Summer In Ashland, continued

The summer I met Stacie we had a lot of fun traveling around Northern Ohio with our respective talents. I went to gigs with her, she went to some of mine. Mostly I goofed around trying to work but mostly having fun. It was nice to have that kind of freedom back then… I had no expectations of making a lot of money, but keeping busy was a must. I set up on the street once in Ashland for an afternoon. I set up in front of the Chinese restaurant on Main Street near the antiques store and what used to be known as the Nook. I sat there on my milk crate, listening to the doors in the cold shade of the mostly empty downtown buildings and watched the traffic go by. This is shortly after my father, who worked for ODOT designed the 250 bypass so there was a lot less traffic downtown than there used to be. It was very boring, I only made $6 and I never did anything like it again, ever. 

Even though I did not work at Camp Mowana, Stacie and I spent a lot of time there on the weekends when it was just counselors and former campers and I even spent the night out there in some friend’s cabins once or twice. (I would eventually propose to Stacie on the edge of Flemming Falls, so it has a lot of significance to the two of us)

Stacie went with me to an airshow at the Ashland County Airport once. ACA is so small, if you’re lucky, Tattoo will announce your arrival and Mr. Roarke will come greet you and ask you what your fantasy is! We hung out in a hanger with an old guy and his new wife. He was bottom heavy, balding and very hairy. Like a tall Danny Devito with pop bottle glasses. She was equally heavy, but more apple shaped with long, red/grey hair that she had put in a bun on top of her head. He was dressed in a wife beater with dress pants and she had on a pair of pink polyester pants with a sleeveless floral printed shirt that reminded me of every outfit my grandmother ever wore in the summer. (I must have a photographic memory because I remember details like this sometimes. Either that, or a good imagination!) They had been married only a few years and they were just over the moon for each other. Very cute. I don’t remember what they were doing or selling there but they liked our music. He had some jazz tapes and we took turns listening to the likes of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington in fits between the Dead Milkmen, The Cure, Arrested Development, The Beastie Boys, NWA and Enya- Yes, it was an an afternoon for the eclectic. I drew a few people. Thinking back, I can only remember the jazz fans, but I’m sure I drew a few paying customers. I didn’t care though at the time I guess. I doubt if I made more than $35 but I was having fun and Stacie and I got to enjoy each other’s company all day. We got a free ride in a Cessna out of the deal and it was the first time either of us were in a plane. We were scared shitless! It was cool seeing the familiar countryside from such an unfamiliar point of view. We went to some other venues like this with the WNCO Car that summer too. Some I drew at, most I just stopped by to bring her a Snapple and a sandwich or something. (We were hooked on Kiwi Strawberry Snapple I tell ya!) I wish I could remember some of the stories… Between car lots, antique barns, restaurant openings, fairs, festivals, etc… I’m sure Stacie Thompson could tell you some stories too. I used to love to hear about the crazy fans who stalked her over that summer, lol. She had groupies, (swear to god!) and they were some characters to be sure!

Stacie also joined me at the Huron County fair where I was set up near one of the smelly animal barns and didn’t do very well. I think I only spent a few days out there because it was so far away and such a poor location. I remember Stacie being there and not even caring that I hadn’t made any money. I saw some people I remembered from the Ashland county fair and I think I had set up with them at another festival in the same space because I shared the price of the spot with them. Yes, it is frowned upon but it happens. I was a newbie, I was poor and I didn’t know any better at the time… Later in the summer my parents and I went to a festival about an hour away from home just to look around where I saw someone there doing caricatures. I introduced myself and asked her if she needed any help because I do caricatures too. LOL! I thought she was so rude for telling me off at the time. I didn’t understand how competitive festivals can be. Kind of funny actually. Sometimes I wonder if she’s still around. I bet she never forgot it.

 

I wasn’t around to do the Ashland County Fair, or the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival that summer. I had gone to Pittsburgh with my parents to find some other living arrangements in Oakland borough, where there weren’t as many parties and I could have a real apartment of my own. Found a nice spot but the landlord wanted me to move in right away, so I was packed up shortly after and was back in PGH about 3 weeks earlier than anticipated but I was well settled when classes started.

 

At the end of the summer I had the sweetest girlfriend ever and had earned and saved enough money to buy a nice mountain bike and a little bit extra for my chinese food fund. I spent the next several weeks running up my phone bill talking to Stacie, making friends in Oakland and exploring Schenly park on my new bike.

All content is copyrighted by Adam Pate, 2013. All rights reserved.

A Guy Walks Into A Bar -Continued…

STROLLING CARICATURES IN BARS… -THE SUBJECT AT HAND-. GETTING STARTED.

I WANT TO TEACH YOU ALL WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT STROLLING, aka, WALKAROUND BUSKING- the variety of venues available to do this in, tricks to help you improve your take once you have decided to give it a try, and the details of the successful methods that have worked with me and the artists that have worked with me in the past while doing this under my tutelage… SPECIFICALLY- busking creative performance entertainment (in my case caricatures) in bars.

Strolling busking is just what it sounds like and what I have described before, except you are roaming and barking at people and doing your thing without a net in large crowds of stupid people. It is “extreme busking”, “guerilla busking” or “Para-busking” because you are taking a huge risk doing it!! You are getting out there in front of God and everybody and having a blast, doing something fun and unique among other people who are having fun and still getting paid to do it! The “pitch” may be a bar, a restaurant, a mall, a cocktail party, a parking lot tailgate party, an outdoor concert, a street development promotion, a boardwalk, an intersection, a crowd of people, etc… mostly on private property, sometimes on public, most of the time when there is SOMETHING going on, but still totally fantastic… Strolling artists can go pretty much anywhere, any time and sometimes they get PAID FULL PRICE to work at a gig where they can also BUSK. Hows that for an incentive to do the best artwork you can??!!

Specifically this book is geared toward doing caricatures or quick sketch cartoons of people for tips but it may also be useful as a jumping off point for doing other novelty type “performances”, one on one, close up entertainment services where a creative souvenir is exchanged -including face/body painting, balloon twisting, hair wraps and henna tattoos (and FTR, I would love to hear what other types of performers it has successfully given aid to).

This manual may also be helpful to those full time gig entertainers who are already comfortable strolling in cafes and restaurants doing close up caricatures, magic, balloons, comedy, hypnosis, etc… to try to pick up extra gigs during the week. As is the case with most ingenious art forms, creativity breeds strange animals that are not easy to categorize. If this is the case of your particular act, let me say that this manual may be helpful if you A) have a minimum of props/tools that you need to perform your act and B) if your act is performed close up, one on one or smaller groups and C) you ask for an individual or group tip at the completion of the act and lastly D) if your act is appropriate and safe to perform in close quarters or large crowds of moving people on public or private property inside or out, day or night, adult or family friendly. Yup. This is a niche that covers a lot of territory, so put your thing down and give this opportunity a run for the money. I’ d love to hear how this info has been transformative to my readers. (and how it has effected your success in gathering loot)

There are definite tricks, hustles, dos and don’ts that are generally practiced by most buskers world wide. In this book I will describe in great detail how to maximize your freedom, income, time and fun while keeping safe and out of trouble in the USA! I hope you find it useful! Here goes!!

Popping the Freelance Cherry!

The Art Institute Sept. 1991- Mar. ‘94

When I was at AIP. I went almost a full year before entering their free lance program. I had heard about it but was preoccupied with other things. (Many of them school related!)

I was very good in school and fit right in with the other students. In fact, I was probably a little nerdy to most of them. There was a smoking lounge were people hung out between (but mostly during classes) and I (who smoked at pipe or cigars) began smoking cigarettes and finding reasons to cut class and play hacky sack or go to Corleones for pizza and beer with my classmates.

Fun Fact: One of my classes was called College 101. The gist of the class was to inform the students of random things like how to get around PGH, how to budget money for food (and recreation…) how to get a job, etc… One day the teacher spent a full class doing the math on the chalk board so that we would understand how valuable our time was at school. As it happens, I found out that that class, that day in 1991 would cost me $650. Yea math!

I had money from graduation and didn’t spend a lot at a time, (mostly it went to my Chinese food addiction a couple of times a week) but I did get a job right away. I worked at the Giant Eagle near Allegheny Center, where I lived. I lived on the 6th floor with most of my Visual Communications classmates. These towers were not ‘dorms’ per se, but they were the recommended facilities for most AIP students at the time. Although alcohol was discouraged in the building, it was a giant party tower, so any day when I got home from school, all I had to do was grab a sandwich and go to somebody else’s room hang out to eat it and drink booze. I had no trouble getting served or purchasing alcohol at any of the stores around AC so there was almost always alcohol involved in whatever I did after school. Yes, I did some rather stupid things…

Eventually this routine got boring and the few times that I had tried drawing caricatures at school events or on the street were disappointing. I had heard about the freelance program and went down to the school office to find out what it was all about. They asked me to do a few sample drawings and a brief list of my accomplishments. I had never drawn at a gig before so I was ready to get started and glad to have a new preoccupation.

How it worked was, AIP would take a call for a request for an artist and quote them a price, or take an offer. When the artist would go into the office, the office would take out a folder full of requests and show them what gigs were available. If an artist kept on his toes, he could be the first to hear of a gig and usually got it… When a gig peaked the artist’s interest, the artist would sign off on the gig and take down the information. I don’t think the office took a cut of the artist’s earnings for their trouble at that time. They had all sorts of offers, not just caricature gigs. I did some of my first paid graphic design work through the freelance program at AIP as well. Some were for ‘exposure’ and I learned quickly how things worked…

I don’t remember the specifics, but I think the first actual caricature gig I did was for an older student who was graduating soon. He sent in a request to AIP for newbies to draw at a prom for him about an hour away from Downtown… Luckily there was another artist who was also booked for it and he had a car. (I didn’t even have a bike at the time) We drove to the event, worked in tandem and it was a blast.

I was pleased to get my first ever caricature that night from the other artist I worked with as well as my first check for drawing at a party.

I doubt if any of the artwork either of us did was kept. It was surely pretty bad… (people didn’t call AIP to get a cheap newbie artist because they wanted to best available…) but I had popped my cherry!! I also learned a valuable lesson that day… Turns out, for working a 3 hour gig I made $100, the other artist made $100 and the older guy who had hired us through AIP (who did not go to the gig) made $100. Although I was happy to have the work, I thought his commission was a bit excessive so I told him so next time I saw him. Though asked to, I never worked with him again and I am still proud I told him so. (The normal commission percentage for an agent is 25%)

Copyright Adam Pate 2013, all rights reserved.

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued)

STROLLING CAFE BUSKING

Café busking is a little like walk by busking but on private property. Generally you set up in a corner of a bar, restaurant or outdoor mall type area after getting permission from the business/property owner and you wait for people to come up to you to get drawn. (musicians can play and hope that somebody comes up to tip them for a request, like an open mic night). This is a popular request also from the establishment owner so they may seek you out and actually offer you an hourly wage or stipend if you’re lucky- or rather if you INSIST on it…

Most of the birthday party type entertainers I know in my local area drum up about 60% of their business by cafe busking. The management pays them a low weekly rate (about a quarter of their hourly rate) plus whatever tips they can make and a free meal (free is good), to come into the establishment on a regular basis and go table to table to entertain kids. It is a commitment however. the establishment may advertise your appearances and you may leave promotional information laying around. It may be a problem if it would be difficult for you to do it every week on the same night and time. For one thing, you may be giving up some work you can charge full price for in order to honor your commitment. If that were the case, you may have to have another entertainer to cover you sometimes, and pay them what they want in order to keep the commitment to the establishment. Remember, the other entertainer does not have an agreement to work for 25% of their hourly rate for a set amount of time so after a few times of doing this it might be hard to find a make up entertainer.

The idea is to bring the walk-by busker into the establishment to add atmosphere to the room. While this certainly does add charm to the establishment, it often happens that it is at the expense of the busker as traditional barking to get people to come sit for you would be inappropriate in this situation, for what the management has in mind, so if you’re not busy then you’re stuck there in a corner of a boring bar doing nothing and you’d be stuck in that one location.

If it’s OK with the management, you might try going from table to table and asking people to come sit for you in the corner if you sit there for too long. This starts my next topic though… You might be able to dress up a little and have a drink or two and you will for sure make way better tips than you would have on the street and not have to worry about as many of the “hassles” that they go through, but it is still very difficult to keep busy and make money this way. You are at the mercy of the bar. If you haven’t played your hand right, the bar owner may also want you to give him a cut of your earnings and also require you to not go to any competing establishments which is the last thing you want. Most of the positives cross over into the next section- STROLLING!

I WANT TO TEACH YOU ABOUT STROLLING, aka, WALKAROUND BUSKING, specifically in bars and restaurants. Strolling busking is just what it sounds like. YOU ARE MOBILE. The “pitch” may be a bar, a restaurant, a mall, a cocktail party, a parking lot, an outdoor concert, a street, a boardwalk, an intersection, a crowd of people anywhere, etc… mosltly on private property, sometimes on public. Strolling artists can go pretty much anywhere and sometimes they get PAID FULL PRICE to work at a gig where they are very likely to get tipped well!!

(Copyright, Adam Pate 2013. All rights reserved)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued)

CIRCLE BUSKING

The most attention grabbing style of street performing is known as “Circle Busking”. In circle busking, the performer takes some time to gather a circle of people around himself on the pitch, performs a show and then tries to keep the audience around as long as possible to collect their money. Anytime people see other people standing around, they want to stand around with them too and see what’s going on. The ease of gathering a crowd, being able to gather a little bit of fame while doing it and more often than not, making a decent amount of money in a short time is what makes the circle such a popular style for variety performers. (Variety performers are the jugglers, magicians, break dancers, fire eaters, comedians, musical acts, etc… You know- variety!)

During the show, the performer has an opportunity to build up the audience further and convince them to tip him at the end of the show. At the end, he passes the hat (or somebody else does it for him) while he continues to entertain the audience with witty banter and takes up the collection. If done right, there is usually a bit of cheekyness to the passing of the hat too that is almost as fun to watch as the show. This is to keep the audience around to tip more instead of walking off after the show. If the “hat man”, “pitch man”, or “bottler” is any good he will continue to draw a crowd even as people are leaving and hopefully convince them to even leave a larger tip also. The more people that are attracted to your circle performance, the more money (and often other articles of interest end up there too, lol) will go into your hat.

I have seen artists get a good crowd while performing paintings or caricatures to music for a circle of people. While all are not buskers, some novelty entertainers that cross into the ‘variety’ realm that come to mind are Dan Dunn, Brad Blaze, Denny Dent and Paul Merklien of Great Big Faces Caricatures. I have also seen a few teams of artists working in tandem to create something abstract on a large canvas or a graffiti piece. A good crossover between walk by and circle performances are the airbrush artists who create small works of art while putting on a bit of a show (of which they give to the highest tipper or sell outright if they can get away with it.)

One of the more valuable lessons you can learn as a busker is to pick up your speed. The faster your production turnaround, the more tips you can make. Keeping this in mind, the circle performers also know they must paint pretty quickly. Generally a variety performer can work a popular pitch for about 20-45 minutes with an additional 10 minutes to collect tips while the next act sets up and you tear down. If there is time to do so, ideally a circle show can last up to 90 minutes with the entertainer taking the opportunity to plug the show as he is setting up and continuing to entertain and collect tips while he is taking down the operation. If people are giving you money you can milk it for a lonnnnnnnnngggg Time.

I would think that painting this way would have to be super neat and tidy also, so as not to get paint everywhere and screw up the pitch for everybody else who uses it. So be mindful of that. Circle buskers are vulnerable to some of the same kinds of pitfalls as the walk by buskers are, but they’re also limited by the popularity of the pitch and the possibility of props being stolen, tampered with or misused by an audience member. A positive point to bring up is that there would be other performers around and the hours would be sporadic. Lots of down time watching and mingling with your fellow performers might be fun once and a while too. You might not get along with everybody but there would be plenty of opportunities to see how other types of entertainers handle the challenges that come up and you’ll learn more than being alone.

Any time you put yourself out there to perform for the public, you stand the risk of being hassled in one way or another and it takes some serious chops and a butt load of confidence to perform for a circle of judgmental strangers, IMO. Sure, individual people are judgmental, but usually can be won over easily enough. A large crowd made up of people from all walks of life is a different story altogether. You will find that people are dumb animals who along with being easily entertained, are also easily scared, misled or angered. This makes large crowds of people scary for many reasons. Performing a show for a large group of people makes it easy for hecklers to try bug you and ruin your show. While this is great entertainment for the rest of the crowd, it can be aggravating if you lose control of the environment and can quickly make your show go full on FUBAR. A good busker has a billion one liners to shut these people down and do it quickly to maintain control of the situation. It is a must. God help you if you lose control of the show…

While the circle setup might be great for a variety performer, it might not necessarily translate all that well to a artistic novelty entertainer. There are elements of circle busking that you can incorporate into your one on one act however. I will discuss some later at length.

NEXT: CAFE BUSKING AND STROLLING!

(COPYRIGHT ADAM PATE 2013, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (as I did tonight)

Back in the saddle again!

Felt GOOD! Wasn’t all that busy, surprisingly but I did well enough. No complaints! People were nice too. The first person I saw yelled across the bar to me because he recognized me from up at Put In Bay and came over to tell his friends to get a caricature. Yep! Jumped right in!! Took a few photos. None turned out great but Here are two that weren’t horrible. The first photo does neither the girl or the drawing justice. The flash messed it all up. (and completely washed out the other drawings I took photos of tonight) The second one is of a guy with 2 girl’s butts. The one on the left was LOVING the way I drew her pooper in the drawing. The girl on the right, not so much. It was fun and I thought the girl’s reactions were hysterical. I guess this is why the “Butt Sketch TM” guy’s picture’s are so corny and lame, lol! Who cares? Anyways, got to use my new credit card swiping thing to collect a tip tonight which was awesome! I’m really glad it has become so main stream too. Can’t imagine trying to convince someone it’s legit. I did have some dipshit ask me to show him samples before he would get a caricature as if I was at a freaking job interview. That one still creeps me out. I would just assume that anyone who doesn’t understand that I don’t keep them -I give them away- and don’t carry around samples for people like him to judge me on wouldn’t appreciate a caricature in the first place so fuck em. Anyhow, it’s late and it’s gonna be a long weekend. Have fun, be safe and try not to get arrested!

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Made a new busking sign that says I accept credit cards too! YIPPEE!!

2013-busking-sign

News Release From DelMarVa Today OCMD Via ACLU

I thought I had lost this. Posting it now, since I found it.

“Ocean City lifts unconstitutional ban on strolling caricature artist from performing on the Boardwalk

MEDIA RELEASE:
June 2, 2005

CONTACT:
Deborah A. Jeon, Managing Attorney 410-889-8550 ext. 120
Rick Griffiths, Attorney (410) 889-8550 ext. 134

Caricature artist Adam Pate will be allowed to do his lightning fast portraits of passersby on Ocean City’s Boardwalk this summer, after a letter from the ACLU of Maryland spurred the City to reverse its initial rejection of his application under an ordinance that imposes unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. Mr. Pate was told by City Solicitor Guy R. Ayers III that he was forbidden from performing on the Boardwalk because he accepts tips for the caricatures he draws. But when the issue of free speech on the Boardwalk last arose, back in 1995, a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against speech that contains commercial content. ACLU managing attorney Deborah A. Jeon, who filed the 1995 case, threatened a return to court if the City did not lift the restrictions on Mr. Pate.

Ten years ago, the court ruled that there exists no real substitute for the Boardwalk as a forum for artists, said ACLU attorney Rick Griffiths, who co-drafted the letter. The First Amendment clearly protects the type of expression Mr. Pate wishes to engage in. It was in the public interest of all who visit and enjoy Ocean City’s premier venue to remove this unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction.

The current Peddlers and Solicitors ordinance of Ocean City’s Town Code imposes a year-round ban on soliciting donations on the Boardwalk. But because the Boardwalk is a traditional public forum, it should only be subject to reasonable and content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions when there is a substantial government interest in regulating protected speech. Mr. Pate performs his drawings rapidly and with creative spontaneity, which people find entertaining and educational. That he solicits tips with a notice on his drawing board does not affect the sincerity of his artistic expression. The ACLU could see no justification under the First Amendment to exclude Mr. Pate from this traditional public forum.

People around the country love my quick caricatures, and they have recommended that I go to Ocean City’s great Boardwalk, said Mr. Pate. This is the first time I’ve ever had any trouble doing my pictures in public places. I have a right to perform, and now Maryland beachgoers can have fun watching me this summer.

The current ordinance is very similar to an Ocean City ordinance ruled unconstitutional in the ACLU of Maryland’s 1995 case, Markowitz v. Mayor and City Council of Ocean City. In his ringing defense of free speech rights in that case, U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis called the ordinance vastly overbroad and said courts have allowed government to restrict free speech only when necessary to protect the public safety of health. The ACLU had brought suit on behalf of a member of the Libertarian Party who wanted to collect signatures on the Boardwalk, along with a puppeteer and a juggler who regularly performed on the Boardwalk.

City Solicitor Ayres confirmed in a May 26 letter to the ACLU of Maryland that Mr. Pate will be allowed to perform on the Boardwalk, saying that his proposed activity was not prohibited by the City ordinance after all.”

Epic Caricature FAIL.

Lesson in ethnicity (PLEASE REMEMBER THIS WAS 1991 WHEN I WAS JUST STARTING TO LEARN HOW TO DRAW CARICATURES!)

From ISCA Group on FB: “I think one of the things that might make my stories interesting to this group is that I taught myself. I had NEVER actually paid attention to how anyone drew caricatures of anyone before so every challenge I came across was handled in the best way I knew how, -and clearly sometimes they were handled badly, lol. But what’s interesting to me is that the outcome of my decision might be completely different than what most ‘taught’ caricature artists would come up with after learning a style and having support from, say Kaman’s, Fasen or Richmond’s concessions. I really enjoy seeing the way some self taught artists handle different challenges because they are usually pretty unique.” Case in point:

The Ashland County fair went on and I drew lots of people. The drawings were so bad that when somebody shows me a drawing I did from back then I don’t know wether to be amazed, embarrassed or feel sorry for them. All yellowed and crinkly and crappy lookin’. I had no idea what “archival quality paper” meant… Unfortunately, the sharpie lines do hold up well, even if you have no concept of line quality… To that I will attest. Every now and then I see one and the image creates a sudden, depressing panic in me. Like when you were little and you peed in a dream and then woke up and find out that you had actually peed your bed, AT CAMP. If anyone reading this happens to have one from back then, please burn it! Lol! Please. I will draw a fresh one for you for free if you prove that you burned it! 🙂

I worked at a few more local events before I went away to school. Most memorably, I did the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival where I charged $2 and was so busy I never got to even look around and eat a forced meat sandwich. (I did get a sweet festival t-shirt with silk screened lederhosen on it though!) My parents went with me and they were amazed at how long the line I had was and at the end of the night when I counted up my loot, I had collected $350! People will buy anything for $2 I guess.

After the fair, I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for my first quarter of classes. I enjoyed school. I had lots of fun partying, making new friends and finding my way around the BIG CITY of Pittsburgh. It was the first metropolitan area I had ever been in really. The school was right down town and I lived only a 5 minutes away. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat up in the air! I was on top of the world!

There were a couple of festivals in Pittsburgh near downtown and since there is a big art school there, several of the festivals are art centric and caricatures are very popular at such events. My first year in Pittsburgh I went to the Three Rivers Arts Festival to check it out and see what all the hub bub was about. I saw some caricature artists there and thought “I can do that too!”. I wanted to sit there and do them but I was too late to get in on the action. I could have busked in the park there, but was told I’d get into trouble. So I went down to Point Park and sat under the bridge so as to be more inconspicuous. (Totally illegal by the way. The festival has a special permit to use the park for the concert venue every year. What is normally public property was being used privately per special license, therefore it was at this time private property and I needed permission to set up there. Didn’t know that then… Luckily nobody hassled me.)

2 milk crates a ‘jam box’, a sketch pad and a few markers is all I had. I think I may have taped a cardboard sign to a wall on the bridge that led into the park.. Only in the big city for a month and I was already ghetto as fuck!

I was asking for $2 a drawing or tips or something like that. My drawings were terrible at the time, but then again, they were only $2! I was still very green and hadn’t really had any experience or education on the matter to speak of. I drew a few people’s kids here and there and made a few bucks. Well, along came these 4 black kids who were going down to the festival in Point Park. They asked for a drawing and I realized with horror that this was the first time I had ever been asked to draw black people and I had no idea how to do it. It was not going to be pretty.

Clearly this is not something appropriate to be horrified by to most people’s standards, however, growing up in rural Ohio, in the middle of nowhere, I had only seen a few black folks in my life, and had never even SEEN a drawing of one that I could think of (that wasn’t intended to be blatently racist). Let alone one done in black Sharpie on bright white paper… My dorm room mate was a black guy but that doesn’t mean I drew him! I really had no idea where to even start! Being self taught, I knew I had to make some mistakes to learn the correct way to do things. This was one of those mistakes. It certainly was… I did some stupid things, but this probably gets the prize for the stupidest.

Folks… I really do apologize if this sounds crude, or racist or whatever. It’s not intended to be. Part of what I learned on this day is that you just have to be brutally honest sometimes and go with your gut, ya know? These kids were very dark skinned. Not ‘latte’, ‘mocha’ or ‘cappuccino’. more like full blown ‘espresso’. I thought back through all of my schooling and all of the ways I could think of to suggest different tones in black and white artwork. What came to mind was…

Slowly I began drawing the features of the first boy’s face. When I got most of the way done with the line drawing, I started putting darker lines around the lines I had just drawn. That didn’t quite do it. DUDE WAS DARK. Sitting in the shadows around the bridge I thought about the lighter shades I could see and I decided to draw him as dark as possible and add highlights. Maybe show that contrast… Yes. About 5 minutes into the drawing I had decided to draw his face entirely black and add the highlights around the lines I had just drawn.

I colored in most of his face black with a dumb ass, faded, sharpie marker before I realized I could not pull off what I intended to do. At all. It looked horrible and the other kids actually said something. I was starting to sweat and the old, chewed up marker I was using ran out and I had to start in with another one that was fresher and go back over some parts of it again. I was no where near being capable of the artistic craftsmanship it would take to pull off a stunt like this, let alone the flaccid and feeble attempt of a drawing of this child that I had ruined this shitty, cheap piece of paper with. I don’t remember exactly what they said. I know their mouths were hanging open and their lower lips dangled in disbelief, but I was kinda too embarrassed to look at them. Guessing, I would say they were all between 10 and 13. Luckily, their parents weren’t there to witness it… After about 5 more excruciatingly awkward minutes of trying to color in the blackness to a somewhat uniform tone, I gave up when the second marker ran out -And all of those young kids just about crapped their pants they were laughing so hard.

The kid I was drawing looked at it for a second, said something cruelly appropriate, crumpled it up got on his bike and rode away without paying. I was a little bit surprised I didn’t get decked, but one of the other kids watching wanted one now. Obviously because I must be a clown and they wanted to laugh at me some more.

Laughing, I told him I just didn’t know how to draw black people as it was my first time, and I had never tried to draw a black person before in ink. There was no middle tone. Just black and white. I did mention that they were so dark too, hoping to get the sympathy vote from him and the other 2. It actually worked! They were cool about it, and they even acknowledged that they were hella dark too and that they might be hard to draw because of that. They told me that basically just give them big lips and noses and stuff. I said I didn’t know many black people, but I was pretty sure they didn’t like being drawn with large, stereotypical features and I didn’t want to offend them by drawing them that way and they laughed again. “Duh, we got big lips and noses and stuff though!” is what he said. I asked them if they had ever seen another artist draw a black person and they all said no, so I started again from scratch.

This time I thought instead of going all ‘contrasty’, maybe I would use some cross hatching… Holy shit. Yes. I. did. If you thought I was embarrassed when they laughed at me for trying to draw the one kid entirely black, imagine how stupid I felt drawing straight black sharpie lines clean across the other kid’s face -for like 8 minutes. TOTAL FAILURE. LOL! THESE KIDS WERE LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY AT ME NOW!

The other kid’s mouths just hung open and when I handed it to him he said that doing that was probably NOT the right thing to do to it either and laughed at it/me. He was pretty cool about it though, considering. They all were. I was lucky. My stupidity didn’t seem offend them much, if at all. I wasn’t trying to be offensive in the least. I just had no effing clue what I was doing!

In hindsight, I’m really glad it was those kids and not somebody who would have taken greater offense. It could have went very badly for me! After that drawing they suggested again that maybe I try to draw them with big lips and noses and concentrate on the size and shape of the features instead of the tone of their skin. I thought about it, and decided to try that next time. Not surprisingly, neither of the other two wanted one. Lol! I discovered that not only was my mistake trying a drawing style that I was clearly incapable of pulling off, but I was drawing them with caucasian features and thought that merely changing the tone of their faces would make them look like black people. Their features were completely different than caucasian features, and after all, it was them who had pointed out that they HAD big lips and big noses so it must be something they’re comfortable with and I figured whatever I drew probably wouldn’t be as offensive as drawing them all in black or cross hatching over their faces!!

I didn’t immediately follow their advice unfortunately and did some other stupid mistakes but quickly got the hang of it. It took me years to finally let go and learn that emphasizing the most stereotypical features on ethnic people is the best (and funniest) outcome in this situation. Afterall, a humorously exaggerated likeness IS the point of a caricature.

A good way to practice drawing caricatures is to draw yourself in a mirror. (a better way is to draw some one else from a still on a DVD- but I’m getting ahead of myself) Many newbie caricature artists use this practice as a crutch. They learn how to draw THEIR nose satisfactorily, and don’t realize that they unsatisfactorily draw their nose on every person’s face that they draw from then on. Everybody does it. You can tell the care an artist puts into his craftsmanship by the different ways he can draw other people’s features. (but again, I get ahead…) In short, it takes some skill and time to discover a repertoire of different and acceptable ways to draw different people’s features and then use those standards relative to each individual.

We’re allowed to make mistakes. We all do it. It’s part of learning how to do something the right way. Understanding, identifying and learning the proper ways to communicate a person’s ethnicity (or any other defining feature) visually and aesthetically (and yes, in fact, exaggerating some stereotypical features) is very important in communicating a good likeness no matter what the ethnicity of the person you’re drawing. Political correctness has no place in the caricature world. That said, personality stereotypes are stupid. Just as important in my opinion is learning not to judge people based on personality stereotypes. Each person is an individual and if you look objectively at each person as such, and treat them like you want to be treated you can do no wrong. I don’t tolerate hateful intolerance and I don’t tolerate mistaking sincere objectivity for hatred.

All rights reserved on all content. Copyright, Adam Pate 2013

Ashland County Fair- Day 2

The second day of the ACF was Seniors day (1991- fresh outta high school). As I said, there were old people everywhere in their walkers and rascal scooters. Hanging out talking and just doing their old people thing. An old lady happened to come up to me, sit down and talk for a while. Ya know, like they do… I’m a nice kid so I let her sit there and talk. She told me all about her grand kids, her bridge partners and how she had just lost her husband, etc… We probably talked for 15 minutes or more before she asked for a caricature.

She had asked me if I ever had a hard time drawing wrinkles and I told her I didn’t know because this was the first time I had really done them for money, and I’d never had to draw them before. I drew lots of wrinkles on her picture while I talked to her. She was such a nice lady and we were just talk, talk, talking away and I was just draw, draw, drawing them wrinkles… In jaggy, black, inky, sharpie marker lines. Tons of em. I wanted to get them just right! After I was finished, I gave her her drawing and she handed me $5 and said thank you. She looked at it for about a full minute without saying a thing. Then walked away silently and as she turned the corner to go behind one of the craft barns, I saw her wrinkle up her face and wipe some tears away. I felt horrible and vowed to be much much more careful the next time I had to draw some wrinkles, despite my lack of skill. That one probably left a bruise… Later on a friend of hers came over and chewed me out for drawing a bad picture of her.

The next wrinkly person I drew probably looked like they were 25.

All rights reserved on all content. Copyright, Adam Pate 2013

A Guy Walks Into a Bar- (Continued…)

(Walk By Busking Continued)
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT OPERATIONAL SECURITY

There are several other things to be considered when setting up your novelty entertainment busking set up in the street to attract walk by business… The street is less than ideal in the vulnerability department. You will want to set up near someplace that has a street, shop or ATM camera and logistically makes sense for your needs. (i.e. Restroom, water, food, parking, security, phone, loading-unloading, making a quick exit, visibility, clear view of your surroundings, etc…) If you have a tip bucket or some kind of contraption to collect money, it will likely get pilfered or stolen outright at some point. Kids and thugs have many, many ways to get your goodies if they want them. (More on this later) For a number of reasons, I prefer to open my hand to collect tips and put the money directly into my pocket. (I have a VERY DEEP pocket I have sewn into my pants to prevent pickpocketing- which I will also go over later…) Keep in mind that you will also be encumbered by your props, easel, signs, jacket, book bag, dog, etc… Whatever you have with you. Should you have to get up to use the restroom, get a drink or whathaveyou you will need to bring all of your things along with you, lock them up, stash them somewhere, have somebody else watch them for you or test your faith in humanity by leaving it alone for a few minutes. This is something to consider if you are vacillating about whether to work on public or private property.

Physical abuse may also be something to seriously give consideration to if you are a woman or are a man of slight build. (or even if you are a giant stud muffin like myself, who might be hassled because they are big and might pose a challenge to a punk kid looking to start a fight with somebody- yes, it happens.) I suggest ANYONE who busks in a walk by environment to carry pepper spray at the very least. A whistle and/or a knife are good too. A flashlight or a small stick is also an excellent idea for protection and do not draw attention Learn how to use these tools for defense along with basic moves to throw off the hands of an attacker in close quarters, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with a small stick, marker, pencil, keychain, etc… I wouldn’t bring a gun with me but that is just me. Personally, if I thought I would need a gun where I was going, I might reconsider my priorities.

You might consider having a few cache spots too. Someplace you can keep money or bring periodic drops to that is secure so you don’t have to walk around with a lot of money in your pocket all day. That way if you DO get robbed, you won’t be out everything you made the entire day. If you work long days and have a lot of $1 bills taking up room in your pocket, you can free up some space by ditching the wad and be more comfortable too. The first cache spot to consider is where you first put the money when it is given to you. Your POCKET.

You might keep a dummy pocket so if you are asked to give an assailant your money you can pull out everything from a partially full pocket, meanwhile you have several other partially full pockets that they don’t know about, or maybe stash your larger bills ($20, $50, $100’s) in a pocket you don’t use very often. When you have a lot of money in a wad in your pocket, you would be surprised how easy it is to accidentally pull out more money than you intended and accidentally drop it. Keep your bigger bills in a pocket (sock, shoe, bra, etc…) you are not likely to use. Better you drop a $1 looking for change than a $50. You’ll find that shallow, wide pockets easily bunch up on you and it is easy for that bunching movement to push some bills up and out also. I like to use only pockets on one side of my body to store cash. I am very comfortable with people watching me work from over my shoulder or standing on one side of me but if someone is standing on the side I put my money into I am very aware of them being there. I jiggle around subtly so that if they have slipped a hand into my pocket they cannot rely on getting it back out without being noticed. Still it is best to keep honest people honest and try to put yourself in a position within your environment where there is a wall, a table, a chair, etc… something on that side so you don’t have to worry about anyone being over there to begin with. Be weary of people bumping into you also. Classic pickpocket trick… The special pocket I have sewn into my work pants is a tube that goes down to my knee and I can push money way, way down there and make a big fat wad and nobody can see it! it is wide at the bottom and very narrow at the top so that it is very difficult to get a hand in there and even harder to get it out. Yes it is harder to get the money out to stash it but I would generally do that somewhere private.

Something to consider is that a mugger or a pickpocket will stealthily check you out for a while before making a move and you WILL NOT know they’re there. While you are busy working and doing your thing all of the people you see and meet will become a blur, but you will stick out like a sore thumb to them. If there is a thief around they WILL notice you and all of the loot you’re putting into your pocket. The best defense against them is to simply go on about your business being aware of your surroundings and making it hard for them to find a vulnerable point at which to take advantage of you. They will be watching you yes, but they will also be noticing the steps you are taking to protect yourself, that you are conscious of your surroundings and see that you smarter than the average bear. By simply taking the simple precautions mentioned above, (that will quickly become second nature for you) they will most likely determine that their chances of success is so low that it will not be worth it to attempt anything and they will likely just move on leaving you none the wiser.

(FYI- This might be a good time to point out that I THINK I have been pick pocketed twice and I have never been robbed or beat up in the 20 years I have been busking. (knock on wood!))

A cache/hiding spot in your car is a wise idea too, maybe a small, secret spot behind a rock in a parking garage? An excellent suggestion if it’s possible is to make a friend nearby. A friendly business owner or employee who you can visit to deter a creeper for instance, if there is somebody who makes you nervous. This last bit is a great idea as that person can keep an eye on you, scout the creeper for you over your shoulder while you talk, call the cops if needed and may even let you leave your cache with them. You can keep a weapon of some sort in your cache spots too. A stick in your pocket for instance… or some mace.

One of the prerequisites of busking almost unanimously in any environment is that you can’t have anything permanently set up and must move somewhere else if asked to by a nearby shopkeeper or cop. Especially if you are blocking traffic on the sidewalk, street or business front where you are set up. This means you have to load all of your stuff in to begin and out at the end of the day which can also be a pain but a lot of vendors do this. There is no end to the creativity used to solve the problem of moving props here and there! (Again, I will describe my cart in a later chapter.)

Another problem to inspire creativity is called “dipping”. Dipping is when it LOOKS like somebody is putting their hand in to give you a tip but sneaks something out instead. Any number of ingenius contraptions can be invented to ensure that earnings go in and not out of your bucket, bottle, jar or whatever. It is a fact that you will be more likely to be targeted for a crime since you (more than likely would be alone,) would be in the same general place at the same times and even park your car in the same place every day. Buskers are unfortunately easy prey for muggers… That’s not to say that they often get mugged… Good old fashioned street smarts and following your gut is extremely underrated.

Yes, the walk by method definitely has it’s disadvantages and leaves you vulnerable if you are on public property, but not just to muggers. You may be hassled by homeless people, panhandlers, drunks, cops, mother nature, parking restrictions, lighting problems and just general harassment from passers by and business owners. Not to mention the hood rats that may come talk your ear off because there’s nothing better to do than to watch you work. (They’re cute at first but they will turn on you as soon as you stop paying attention to them then they can become troublesome…) Now that you’re all scared…

Next up… Circle Busking.

(All content belongs to Adam Pate. Copyright 2013)