I regretfully moved on in 2004; I was getting burned out and I'd started Cul de Sac in the Post Magazine while still doing the Almanac and they always clumped up on Friday. Ideally, the way freelancing worked was you'd get a few standing gigs, illustrating this or that column or whatever weekly or monthly for various clients and then you'd get one-off type jobs, a cover or a page here or there, With the decline of print this type of illustration has declined too, and I moved into newspaper comic strips I just in time to watch that decline as well. DC is a huge center of publishing, with the government and all the various associations with magazines and newsletters and such. USN&WR, The Atlantic and National Geographic are the only big national publications around here though and it's sad to see USNWR move on too. But I wish them luck wherever they go.

Here's a Clinton I did for them in '98, when he was experiencing some financial embarrassment. First the sketch I faxed to Michele.

And here's the final. I like this one, especially the suit. I've got piles of these, some good, some so-so, and I'll post them from time to time. Only the good ones, to present a slanted view of my caricature prowess.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fan Art Friday

I hope this will be a moment of light and joy in your grim Black Friday consumo-berserkathon. Jonathan Hill sent me this wonderful drawing he did for the store map at Powell's City of Books, the massive bookstore that fills a city block in Portland, Oregon. Mingling in among the satisfied shoppers along with Napolean, Quasimodo and Huck & Jim are Alice and Petey Otterloop, happily free of parental supervisison!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two Servings of Thanksgiving Leftovers

As I'll be away for the traditional Ohio Thanksgiving, I've defrosted these old and unrelated things. The first, a Cul de Sac is from 2005. the second, a heartwarming Thanksgiving memory a la Truman Capote, happened in 1992.

The story below originally ran, in slightly different form, in the Washington Post Magazine with an illustration by Gene Weingarten.

Eighteen years ago today, my wife, Amy, and I were about to celebrate our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We were going to serve a large feast on our new plates on our new table in our newly rented home for as many of our extended family as could make it. The night before Thanksgiving we went to a bar with friends and we had a most festive and enjoyable time, I personally enjoying it more than anyone else. When we got home, in hopes of coninuing my festively enjoyable time, I started dancing around like Fred Astaire would if Fred Astaire danced in his socks.

Our house was old and strangely shaped and it was heated by radiators, big iron monsters, all coils and ribs and flanges. The kind of fixture that would give sensitive children nightmares. I, as Fred Astaire would not, executed a kick that planted my foot squarely into the radiator in the hall, good and hard.

Amy, seeing me suddenly rolling around on the floor, thought I was still enjoying myself, until I pulled my sock off. One toe was bent completely back, and since it was the middle one, it looked like my foot was giving me the toe, if you know what I mean. It was indescrabably funny, in a silent-film-comedy-trauma way. And it hurt like "the dickens". The dickens is when the entire output of Charles Dickens-all 15 hardbound novels, plus journalism, letters and ephemera-is simultaneously dropped from a height and hits you.

The folks at the emergency room were extremely helpful and didn't laugh and didn't yell at me when I did some doughnuts with the wheelchair and knocked over the IV stand. But the nurse on duty did tell me an awful story about when he was in the Navy and won a $300 bet that he couldn't pull all the hairs off the top of his foot with tweezers without screaming. And they gave me some Tylenol 3, the kind with codeine, the kind that comes with the warning that not everybody reacts well to codeine.

So that is how I ended up at the head of our table the next day, Thanksgiving Day, with my mangled foot elevated on another chair, presiding over our first Thanksgiving feast. And that is when, not ten minutes into the meal, I fould out I was one of the people who react badly to codeine. And it was Amy who quickly handed me a bowl, the fancy one that matched our new plates and was fortunately empty, for me to react badly in.

It's been 18 years. The toe's still there, of course, though it's still bent a little funny. The house is gone, or at least so renovated it's unrecognizable, and good riddance; it was an astestos-clad eyesore and a menace.

Somehow, subsequent family holidays have never quite matched that First Thanksgiving for intensity of emotion; not the Christmas of the Flaming Oven Mitt, or the Other Thanksgiving When the Fireplace Blew Up, or that Day or Two Before Easter When We Had to Evacuate Because of a Carbon Monoxide Leak That Almost Killed Everybody.

The only downside is that, ever since I broke my toe that night, I've been forced to draw with my hands.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, November 21 2010

Dill's winter hat is one of the few things I look forward to when cold weather rolls in. He was wearing it the first time I drew him, below, in March 2004.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pearls Before Swine

Stephan Pastis is the nicest guy on the planet, and don't let him tell you otherwise.
Also, he needs just one more friend on Facebook to hit 5,000. Somebody please friend him, now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, November 14, 15 & 16 2010

Ernesto's actuality is best left unexamined, I think.
Maybe he's a wormholian who can slide between realities (I knew kids like this).
Or maybe he's a projection of the zeitgeist. Whatever, he's good for laffs when used sparingly. For what it's worth, below is my favorite Ernesto appearance. Which is available in the first CdS book at Amazon for only $5.20. So that's what it's worth.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Old Cul de Sac

Because I don't have anything new, here's one from the Wash Post Magazine. I usually found the pandas at the zoo in DC kinda boring, because most often they were pretty inert, lazing around like high-contrast carpet samples. The one time I saw them up and about, of course, they were just adorable and I had to be restrained from climbing into the enclosure and hugging them to bits.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Too Late Fall Colors Preview

This comes in too late to be useful, which is in line with the standard operating procedures that makes this blog so vital a part of everyone's daily internet read.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, November 12 & 13 2010

 Here are two of Petey's notable pastimes in collision- picky eating and chewing his arm off. Somebody said that the ability to hold two contradictory ideas is the mark of a first-rate mind (F. Scott Fitzgerald, I googled it), which makes sense to me although it obviously doesn't at all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, November 14 2010 and Tellingly, April 17 2010

 No comment, except to say such laziness is shameful, and I'll say it again in 7 months when I use Dill's brothers' skateboard ramp for the third time.

Your Saturday Morning Cartoon Calvacade

Babelgum has posted some interviews that Michael Fry and Jim Cox of Ringtales shot at the Reubens last May. They've got cartoonists like Bob Mankoff, Mark Tatulli, Stephan Pastis, Michael Fry, Paul Gilligan, Drew Dernavich and, providing some much-needed incoherence, me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, November 9, 10, 11 2010

 I have no idea where this is going, but Viola needed to fit into all this somehow.
This is an oblique shout out to my friend Norm Feuti who draws the wonderful strip Retail. Originally, the salesman was named "Norm Grumbels" after the department store in Retail, but it got changed. Norm Feuti is nothing like the character here portrayed, though I'm sure he's had customers like dis guy.
And this is just in answer to the above strip. Petey and Andre each get a chance to present their comic book Platonic ideal.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bargain Galore Just Got Slightly Less Bargainier!

The first Cul de Sac book is now $4.99 at Amazon! That's up 21 cents from just days ago, proving that as an investment they'll appreciate like mad!

UPDATE- $5.20! Somebody's losing money on this deal, and I hope it's not me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, November 8 2010

What a cheap joke! I'm kinda embarrassed for Petey, and for his father for the easy set up.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bargain Galore Just Got Bargainier!

The first Cul de Sac book is now $4.78 at Amazon! It's almost like they don't want them in stock.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, November 7 2010

I've wanted to do a strip with a cartoon by Petey for a while, though I had no idea he'd be inspired by Waiting for Godot. And I wish he wouldn't draw so much like me.

When I steal from Samuel Beckett, this is what happens-

Today's Cul de Sac, November 1 Through 6 2010

Race you to the end of the week. Ready? Go-
This was originally the idea for the previous Sunday's strip, recounting Petey and Andre's somewhat disastrous Halloween, but that left Alice out of the picture. So a little tweaking and it's all told in flashbacks.
Not much of a joke but it sets up the week. Please take a moment to admire the crosshatching.
 Oh, I love Sharing Time! It's so fraught with drama. I'd like to know more about Kevin's stick.
 Alice seems uncharacteristically ill at ease in the second panel. Kevin's cat 'on a vacuum cleaner video was inspired by my friend Craig Fischer's favorite video "kittens on a Roomba". As Craig is a professor of film studies and English I trust his taste in such things.
 And I love it when Alice gets forcibly escorted offstage. But the thought that Nara brings a new duck-shaped potato to every Sharing Time is the peak of the week, I think.
Petey's bedroom is where most of Alice's Autopsy of the Day's Events take place. You may have noticed that Alice the Pangolin's right eyeball was coming loose a few days ago.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Barney Google and the Aesthetics of the Bigfoot Style

This is the foreword I did to Craig Yoe's big Barney Google book. I made it all up off the top of my head but I stand by every word.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Old Yet Slightly Timely Almanack

This was a cartoon about the 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 gets 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.

I did it in 2008 so it's got a few dated reference in it, but it still makes a modicum of sense, and these days that's all I've got.