SO A GUY WALKS INTO A BAR…

(Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…)

Chapter 1: An overview of “busking”.

Busking is a word that describes an entertainer, artist or musician of some kind performing for an individual or a crowd of random people, unbidden, in hopes of collecting tips, rewards or gratuities from the crowd based on the success of their performance. Larger tips are generally given according to popularity, skill level, comfort level and of course how good the performer is at collecting the tips.

People have been busking since Roman times. Recountours, Jongleurs, storytellers, bards, jesters, street artists, no matter what you want to call them, they’ve always been the counter-cultural stuntmen of society. Trying out unique tricks, artwork, music, stunts, poetry, dance, acrobatics, comedy, tragedy and everything in between (yes, even caricatures) for everybody from the unwashed masses to noblemen, politicians and clerics. Some of pop culture’s most famous performing icons started out busking: Simon and Garfunkel, Santana, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffett, Louis Armstrong, Penn and Teller, Bob Hope, Cirque Du Soliel and The Blue Man Group, just to name a few…

As an entertainer, any time you can perform your particular brand of entertainment in public and get an immediate response it’s a great opportunity to learn, practice and get that much closer to becoming a master. If what you do has merit, you will do well. If the pay off is not to your liking you can try new things and discover what works best for you. Yes, that’s right- you can get paid to practice doing something fun! The money you make while busking is some of the hardest and most rewarding money you will ever make, because it is an immediate reward for your successful effort and the amount of the compensation for your effort is based directly on how worthy of reward random people have judged that effort to be. Busking can be a full time job, a useful skill, a way to meet girls, or just something fun to do with your friends in your spare time. In any case you will never go hungry once you’ve got the hang of it!

(Interesting note: It is widely regarded that a female will earn 3 ½ times more than a male doing the same exact performance.)

(An excerpt from the first chapter of “Successful Caricature Busking”, by Adam Pate, copyright, 2013)

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Cedar Point. Sandusky, OH (1970’s)

When I was a kid we used to go to a place called Cedar Point, in Sandusky, OH once a summer or so. Usually it was on a field trip with the day care center I attended and we would have about $25 for the entire day. This was enough money for a few soft drinks, a few arcade games, some french fries or a hot dog and some small trinket to take home. Never did I have enough money to even think about getting a caricature from one of the many artists that would do them there. In fact I think I was afraid to even watch for too long for fear that I might have to pay to watch. It seemed to me that you should have to pay to watch anyways, it was pretty entertaining and it seemed like only paying customers were watching, mostly adults who looked like they could afford it, bored kids beside them. It was kinda expensive then just like it is now. I was too poor to get one, so were my parents and guardians who took me to the park so I never did get one. If I went with my parents I didn’t even get to watch unless I could sneak off.

Being a kid, everything seems pretty impressive if a grown up does it and you can’t figure out how they do it. I used to love to watch Bob Ross paint on PBS on Sunday afternoons. I learned a lot from that dude. There were other programs I’d watch about painting or drawing that added to my interest and skill level (I was always doodling, sketching something from life or trying to draw some idea from my imagination and put it on paper). I was a perfectionist. Always drawing lightly till I was happy with the shape of the line, sometimes drawing an entire drawing over again on another sheet of paper if it wasn’t just right, smudging tones with my finger or a tissue, erasing lines and drawing them again till I got it perfect. I couldn’t ever imagine drawing so confidently with a marker! It seemed pretty courageous to me to be doing that in front of a crowd one right after another like that- and making it look just like the person!  Not to mention the quality of the lines was so interesting and seemed completely effortless how they went from thin to thick then thin again in just the right way to create the illusion of depth (even though I didn’t understand what that was at such a young age). It was mesmerizing. One of my favorite things to watch was when I’d see an artist doing a close up video of their hand while drawing a comic book character or a cartoon on TV for a news program or a documentary. It amazed me how they would create one line out of the blank space on the paper, then the next, and the next, seemingly wholly disconnected and abstract, then somehow those lines suddenly became a recognizable subject and it seemed to come to life before my eyes. It was like magic! It was like that watching the caricature artist’s work at Cedar Point.

I completely understand why people are amazed at what I do for a living now and can’t blame them, even though it comes as second nature to me now. I totally am guilty of taking it for granted… I do like to make it a point to be entertaining and make sure people can see what I am doing close up. Especially kids! It’s very important to me because I know how wonderful it is to be inspired by it, even if it seems like something so simple to me now. I feel rewarded to be able to communicate visually to somebody something that they don’t understand but recognize about themselves instantly. I am happy to see the joy and interest on a child’s face as they watch me draw and answer their questions enthusiastically and encouragingly. I am sincerely humbled by it.

(Part 1. First chapter of my autobiography. Copyright: Adam Pate, 2013)

Howdy…

I’m Adam Pate. Drawing caricatures for tips in bars in college is what first motivated me to draw quickly. It didn’t take long to discover that drawing faster meant I could draw more people and more drawings of course, meant -MORE TIPS! Being a poor, starving artist, I needed money and stuff, so I decided to concentrate on trying to draw as fast as I possibly could. Improved speed meant more practice, which naturally led to better drawings. It meant I had more opportunities to challenge myself, improve my skills as an artist, invent new ways to draw the features of the people sitting for their caricatures and try new things. -and better drawings also meant BIGGER TIPS!- So there you go!! I’ve been constantly, decidedly, motivated to draw as fast and as well as I can for about 20 years. I do this while strolling through rowdy crowds of people in low lighting conditions. The kind of environment that most caricature artists have nightmares about… I am now proud to say that I am widely considered the fastest, friendliest and most versatile caricature artist in the world by my peers in the international caricature community. (Yes, there is one! We even have CONVENTIONS!!) That’s what I do, I’m good at it and for better or for worse, that’s who I am… I tell you this so you have a background to relate to the rest of this post.

They say every single person in the world knows at least 3 things that you’d like to know… This does not occur to most people. To most people I’m just some 40-something-artist-guy, but from time to time it occurs to me that one or two people might actually be interested in what I know and how I know it. In this blog, I will relate some helpful and educational tips for artists who want to improve their speed, skill (and income), some worthwhile news, and some fun and noteworthy war stories from clubs, gigs and other experiences I have had related to caricature art. I realize that the life and interests of the average caricature artist might sound dull to pretty much everybody on earth… But, I’m here to tell you people… – WE HAVE STORIES. Oh yes we do. We are a fun, spontaneous, surly, goofy, hedonistic, intense bunch of hustlers, characters and visionaries and we certainly see life a little differently than most people!

So, my CHALLENGE is to offer you -the reader- the kind of entertaining, educational and engaging content that will make you go “Hmmm”, occasionally cause your thoughts wander off dreamily, and might make you stay up at night insecurely obsessing  about the secret lives of us caricature artists… (and maybe even want to grow up to be one! Mwah ha ha ha!)

I’m hoping this blog will push me to write down and record the stories I have been collecting and telling people over the years and hopefully one day compile them into a book or two or three…