Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Back to bloggin'! (New websites for 2013!)

I stopped posting in my blog about a year and a half ago because I thought all I needed was my Facebook Fan Page to do my updating and posting of pictures. I was wrong. I need something more!

I plan to start blogging again because I realize that here I can write more, express myself a bit more and do more than post a few pictures. I'll still use the Facebook page to post things, but here I can write more than I can do there. I really don't have much time to write a lot, but I do feel the need to talk about my business and other things in life in a more expanded format.  I don't know if people will even read this, but who knows... maybe someone will. Someday. Hope so.

So here goes...

I recently went through one of the toughest times in my career. Since about 2006, the US economy has been in a free fall, and one of the first expenditures to go for most companies and families is entertainment and art. Since that time, many of the long time customers I have had, especially corporate entities, stopped having company picnics and Christmas parties. I've also seen the retail sales at the few retail gigs I do per year drop off just as dramatically. 

Gift caricature from this Christmas-- ordered by my sister-in-law
In years past, the month of December was one of my biggest of the year. I normally would have several gigs per week and often two or three per day on the weekends. Christmas gift orders started coming in mid-November and were only able to be taken until about the first week of December because I would not have enough time to do all the orders in time if I had continued to take them.  Agents called me regularly and booked me for large parties with multiple artists. Those golden days are now gone.

Last December I hit the low point for Christmas gigs and gift orders and I only grossed 40% of what I did in Nov-Dec compared to the same months in 2006, and that thanks to having some non-Holiday related work. On top of that, I had a very VERY slow January in which I made less than what I would have made working 40/hr per week at minimum wage.  Times are tough.  Really tough!  Almost didn't make the mortgage payment for Feb 1st tough!!

So I had to take a good look at what I needed to do to stay in business. In 2008 I opened a retail booth at Huntington Park to work during Columbus Clipper games. That has helped supplement my income, but it still hasn't made up for all of the income lost to the Great Recession. I've tried some advertising, a Facebook page and other ways to promote myself, but I'm disappointed with the results of those efforts. The phone just doesn't ring like it once did.

So I took a look at my competitors. I found that they were charging less than me. Now this is no surprise because of the top three competitors, all three have "day jobs" other than being caricaturists. They can afford to charge less, and I'm sure they use it as a selling point against hiring me. In the last couple of years, I've seen internet clients contact me for a quote and then go with one of the competitors regardless of quality, reputation, etc. just to save a couple of twenties. So in spite of working hard for over 20 years to get to thie prices I had, I've adjusted my prices to match theirs. No problem... I'll bite that bullet and hope to make it up on volume... after all, none of them can do daytime gigs.

But I haven't stopped there. I've updated the look of my website and have spruced it up with new samples and better cell/tablet compatibility.  I have also divided my three businesses into three separate websites.  Mail order caricatures and portraits will now be the primary focus of, my live caricatures will now be exclusively handled through  and cartoon logos can be ordered through  I have also developed an alternate portrait site at

But is the problem just prices and marketing?  I promote myself with business cards, stamping my drawings with my website/phone, having a web presence and a yellow page listing. I'm admittedly not great at tooting my own horn, but I do toot it!  However, it seems to me that the problem isn't that people aren't finding me, it's that people aren't even looking! If people don't hire any entertainers, even the best and most popular won't be doing well. I find that my competitors aren't doing well, either.  The top end clients aren't having parties and the rest are having boring parties!

So now I have my mission.  It's now my goal not to just promote myself, but to extol the virtues of live caricature entertainment. So many people say to me "oh, what a unique idea... I've never seen a caricature artist at a ___________ before!"  It's true, we are a rare breed. There are only very few nationwide can do this for a living and even fewer that are busy. And even if I worked twice a weekend every week of the year, that would still be only 100 or so gigs out of the 10,000's of the proms, grad parties, charity and PTA fundraisers, picnics, reunions, birthdays, sweet sixteen parties, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc that occur every year!  No matter what, caricatures will be unique and fun for any party unless 100 other artists crawl out of the amusement parks to start doing gigs.

So if you've read all the way to this point, please do me a favor... tell someone about me. Suggest having me draw at your company party, school function or friend's birthday party. Let them know that they can get a custom caricature done from photos to give to a retiree or a portrait drawn from photos to give as a wedding present, even if you don't live in Ohio where I am. I promise you won't regret it!

In the meantime, I'm going to start to more aggressively market the idea that you can't have a pARTy without ART!!  I hope you will join me in this effort as well.