Holiday greeting card special!

Ooooo….. some exciting stuff in the works for December. Been very very busy. I’m a man with a PLAN!

In the meanwhile, once again I am offering greeting card/gift caricatures for a special rate for the holidays. $50 gets you a full color digital drawing of 2 people, head and shoulders, a simple background and a holiday message. Extra people, bits and backgrounds are $25 each. Hit me up if you want one! Here’s ours from a few years ago.

This year you can also get a CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT with your custom artwork on it as well!!

4×4 ornaments made from sandblasted crystal! (other sizes and objects available as well, including wine glasses, bottles, etc… just call and ask!)

selfie

sandblasted caricature on crystal

sandblasted caricature on crystal

A Guy Walks Into a Bar… Continued

POOLS AND STREAMS

There are many different kinds of places where it is possible to do caricatures and busk other forms of novelties for tips, but the movement of the crowd almost always breaks down into 2 basic designs, -what I like to call streams and pools. A stream is a “kinetic” location where there is movement, like a busy sidewalk or a hallway of some kind when people are passing by. It is harder to approach people in a stream (from my experience) as they are moving and sometimes have their minds set on a destination, meaning you have to be eye catching or cat call to people, but it does not mean it’s impossible. It is possible sometimes to move with the crowd, get somebody interested and then stand in the flow of traffic. This is an opportunity to create what I call a “hot spot” if people slow down long enough to watch you work. (More on hot spots later.)

The most successful I have been in a stream situation is at a festival or a carnival area where I have been paid by the venue to stroll and busk for entertainment (and of course accept tips). The reason for this success I attributed to the fact that people weren’t really GOING anywhere. They were just wandering aimlessly from vender to vendor or maybe to a bathroom or beer tent. It was a captive audience of sorts. As a successful PUBLIC PROPERTY example: I have done this on Bourbon and Royal in New Orleans during Halloween (and seen other novelty artists doing so as well) and it was very well received it was also not as kinetic as some crowds (streams) as there were a lot of guests standing around looking at boobies or drinking beer because that’s what they were there for. This is ideal.

A Pool is a “stagnant” area where people are just sitting, standing or generally milling around and there is little or no reason for them to move anywhere. Cocktail parties, dinners, concerts, dance floors, food court areas, bars and nightclubs are pools. These work best because it is easy to approach people and they are more likely to be interested in some entertainment to keep the conversation lively. (For this same reason, sports bars with lots of TV’s, games like pool, golf, darts, etc… and game bars like Dave and Busters or Chuckie Cheeze aren’t as good because there’s so much going on and that’s what people are there for) It’s easy to just approach the group or individual and ask if they would like a drawing or whathaveyou in this environment. 

When scouting a private property busking location keep this in mind. Also keep in mind that if you have gone through the crowd in one location and there are no new faces, it is helpful to have a couple of alternative locations within short walking distance that you can move to and make a small route of places to visit. This will keep you busy for as long as you feel like busking especially if there is a variety of different types of establishments. If there are 2 irish bars next to one another they will probably have the same clientele and busy times, however if there is a sports bar, an upper class wine bar and a dance club on the same street they will each have a different crowd and be busy at different times of the night.

People will likely visit several establishments (bar hopping) throughout the evening, which means you have discovered your own private gigantic pool to fish from and the current of movement from place to place keeps the location lively!

A GUY WALKS INTO A BAR… CONTINUED. EASILY ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE NIGHTS OF MY LIFE.

SIDNEY STREET, SOUTH SIDE OF PITTSBURGH, FEBRUARY 14, 1994.

Marks the first time I had ever drawn caricatures for tips in a bar. Nobody else wanted the job when it came across the AIP freelance program advisor’s desk. Every other artist had passed it up. I needed the money.

They sent her a password, which she forwarded to me. 8PM, I believe it was Valentines Day. Word was it was a dilapidated speakeasy from the 20’s that someone had restored and they wanted to keep that image going. It was rumored that it was Al Capone’s hang out when he did business with the Pittsburgh Mafia. Oh yes! There is mafia everywhere in Pittsburgh… Lots of Irish and Italians…  There’s a catholic church or a pub on every block and every cop and fireman talked like he was from Brooklyn or Boston.

I was a naïve kid from Ohio who was too dumb or too brave (not sure which to this day…) to go to a place like this and draw caricatures of this bar’s patrons for tips.  I usually got paid by the hour but they didn’t offer to pay an hourly wage. They wanted to see if they could get someone to come for free. An exposure gig. I admit it. It was probably a mistake to take it, but I thought it sounded fun and anything that involved free beers was OK with me.

My girlfriend at the time was a little worried. She thought it was a bad idea too, but then again, what (non-drinking) girlfriend is fond of her (drinking!) boyfriend going to the bar without her on Valentines Day?

East Carson Street, on the South Side of Pittsburgh has more bars per square mile than any other place on the planet, or at least it did at the time of this story. Most of them were dive bars where locals hang out. Many of them have a theme, be it sports or ethnicity, a cartoon character, music venue, etc… Most have names, most close at 2am. Some don’t. For those surly patrons who like to sip cocktails and shoot the shit till the wee hours of the morning, there are the after hours bars. Some have food. Most close at 4AM. Again, some don’t. Some don’t even have a name, and there are just a select few where you might just get rolled if you don’t don’t  “know a guy”. This was one was the latter. The mafia theme wasn’t a gimmick. This became very apparent soon after I arrived.

The door to the club was set about 30 feet off of the street, down a bricked in alley. There was a small door with a small frosted window with a simple white logo of an animal on it (for identification, but I can’t remember what it was, might have been a bird) I knocked on the door and a slit underneath the window opened up.

A heavy breathing, chubby, Italian man with a porn stache in a too-tight tuxedo peeked out of the slit, looked me over, took a sip of a tiny, watered down looking coke through a coffee stirrer and slid the slit shut. I knocked again and he told me to go away. So I knocked one last time and I told him what I was doing there and the slit came back open and he got a whole lot more interested. Apparently nobody had told him I was coming and it was supposed to be a surprise. He asked me if I knew the password and when I told it to him he opened the door.

The other side of the door was darker than the side I had been on. Dimly lit by small orange glass light fixtures that looked to be original. The hallway was green vertical pinstripes until it opened into a large, smokey, semi-circle bar area with wood paneling and a dark green cigarette burned carpet that smelled like the bowling alley my mom used to take me to when I was a kid and she was on the company league. The room was brightly lit with florescent lights embedded in a mirrored drop ceiling and it also had mirrors above the paneled chair rail all around the room. A few vintage neon bar signs hung behind the bar and there were a few pictures of famous Italians like Dino, Frank, Al Capone and Louis Prima. The picture of Sophia Loren looked like a more recent addition.  “This shit was legit”, is what I remember thinking at the time.

There was nobody there except for me and the bartender and some girl who was a waitress. The bartender had on a tux shirt with a red bowtie and vest and the girl was dressed up like a cigarette girl from the 20’s. I pulled out a cigarette and she lit it for me. I was immediately impressed. “Every time a woman has to light her own cigarette she loses 20% of her sex appeal”, She said. “Just something you might want to remember”.

The bartender was very interested in what I did and he wanted to see what I could do right away. He explained to me that his boss, who wasn’t there but would probably come by later had probably arranged for me to come.

Rather than bringing an easel I had given some thought to how to best present myself while walking around in a strange bar. I assumed I would get bumped alot so I figured the least amount of stuff I could get away with bringing along the better. I had prepared for the job by purchasing a few of the expensive 100 page 11×14 sketchpads from the AIP store that had archival paper and I had some of the plastic Faber Castell Design 2 markers in various states of wear (which I loved but they no longer make). It took about 8 minutes for me to draw the bartender. It wasn’t my best work but it passed apparently. He was so proud of it he immediately hung it on the mirror behind the bar. I of course drew the waitress and then the chubby fat doorman with the little mustache and they both loved them and I got some free drinks and all was good.

I had on jeans, converse all stars and a (man’s) button down denim shirt that belonged to my girlfriend. I had a paisley tie as well. Even though everybody had on tuxes or some other costume they set my mind at ease that I was dressed OK. I was still pretty nervous and as there was nobody there yet, I was also bored. Not a good combo.

Even though I had already had 2 shots of Jaegermeister, I must have looked pretty nervous and bored too because it wasn’t long till it was suggested that I go look around the place, so I did. On the other side of the hallway from the bar there were some stairs, also covered in thick dark green carpet and there was wood paneling going up the stairs. Second floor was even smokier and there was an empty room at the top of the stairs. Literally empty. The room was very brightly lit with florescent lights. It was harsh light and it’s harshness only accentuated the emptiness. No chairs, tables, etc… In fact part of the green carpet was missing and you could see the plywood underneath. On the other side of the topless broken bannister at the top of the stairs was a dark room with poker machines and gambling tables set up. As I didn’t have any interest at all in gambling, I was again instantly bored. The club was build into a normal south side row house and was pretty small but the third floor had a small kitchen area (where later on there was free pizza I think) and another bar, where I drew the bartender, who was a surly old guy who didn’t talk much and I left the third floor soon after arriving there. The waitress and I talked until about 9:30 when we heard some voices downstairs. I must have lit at least 3 cigarettes for her.

I think it is fair to say that every single person I met that night was a character. The first people I drew were in their 50’s but had smoked so much they looked 70. The guy had a bad haircut and a bad dye job, a little mustache and a suit that looked like he bought it at a garage sale. I deducted that he was a used car salesman or something. He had a flashy smile and happy eyes though. Seemed like a very friendly guy. His girl was about 5 years younger and had big hair that was dyed black. She wore too much makeup, too much jewelry and had a few too many teeth I think. Maybe it just appeared that way at the time… I remember she had on a red wool coat with a mink collar and she smelled like a mixture of FDS, mothballs and Primo (a Georgio of Beverly Hills knock off) that about made me gag. She was nice though too and they were excited with the drawing I did of them. They showed it off to the bartender and another couple that was at the bar, (whom I drew next) and the next thing I knew I was busy drawing people for about 2 hours straight. It was about 1AM when it slowed down. Being I think a Wednesday, it was a “school night” and the crowd that got invited more than likely weren’t the “party all night” kind anymore as almost everyone was over 50 and wore sunglasses. Inside. At night.

A couple of drawings/customers that stood out were a couple early on that tipped me $20, which set the tone for the next few drawings among their circle of friends who got drawn. Then there was the cheap guy in that clique that refused to get one telling the rest of them that I was a “scam” somehow and spend the next 5 minutes fighting with his wife as I drew the next group of people.

A couple of strippers who came with each other and wanted to dance with me while I drew them. One walked away mid drawing and the other one who was all coked up or something, was hitting on me. They met up with a guy who was doing lines off the bar upstairs and he was a pretty big tipper. I saw him later downstairs. Instinctively I tried to avoid him but he kinda pinned me down when I was drawing some of his friends and he tipped me $20 each for each drawing totaling $60 and didn’t even want a drawing of himself. He told the bartender to hook me up and so I assume he was the owner of the club maybe. ?

There were of course the sloppy geriatric old school mafia dudes who wore their well built suits like Snuggys, sitting on the far side of the bar, facing the door, leaning on the bar and smoking cigars and talking quietly to themselves. They didn’t want any stinking caricatures even though the “owner” insisted they get one. The owner left so I didn’t push it and moved on.

There were a few younger folks that showed up later and kinda ‘rock starred” the crowd. They hung around for a drink, got a caricature, were pretty cool then left. They might have been with the owner or one of the hipper older guys. I don’t have any idea how they crashed the party but they were out of place for sure and they knew it and I think they wanted to get out as soon as possible.

I saw one of the strippers puke and I later heard that she fell down the stairs and had to be escorted out. Her friend left soon after.

Then there was Mr. Hock… He was an old skinny hard ass type dude with a big Italian nose and a horrible grey toupee. He wore loafers, slacks and a sweatshirt with a polo underneath almost every time I ever saw him. He had 2 sons that had a place a few blocks away and he wanted to know if I would be interested in drawing for tips there. I knew I was making pretty decent money at the club that night even though it was a weird crowd, so I told him SHIT YEAH I would! He gave me his son’s card and I called him a few days later to go down and meet him.

So, as I was finishing up and the bar was winding down, the bartender was giving me shots till I could barely stand up. (which was a lot considering how much I drank at the time) He was trying to figure out how much I made. I didn’t want to know or count it till I got home. Growing up in the 70’s I knew full well that “you never count your money while your sitting at the table. There’d be time enough for counting when the dealing was done”.
(-Kenny Rogers reference in case you didn’t know.)

I think I rode my bike there and back which would have meant that I crossed the Birmingham bridge on a cold winter night to get back to my place where my girlfriend was already sleeping. I woke her up and counted my money on the coffee table, sitting on the edge of the foldaway couch-bed in my studio apartment while she went down the hall to the bathroom. When she got back I had just finished counting. It was mostly large bills. She asked me how much and I screamed, “HOLY SHIT!! I MADE TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY DOLLARS!!!”, threw the money up in the air and we both took off our clothes and rolled around naked in it on the bed and laughed!
(Which was highly unhygienic of course)

Easily one of the most memorable nights of my life.

All rights reserved. Adam Pate. Copyright 2013

Drawing Some Kids Today At a Gig…

Video

Had a gig in Iowa today. Very busy. Near the end of the day when the line had gone down considerably I finally got to try out my new camera. The audio is messed up but the picture quality is way better than I had hoped for.

Thought for the day: Most people were taught how a line works when they were in kindergarten or earlier. When adults crowd in line it is beyond aggravating, especially when they throw a tantrum and cause a scene when you call them on it. This is nothing short of bullying and I will not tolerate it.

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)