LCS INTERVIEW :: Joe Bluhm
Joe Bluhm was born and raised in Laceyville, Pennsylvania. After attending the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) he spent four years professionally drawing live caricatures all over the country. Joe has been invited to teach his brand of the art to artists at more than a dozen locations in the US and Tokyo, as well as a two-time seminar presenter at the National Caricaturist Network (NCN) international caricature convention. Among his many caricature awards is the highest international caricature recognition, the NCN’s ‘Caricaturist of the Year’ (2003).
In the last 6 years Joe developed his editorial and promotional illustration and has already earned several prestigious awards, including the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ (AAN) ‘Cover of the Year’ (twice). His caricature illustration is utilized by top-billing comedians such as Frank Caliendo and Brian Regan. His illustration is currently published in several national and international magazines.
In 2007 Joe published his first book, Rejects- the extreme art of retail caricature. Rejects is an art book that includes the rejected live caricatures from theme parks, along with the stories and quotes from disgruntled customers, while exhibiting a rare level of quality for retail caricature. Rejects is quickly becoming a popular book among animators, designers and illustrators.
Joe also works in character design and visual development for animation and has had his designs featured on the top network’s primetime television promo pieces, both nationally and internationally, and is currently doing freelance character design in New York.
Do many people get you confused with Joe Bloom the musician?
No, but they often get me confused with that one Hollywood actor… what’s his name?… Hotty McSexyguy? No, no one every gets me confused with the musician. I’d never heard of him until I was managing my website and buying domain names (due to the slightly non-phonetic spelling of my last name). I found that there was a ‘JoeBloom.com’ and I was trying to secure the domain because of some radio promotions by comedian Frank Caliendo who commissioned illustrations for his website and CD covers. They clearly don’t take the time on radio to say, ”That’s B-L-U-H-M, folks.” It should be known, however that Mr. Bloom is a classy guy. There’s also a ”Joe Bluhm” who plays hockey in Michigan or somewhere near there… look out for him!
Tell me a bit about your book Rejects? What makes it so special? The cover is screaming at me too buy a copy!
I hope so, thanks! ”Rejects” is a one-of-a-kind book. I’ll give you the short side of the full story:
I worked in theme parks for a few years, drawing caricatures. It was one of the most fun, rewarding, educating and frustrating gig an artist can get. I found that as you try to create something unique and special for each customer (learning, growing and raising the level of quality each day), they could give less than a crap. Half of the people that approach a caricature stand don’t want a caricature, yet they don’t even know it. Over three or four years of trying to get better at my craft each day, I had a lot of drawings that guests hated and/or did not want. After discussing this fun little anomaly with my friends, we came across the notion that there should be a book full of this art and the stories. Most people think that theme park caricatures are crappy, cheap and without likeness. I know that is not true all of the time, and this was my little way of sharing what the art can offer, with a little bit of humor.
It is a large hardcover book with over 100 drawings and lots of funny stories and quotes to accompany them. I get a lot of positive feedback from the art as well as the humor. I’ve been told that animators use it for warming up and inspiration, illustrators use it to get loose before drawing faces, and some just wake up their wives in the middle of the night (pissing them off), laughing out loud at the comments and stories.
How much would it cost me… To have you draw a caricature… Of me?
Well, that depends on what you’d like done. I can driddle your diddle if I have some extra time! I am typically busy with character design and illustration, but I never like to turn down a commission from a person that loves caricature. I may make you wait 6 months, but I promise to get to it. I find that a “Rejects-style” drawing is most desired, however I’ve had a few pencil, digital, acrylic and oil commissions. Those will run you a bit more, but you can always email me and negotiate spare change. One thing that’s getting more popular is a canvas print of a digital caricature.
Apart from art and illustration what other things are you into?
Well, I tend to overwork myself in all areas (abs, pecs, lats, etc)… of art, but I find a great deal of relaxation with my guitar and in music. I love lots of different kinds, but I’m on a rock, blues and alt kick over the last few years. I used to play online sim racing and go golfing a lot, but I don’t really have a lot of time or access to those things lately. I love poker with friends and lately I’ve been getting in to books and publishing. I’m hoping to launch my own publishing company soon where I’ll create and promote fun art books from some great (and fairly unknown) artists that deserve attention. I love giving back to artists in those ways, because I’ve been really lucky to find myself around so many talented peers that I very much admire, and they’re always generous and giving with their time and talents. This also inspired me to do an ongoing series of digital art podcasts. I’m just exploring that audience now and I’m sure it will really grow with time and my own progress.
Who are your favorite artists/illustrators alive today?
Wow. That’s not easy… I’ll never remember everyone, and if they’re alive that means I can piss them off by omission, so I’ll apologize up front (these are in no particular order):
Sebastian Kruger, Chuck Close, Phil Hale, Peter deSeve, Hermann Mejjia, Stephen Silver, Alberto Ruiz, Tom Richmond, Bobby Chiu, Kay Acedera, David Levine, Steven Brodner, David Cowles, Philip Burke, David O’Keefe, Arkady Roytman, Dan Hay, Seo Kim, Brian Haimes, Simon Bisley, Tim Burton, Gris Grimley, Shawn Barber, Celia Phillips, Ben Dewey, Jason Seiler, Jan Op de Beeck, Gabe Leonard, Ron Mueck, Jack Davis, Zachary Flagg Baldus, Andy Bergholtz, Chris Wahl…
…that should occupy your googling for a while.
At a guess how many illustrations have you drawn in your professional career?
Well, I don’t know that I’d consider everything an illustration, and I don’t know that if it wasn’t published I wouldn’t call it an illustration. In the years I’ve been doing it for a living, I’d guess, several hundred… maybe over 500.. ?… but that could be totally wrong, and I don’t show many people all of them anyway. We all know how it’s difficult to be happy with every piece we do under a deadline or with specific direction that we don’t ‘feel’, so… yeah, I’m probably way off.
Have you ever considered working in clay? Do you think your talents would translate to the medium?
I have worked with Sculpey and different clays, and I love it. I try to keep that at more of a hobby because it’s far more labor intensive and gets underappreciated. My friend David O’Keefe sets the bar so high, and he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s only worth it to yourself, and rarely translates to dollars. The older one gets, the bigger the bills get. I guess it’s more about having limited free time, but yes, I love working in 3D
I’ve been working in 3D animation for a couple years now (on and off) and am currently working on some big projects. I love the challenge of getting EVERY ANGLE right. You can see lots of my work (I handle everything, from sketch to final texture) at So-Animation.com.
Have you ever considered retiring to a sea-side town with a sun swept beach, trading your skills for ice-cream and sunscreen?
Nah. I love beaches, but I crave human interaction and I love people watching and human behavior. I also am not big on “time-trade” jobs and I’m sure that’s what it would feel like. I have my own determination, passion and desire to improve, and working for ice cream doesn’t really fit the bill.
What do you get out of the video pobcasts you do?
Other than a creamy filled center, I love the idea that I can help someone. Artists are often insecure (and I’m no different) so when I know that I can impart something that I’ve learned, then it makes me feel like I’m giving back to the community. If the overall skill level of those in my field rises, then I have to raise my own skill level to survive. If nothing else, it’s karma-motivation and a kick to the ass. It also forces me to draw when I don’t “need” to, something that slips away at times.
To see more of Joe’s videos click here
What’s next in the pipeline for the Joe Bluhm?
Right now I’m working on some animation projects for some major companies, both in the US and Europe, via a great animation studio in New York. We also have some other projects coming our way and I’m hoping to do more character design. I’m enjoying illustration and publishing, so I’ll surely expand in that market, as well as eventually teaching in some capacity and medium.
I also miss painting. I used to paint weekly but deadlines rarely allow it and it’s less convenient than saving a digital file and emailing it. I have some big painting/gallery plans in the next year or two, so we’ll see how that goes.
I also plan on going bowling sometime soon… who wants to join me?
Ghostbusters or Scrooged?
Damn… Bill Murray vs. Bill Murray? I’d have to say that Ghostbusters wins by default, only because there are so many sequels, cartoons and bad parodies.
Peanuts or Popcorn?
Charles Schultz was a talented, driven dude… I don’t understand the question.
Disney or Warner Brothers?
hm… Well, I’m a big Pixar fan, so Disney wins by default at the moment, but Warner Independent is winning me over with their films in the last two years.
Eddie Murphy or Jim Carrey?
Jim Carrey (who I’m told I resemble in my antics and expressions).
Batman or Wolverine?
Christian Bale and Michael Keaton would kick Hugh Jackman’s ass any day. But I like the idea of Wolvie.
Your computer or your sketchbook?
Nowadays I find that there is a quicker result with my computer, and I’m on the verge of upgrading to a large Wacom Cintiq (which I use at work… I’m addicted!). I like the idea of saving trees (whatever that means to you), so while I’ll never stop scratching paper, I have to say lately it’s been the computer. I’m definitely hoping to keep an even balance from day to day.
You can see more of Joe Bluhm’s work at