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)