Born in the small town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Tom Richmond always had a passion for drawing. Caricaturing came easy to him, especially early on in school when he practiced enhancing his favorite teacher’s characteristics, although this practice occasionally ended with him in detention.
After completing his education and spending time in Atlanta, Tom wanted to move back to the Twin Cities area. He packed up his family and moved them to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
As a child, Tom and his family used to visit Valleyfair and he loved the rides and shows so it made sense when he opened his own caricature concession at Valleyfair in 1991.
While Tom does not consistently draw in the park today, he does train Valleyfair’s aspiring artist on how to enhance or in Tom’s words ‘make fun of’ willing visitors.
“It’s hard to find talent because you can’t just teach anyone to do this,” Tom said, “It is a lot of fun once we get a crew together. We all love to draw and we feed off each other’s creativity. One thing I love about our crew is we don’t have a certain style. You could go to all of the caricature artists on any given day and get a completely different caricature from each person.”
Some artists are more portrait focused while others are more cartoon oriented but that is what Tom says makes Valleyfair’s caricatures unique. Tom describes caricaturing as a performance art. “Part of the caricature experience is between the artist and the people they are drawing. You can get really into it with the people you are drawing, and then usually a crowd forms around and they get excited too which is great for the big unveiling.”
Tom recalls a family that he caricatured every year at Valleyfair from when their kids were very little through their high school graduations. “I drew that family every year for 20 years,” Tom said, “They would always come find me at the park. It was great that they liked my work so much they would plan their day around getting the caricature done. It meant a lot to me.”
It's all about the smiles according to Tom. Caricaturing is about bringing smiles to people’s faces and making ‘a little light’ of life. “Minnesotans have a dry scene of humor and I think that influenced my scene of humor and my drawing style,” Tom said.
The longest caricature drawing Tom ever created was at Valleyfair. Two Broomball teams were visiting on a trip and wanted a group caricature to commemorate the outing. “I had four or five of them come in at a time so I had all these little heads and then I drew them running around. It was a lot of fun but it took almost three hours,” Tom said.
Tom’s career as a caricature artist has taken him all over the world. He drew for CNN during the National Democratic Convention in Charlotte where he caricatured Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, and many senators and congressmen. He is a member of the National Cartoonists Society, a group that regularly sends artists to go visit the U.S. troops stationed overseas. Tom has drawn caricatures for troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.
In 2000, Tom reached his ultimate goal of getting to draw for MAD and continues to draw for the magazine today.
If you come to Valleyfair on the right day in 2018, you might just find Tom at his caricature booth.
Photos Courtesy of Richmond Illustration Inc.