Beginnings…

HOW MY CAREER FOUND ME

So Oakland was a really fun little college town/borough in Pittsburgh and there were lots of parties and lots of pretty girls to chase around. I was a good kid for a good while but I was a young man and being good is pretty boring when the one you love is so far away… Wouldn’t you know it, it didn’t take long for me to screw up the whole long distance GF thing and we ended up breaking up not long after (although clearly the story continued…)

School was taking up more and more of my time and I had pretty good grades though I still spent a lot of my extra time drinking beer and going to parties. Even though most of the people I knew were lowlifes we somehow kept out of trouble, for the most part, and had some of the best times of my life that I won’t remember, lol!

A year went by, most of my savings was gone, I had a girl living with me and I was 21, which made drinking and partying only slightly less fun… I had a really fun job as a bike messenger in the summer but I had quit it to concentrate on my studies during my last quarter of school. Seeking out just about any opportunity to make some extra money during the rough months of January through March when bills are higher and income is lower, I went to see the freelance advisor to see what was new. I hadn’t been there for a while and had missed out on some pretty decent gigs apparently and there were a lot of new artists that had snatched them up. There wasn’t much of anything worth bidding on but there was this one gig that had apparently been offered to about 13 artists and every one of them passed on it. As the advisor told me about it, I started to kinda get excited because it actually kinda sounded like it might be fun!

A few streets away from the Birmingham bridge on the south side off of East Carson St, there was a “Speakeasy” that was rumored to be a common hangout of Al Capone. It was closed for a long time and somebody bought it (mafia) and wanted to re-open it. The grand re-opening was in a week or so and they wanted somebody to come in, walk around and draw the customers at the bar. They wanted the artist to be there from about 8PM to 12AM but he could stay later if he wished as it was an after hours joint.

I was intrigued! I didn’t know it but this was going to be the start of something special.

Copyright, Adam Pate 2013, all rights reserved.

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.