Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wrapping up 2013

   Here are commissioned pieces from the last quarter of 2013. As you can see, I was pretty busy! It was one of my busiest Christmas seasons in the last few years, which is hopefully a sign that the Great Recession is coming to an end. I also have had several commissions already in 2014 as well which I will post at a later date.
(Click on any photo to see a larger version)
   This is the CEO of Chiquita (you know, the banana shippers) He was on the TV show Undercover Boss, and is pretty famous around the Cincinnati area. That is his wife in the background and he is also a part-owner of the Cincinnati Reds.  He was speaking at a conference and the organizers wanted to honor him with a caricature gift.  Below is a group picture of the organizers of the conference, a gift for their work of service to organize the conference.  Below that is another gift caricature for the organization president featuring his family, engaging in one of their favorite past-times, skiing in Park City, Utah.

   I had a couple of different commissions featuring boats. The color one is a digital caricature given to a retiree featuring a certain type of boat that the man made from scratch. The other is a black and white watercolor given as an anniversary gift. 

   Below are some drawing featuring more elaborate backgrounds. I often get commissions for caricatures featuring an activity, but lately I've had several featuring a certain place. It's fun to play Bob Ross and paint landscapes, even if it is with pixels and not oil paints. Even so, I still whisper to myself about highlights on happy little trees and rocks while I do it... I just don't use a palette knife or slap my digital brush back and forth on the base of my monitor.

   This drawing was a present from a group of workers to their boss for Christmas. They call themselves Jerry's Angels and wanted to be doing certain things but still look like the famous logo from the TV show. It was hard to make holding grapes and eating oatmeal look like holding guns and doing karate, but I think I pulled it off.

   This caricature commission required me to draw a family feast. He didn't want them eating it, just a family portrait caricature around the table. It was done in black and white ink. Below is another family caricature of sorts... a wedding caricature! This couple ordered a black and white plus one color watercolor caricature. It was for their wedding gift table display and as a gift to each other to commemorate the special occasion.

   These are digital portraits done in digital b/w watercolor of two sides of one couple's family-- her side on the left and his side on the right. They printed out at 16x20" and were given as Christmas presents to all of the family members. (As you can see, one couple appears in both pieces)  I also learned that the drawing on the left was even more special because the lady at the bottom had died within the year of cancer. I was touched to learn her story in a blog post by a friend of a friend which can be read here:

    A black and white digital drawing done for the cover of a family album. It's always fun to draw old folks and old cars!

   This was a drawing done as a series of portraits for a philosophy textbook. On right is the photo reference I was given. I had to bring an ancient sculpture to life, including adding pupils and giving him a "nose job". This is the second commission I've done for this publisher. My third was just completed this month and I will post some drawings from that group of illustrations soon. As usual, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Retiring folks

Studio business has been slow lately, but I've busy with a lot of live caricature gigs and would not have had much time to do large projects anyway.  Things are getting back to normal in September, however. I've been getting some order inquiries for some larger jobs, so I'm looking forward to hitting the drawing board (and digital tablet) here in the studio again soon.

Here are my three most recent commissions. All are for retirees, one in Oregon, and the other two in Ohio. The Oregonian is for a retiree from a company that comes to me for gift caricatures on a regular basis throughout the year. His hobbies are woodworking, gardening, grandkids and... glassblowing! I think that's a first for me...

(click to enlarge)

This second one was for an 80th birthday. This one was for a returning customer for whom I had done a drawing of this man's wife about 8-10 years ago. This one was done in watercolor, which is becoming more and more rare with each passing year. Seems most of my work is digital, so I enjoyed working in a tangible media once again!  I just wish that my scanner could truly capture the subtlety of watercolors better because these scans never look as good as the real thing. (for instance, the blues in the sky always get washed out)

(click to enlarge)

This one was for someone leaving Proctor & Gamble (that's their headquarters in the lower left).  He had designed the sleeping bunny on the Pampers packaging and the ZzzQuil bottles. The client designed this concept for me, so I just had to supply the drawing skills. 

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's August already?!

It's the dog days of summer, but summer is fading... so sad. I love the summer!  It's my favorite time of year because I love the weather and the fun you can have at the beach or the lake or at a ballpark, festival or fair. But May-August is also my busiest (most lucaative) time of the year! However with school starting only two weeks from now, it's time to get the last hurrahs out of the season.

July was filled with games at Huntington Park and a week long vacation to Myrtle Beach. August will bring 16 more games at the Park and several "welcome week" gigs at local colleges. This year I'll be doing back-to-school gigs at Central Ohio Technical College/OSU-Newark, Capital Univ, Kenyon College and Otterbein College. I was also asked to do a job at Ohio State main campus, but I had a schedule conflict and will have my back up artist do that one. In addition, I'm also doing gigs for Kroger which are open to the public. I will be at the following locations:
8/16: Weirton, West Virginia 5-7 pm
8/17:  Polaris 12-2 pm
8/18:  Stoneridge Plaza, Gahanna 12-2 pm
More may be added to the schedule, so stay tuned...

Last weekend I did a wedding reception and next weekend I will be doing another. I'm also doing a couple of company picnics as well. In all, there are currently 31 gigs scheduled for a month only 31 days long!  Ah, it's good to be busy during the best time of year.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Independence Day weekend gigs!

Independence Day weekend has become a busy one for me over the last few years.  Since I've had my booth at Huntington Park, I've drawn annually at the Boom At The Park event on July 3rd. In the first year (2009) the sales were great, but each year since has not lived up to that initial year's totals.... until this year!  My partner John and I almost tied the sales mark set that first year, falling short by just 12 dollars. Compared to last year, sales were up 63%!  Overall I worked six hours and, as a bonus, enjoyed watching Red White and Boom from a good location and got to hear one of my favorite bands, McGuffey Lane, play some golden oldies from my youth.

On the fourth it was rainy, so one of my gigs was cancelled and the other (booth at the Dublin fireworks/concert) was dampened but went okay. If things had gone as planned, however, I would have worked seven hours that day.  I did get to hear Chicago play golden oldies from my youth...

On the fifth I had a wedding reception which was really fun. Everyone was very cool and very complimentary of my work.  At most events people say nice things, but this group was especially appreciative, and that always makes me enjoy entertaining even more. They had set up little clotheslines to display the caricatures, so as the event went on, I had a growing art gallery on the wall to my right. After three hours I had drawn about every single person at the party. There was no live band playing songs from my youth.

Here are some of those drawings:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Recent Artwork: June 2013

My most recent caricature pieces.... both are digital paintings.

For a high school grad (I guess his nickname is "Kloppy"...)

For a retiree from Dow Research and Development.

The cool thing about these pieces is that the second was a referral from the first... and the first was a referral from another!  Word of mouth is not dead!  I'm always appreciative of clients who recommend me and pass my name on to others.

I also did a couple of nice gigs at the end of June. One was for the candle makers for Bath and Body Works (fun group!), and the other was for ARC Industries-- an employer of the mentally handicapped. The latter is a gig I've done for the last four years, and it always brings me to smile several times as I draw some very special people.  Some are severely handicapped, some are only mildly affected. All are very appreciative and polite. Here is a picture of a couple that were drawn together. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 Arts Fest... Back by popular demand!

On June 6-9th I drew at my 14th Columbus Arts Festival which was also my 20 year anniversary of my first Arts Fest... and it was good to be back!  Last year I was not "selected" as one of the 3 caricaturists at the event (yes, only three caricaturists for 400,000 people!) but this year I received a lot of great feedback from the new festival director. His leadership showed that he has a good grasp on what makes the Arts Fest great, and I hope to continue working with him for future Arts Fests.  Because of his involvement, I was able to be set up in a high traffic area that provided me with the visibility needed to have nearly non-stop sales over the three day weekend.

In a period of 29 hours I drew over 275 people, with over 135 of those drawn on Saturday. While that's not a record for me, it is in the top 5. (fifth, actually... haha)  I probably could have done a few more had I spent a little less time on each drawing, but I always want to do my best on each and give each customer the max for his/her money. On nearly every drawing, I referenced the Arts Fest in some way, which I believe helps promote the event which I value so much. I also cartoon the people's names on the drawings as well which I know some artists find redundant (it is their face, why do you need their name?), but I feel it adds a bit of a cartoony personal touch to each in addition to the caricature.

It is exhausting, however. My wrist/shoulder were pretty sore and my hand is still recovering (my thumb-tip is still numb... I don't know why that is), and most of that pain comes from the writing part more than the drawing of the faces, but for the cash I earn and the seeds I plant (business cards, caricatures with my website/phone on them) and contacts I make (I've already booked one gig from being there), it is WORTH the pain!

I don't do much retail festival type work.  I have the booth at Huntington Park and do an annual wrestling tournament, and last year did the Greek Festival, but that's about it.  The Arts Fest is by far the most lucrative weekend of the year for me, and it benefits me in so many ways. I also love it because I get to see and meet some great artists and see some friends who drop by and say "hi". This year I didn't have a ton of friends who greeted me, but I did see a few that I hadn't seen in awhile.  That's always nice.

One of those I got to see is a couple that has had a caricature from me at the ballpark every year since year one. They haven't been to the park yet this year, but when they saw me at the Festival, they had to stop by and get drawn.  I did a pretty funny drawing of them this time (I have to keep coming up with new original stuff!), and now that I know their faces, it was pretty easy to capture their likenesses.  If you're reading this by chance Sam and Suze, I hope to draw you again at the ballpark!  At least I know they will stop by and say hi to me when they do come out to a game this year.  Good folks.

I was so busy that I didn't have time to take many pictures, but here are a few photos:

 My set up on the corner of Bicentennial Park. 
Great location with plenty of traffic and access/visibility from all sides.

She had the most beautiful long nose... hard to see in the picture, 
but I loved drawing it. Here's a close up:

Another fun couple. Decent drawing.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kids vs. Caricaturist

Being a caricaturist, I encounter lots of personalities.  Most people love what I do, a few don't.  Usually the ones who don't get it are the women who still want to be young and thin but no longer are, or the teenage girls who want to be the same person the older women want to be, but for different reasons! But kids are usually not a problem for me.  However, for some reason, I've had a recent run of "kids say the darnedest things" moments!

Last night I drew a caricature of three kids, the youngest, Jack, is six. He looked at the picture after I was done and said "I don't want to look like that!" I felt he was being hard on my drawing skills, so I said, "Sorry, I thought that was how you looked." He said "No, I wanted to look like THIS!" and he screwed up his face to show me a goofy expression. ....guess I didn't draw funny enough for his taste!  Even if Jack wasn't 100% satisfied, I'm happy to say that his mother was. His two sisters also thought I did a great job as well.

I had another complaint over the weekend as well. This time from an eight year old boy. I was at a wedding reception, and my set up was next to the "kids table". I eventually drew all eight of the kids seated there during the course of the evening,  All of them were teenagers, and they all had a good laugh at their own and cousins' caricatures. The only one who didn't "get it" was the youngest one at the table. This kid was just your regular 8 year old blond haired blue-eyed kid with nothing really outstanding to caricature. No bucked teeth or cowlick... just your average kid and the resulting drawing was pretty "normal" by most standards, but for some reason he reacted to it by saying "it's horrible!" and then wouldn't show it to anyone.  No one could understand why he didn't like it, but for some reason he didn't. But it was okay, in the end the hostess showered me with compliments and tipped me well, and most importantly, the bride and groom loved the drawing I did of them. Even the older women and teenage girls loved me. Go figure...

The most common question that kids ask me is "are YOU an ARTIST?" They say it with a bit of awe as if they were asking a really tall person if he is a basketball player or a guy with a hose if he is a fireman. I usually say "yes, isn't that COOL?", but sometimes I mess with them and say "no, I'm a plumber" just to entertain myself with the confused expression I get. But then I confess that yes, I am an artist. They always seem to react with an "I knew it!" expression on their faces, as if the seven-foot guy in the high-tops just HAD to be a basketball player, and the guy with the easel and the fancy pens just HAS to be a real life artist!

The other night at the ballpark a kid came up to me and asked me for my autograph. He even had a Sharpie pen on him. Never mind that I have 50 pens to his one... but he offered me the Sharpie and asked for my autograph. However, he didn't have anything to sign!  I said "where do you want my autograph? On your shirt?" He offered me his chest, but I grabbed one of my own pens and signed the back of my business card and gave that to him instead. Maybe he will have his parents hire me for a birthday party someday... we'll see.  I don't know if he was just goofing around or not, but he seemed serious. You never know these days... kids after a certain age seem to have no qualms about tweaking adults.

My last "kid story" is from a picnic I did for a Head Start program in one of the more poor parts of town. I only mention that it's a poor part of town because it seems that in such areas, the moms really try hard to make their children stand out and be unique, so they start their kids off in life with a unique name. This one woman had five kids and each kid had a name more strange than the last. I wish I had taken photos of all the caricatures I did for that family, but this one stood out the most. Now I usually ask the spelling of just about every name, even the easy ones... but this one really threw me! Poor kid... Meet Malachi. Well, that's how you pronounce his name, but check the "Scrabble Rack Special" spelling:

As usual, comments welcome!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thank you USY!

   I've had a regular client that has ordered a caricature from me annually for over a decade. Sadly she is moving, and I don't know if the youth group she directed will continue to place orders to honor their seniors. Maybe... but no guarantees. Either way, it's been a good run!  Thanks Shani!  You will be missed!

Here she is holding the final senior class of her USY group (which they call BuckUSY, short for Buckeye USY).

This year's drawing shows the three grads on the red carpet, stars in their own right, and draped with the names of the universities they will be attending in the fall.  Medium is watercolor, on 11"x14" bristol board.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I drew the king!

I struggle at times to come up with something interesting to say about artwork that I do, but this time I have an actual back-story to a client worth writing about!  Earlier this year I received a call to do a caricatures at a Cub Scout troop meeting to honor boys who were "crossing over" to become Boy Scouts. The party was being held at this family's home. (they later had all the individual caricatures of the troop made into a group caricature, which is HERE)

After the event, I got to talking to the  den leader/homeowner/host. He told me that he had wished he had been in scouts in the town where he grew up-- Granville, Ohio. I said "what? I'm from Granville!  When did you graduate?" He had graduated the year before me. Turned out that he knew many of the same people I knew and that we probably passed each other in the halls many times, but I still had no recollection of his name. I went home and looked him up in the yearbook. Well, it turns out he was the prom king at my junior prom!  haha I guess I wasn't paying attention. He'd changed a bit-- no longer had the bushy curly locks of hair, and was probably taller than I remember. But yep, small world...

Last week his wife hired me to do a digital caricature for a birthday card/sign-in board for his 50th birthday (reggae) party, and here it is:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creativity is WORK!

     "Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes." 
-- Kevin Ashton, "Creative People Say No", posted on medium.com, 3/18/2013

People think artists are simply "born that way". That they are "blessed with creativity" or "god-given talent" or "have always been an artist". Um... no. No one is born with a pencil in their hand, just like they aren't born with a wrench or a hammer or a calculator in their hands.

I will concede that being an artist requires a different mindset, however. Artistic individuals do indeed see the world differently, but not because they have different eyes, different brains, are left handed or whatever... it's a different perception based on a curiosity and a desire to break beyond a certain set of norms. They force themselves to do this. It doesn't come naturally. A creative person simply wants to do something different than what has been done-- to be original! They are not content with a checklist approach. They have a hunger for seeing the unseen, knowing the unknown.

But this takes time. It's work!  People who think that creativity just  flows in one's veins or comes from some divine cloud will place expectations on artists to "just do it". "Here's my assignment, now give me something creative! Do it! Go! Gimme!!"  What's worse is these same people will undervalue the artist's work and expect it to be cheap or discounted or even free. "After all, you just do this in your spare time, right? " 

I saw a Facebook post of a bumper sticker that says "Artwork IS work!" I agree wholeheartedly. And that work isn't just the craftsmanship of moving the pencil or brush or mouse around to make a picture. There's mental work involved as well.

Last night I talked with someone who owns a food truck. He said that the logo he has on the truck is not what he wanted, but that the vinyl graphics company pretty much left all the work up to him. He had to choose the font. He had to choose the elements. The "designer" basically just arranged them to fit onto the truck and that was their "design". My friend also complained that every designer he's ever dealt with was that way-- they expected HIM to be the creative one. 

I explained to him that this is not how it should be.  A good designer should work to find out what the client's expectations are (what fonts they like, for instance) but also bring his/her own experience and ability to the table to mix into the stew. It's a cooperative effort. Both parties need to work together-- the client can't say "I don't know, just come up with something creative and I'll tell you if I like it or not" nor can the artist say "here's what will work for you, now pay up". By the same token, the client can't say "design it like this" nor can the artist expect the client to do all the work. 

I explained to my friend that when I work with a client, I try to get as much info from them as possible and then take that info to come up with really quick impressions-- things that don't take much time, but that narrow down the concept from generalities to more specifics. Once some common ground in the visions of the client and the artist is found, the artist can go into more detail and experiment

I'll usually come up with several designs that I will reject without showing the client before presenting him with three or four developed ideas.  I'll try to have elements in each that are completely different, not just present variations of the same idea. The client can then mix and match these ideas to come up with a final rough that we can agree on.  Once that is approved, I will then do the final cleaned-up design

Sound like work?  Again, to quote Mr. Ashton again: "Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work."  Here's an example of how I worked to come up with a logo for a Florida restaurant. The client wanted a fun dog mascot holding a hot dog. From there, I did some quick pencil sketches, nothing too elaborate, but I also did several that weren't sent to the client as well:

 The client chose #8. He liked the idea of making him the cook. 
I then did some minor variations on that drawing:

From there I did some color and background variations:

Then came type ideas:

The final artwork: