Saturday, December 04, 2010


Who is this Aaron Philby guy!!?? I'm always seeing his caricatures on the net, but they're never accompanied by biographical material. Usually they're not even signed. Whenever I see good people doing what they do anonymously I always assume they're on the lamb from the law, or are in the Witness Protection Program.

 Oops! Sorry Aaron. I hope what I said doesn't get you killed.

Wouldn't it be fun to go to the beach and get a funny caricature done like the one above? What a nice, clean line!

Aaron does what looks like acrylic portaits, too.

The man does what the best modern caricaturists do: he sees his subjects as weird, biological specimens. You see it in his two-man "friend" portraits, which always look like the love of a sea urchin for a flounder. I mean that as a compliment.

Friendship is one of the great mysteries of life. Two weird organisms (above) with different tastes and different physiology find each other and somehow just "gel." It's a strange and wonderful phenomenon and only caricature seems to capture it adequately.

 Wonderful (above), just wonderful!

Asians (above) can be a challenge to draw. The linear eyes are first thing Europeans see, but if you draw them like that some Asians get offended. That's because they don't see themselves that way. Look at Manga which always portrays Japanese as having huge, wide-open, glassy eyes. What's a caricaturist to do?

I think Aaron has the right approach. Just draw what you see. At least it's honest, and maybe one day  Asians won't be so touchy about it.

I love portraits where a big giraffe head (above) just leans in from the side. How do you like the arrangement of the teeth?

Above, another "biological specimen" portrait. You imagine David Attenburough describing the creature as a bottom feeder which uses its nose to stir up the sand, and its mouth to suck up the worms that live there. I'm guessing that the father of this technique was John K who watches animal shows on TV in order to understand humans better.

Very Nice (above)! I also like the way the chair comes off as an irregular-shaped cloth frame in this photo.

Probably these (above) were just-for-fun sketches, done at home. The task for a caricaturist is to retain this cartoony, class clown style even in a worked-up painting. 

Oops! I just discovered that this one (above) might be by Briam Oakes, I'll investigate.

I could write a whole article about these last three pictures (above). They look primitive but are actually very sophisticated. It takes real comedic and graphic talent to simplify faces this way. It's hard to do that when your subject has paid you and is sitting right in front of you. In that situation you delete everything funny in an attempt to chase the likeness. The funniest pictures are always drawn the next day when you're on the scent of a remembered impression.

This reminds me of something caricaturist Marlo Meekins said. She said she didn't mind it when people moved a lot while she was sketching them. The movement made her focus on her impression of the subject, rather than fidelity to reality.

Anyway, great work Aaron!

Aaron's blog:


Eric Noble said...

Thank you so very much for sharing these with us Uncle Eddie!! These are brilliant! I tip my hat to this man.

Who are your favorite caricaturists?

BTW, would you mind taking a look at my blog?

Paul Penna said...

I get 1930s vibe from Philby's work. Along the lines of Miguel Corvarrubias and Pablo Garretto. Even T. Hee.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of this Aaron Philby fellow before you brought him up, but these caricatures are fantastic. Seeing all of them really makes me wanna draw more than ever now.

yawn said...

Those are hilarious chricatures!

EZ Goodnight said...

They're excellent... but it's really obvious that the people he's doing them of hate them. Look how pissed they are! They're all hiding contempt. I bet you the drawings all went in the trash after those pictures were taken.

Have to admit, I love his take on the human face. It is amazingly unique.

Steven M. said...

WOW! I'm gonna check that guy's work out.

Jennifer said...

Although I can appreciate the skill, I don't like the caricatures. I know that caricatures are supposed to be exaggerations of a person's features, and he does do that very well. However, the pictures look like they're trying to take the mickey out of the subject.

I agree with EZ Goodnight - many of the people in the pictures look like they're angry about the pictures but they're too polite to show it (except the girl on the left in the first picture who looks like she really liked it). Their reactions remind me of a person who was the subject of an embarrassing practical joke that was performed in front of everyone. They're really p1$$ed off about it, but they don't want to come off as a spoiled sport, so they try to pretend to think it was funny.

Shawn Luke said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Wow! It is rare to see a caricaturist who truly captures someones personality. There are many caricaturists who have the same hagiographic way of drawing celebrities be it Paris Hilton or Nelson Mandela.

Zoran Taylor said...

Actually, I believe the huge eyes in anime are a direct REACTION to reality, as opposed to an attempt to copy it. In fact, I've heard them described as a reaction to nothing so much as older Japanese art, wherein those "slit-eyes", which would be considered so offensive today, were employed willy-nilly. It seems many people found this irritating. The same applied to curves vs. angles - There was indeed an extremely gradual transition from nearly-always-the-former to nearly-always-the-latter, according to some friends of mine from school who are quite knowledgeable on this subject. Japan seems to be a place of extremes.

pappy d said...

I love you Eddie! Where else do you find entertainment of the caliber that you get on this blog?

Aaron Philby is terrific! It seems like 1/2 of the couple finds the caricature hilarious & the other one's nose is out of joint. Is there always a victim in caricature or is it just Philby's native genius?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jennifer, Pappy, EZ: You're right about some people appearing to be put off by the pictures. I do caricatures and I occassionally get that reaction, too. It makes me feel awful.

Most people are only perfectly formed when they're teenagers. Adults get thick necks and double chins even when they're not out of shape. If you're a caricaturist coming off decades of insult humor on TV, it's hard to resist drawing those necks, and even exaggerating them.

I know what you mean, though. Artists like Jack Davis and Hirschfeld had the ability to caricature without offending...well, usually. Catherine Hepburn hated the way Hirschfeld drew her, and said so in the film about that artist.

This is an interesting subject, and I'll try to do a whole post about it soon. Thanks for bringing it up.

thomas said...

I like these. Seems like some of the subjects weren't that pleased, but other are having a good laugh. Everyone has a self deludeed image of what they look like. A good caricature just bursts the bubble. The drawings are very economical. I actuall prefer the line drawings rather than the more finished paintings, but they're good too.

the caricatures all seem spot on, to me.

Unknown said...

Cool find!

His one panel gags in the "Cartoons" section of look nothing like this though! They're like New Yorker cartoons!! Zuh??

Smackmonkey said...

The teeth spewing from the giraffe-necked head are pure brilliance. Rationally they appear nothing like teeth but more along the lines of an alien fungus sprouting from the back of the subjects throat. There's not even room enough for a tongue in that sad excuse for a maw. Yet despite all that would repulse in the image, Philby managed to impart a solid dose of that all too rare quality in art these days - "appeal". I should be disgusted but am not. The overall effect is recognizable, understandable, inoffensive. Heck, I think I even know someone with teeth just like that!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Eric: Sorry it took me a couple of days to get back to you. Your blog is great! You have good taste, and there are lots of hard to find treasures the Mad artists drawing William Gaines. I bookmarked it!

Aaronphilby said...

HAHAHA. Wow, Eddie. Thanks for the kind words. I love hearing what you have to say about cartoons and it's very surreal to hear you talk about mine. I'm flattered and inspired. three cheers for life!

Aaronphilby said...

Also, just for the record, I think all the people in these photo's liked their picture genuinely. I can tell when people don't...I think.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Thomas: I like the line drawings, too!

Paul: Definitely!

Aaron: It was fun to talk about your work. Your site is full of inspiration!