Drawing at NASA!

So, my buddy Sage calls me up and asks if I’ll come to where he works to draw at his company picnic. They can’t pay me but it’ll be cool to hang out and I can bring the family. There were only about 50 people expected so it would be pretty laid back. Ordinarily I’d probably say no (It’s an hour away and I do have a lot of office work to catch up on and have gotten virtually nothing accomplished this week) but I haven’t seen Sage in a while and in fact might actually be a pretty cool gig. See, Sage works for NASA.

I didn’t know it but he invited his wife and some other cool people we hadn’t seen in awhile too. It was great seeing everybody again and catching up. Another big surprise was that Sage led us on a tour of the facilities!

He told me once he was in maintenance and HVAC systems. So naturally my dumb ass imagines him pushing a broom and fixing air conditioners… Not so much… Uh, Sage maintains the vacuum and exhaust systems for where they test rocket propulsion systems and payload deployment systems for rockets!

We started out by watching some hobby rockets go off in a field on base, which was some 1600 acres in Lorain with a really cool history of a weapons manufacturing facility in WWI. Then we saw the vacuum chamber which has 2 5′ thick concrete doors and a suspension system under the floor to keep it from imploding! After lunch, (which went fast and I only got to draw about 25 people) Sage showed us the rocket testing facility which was a giant sheltered hole in the ground that the rocket is bolted onto and the exhaust is expressed underneath the floor into a 250′ deep chasm, cooled, analyzed and sucked out. It was pretty amazing.

Thank you so much, Sage, for asking us to join you and giving us the tour!

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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

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.

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

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)