I got my start as a professional artist drawing caricatures at a theme park near Chicago during the summers between college semesters. That is a hard and challenging thing to do, believe me. I eventually started my own caricature concession operations, and now have a few around the country, including here in Minnesota as well as Georgia, Missouri and Massachusetts.
Live caricature is a unique art form. It involves both art and performance. The most successful excel at both, but one or the other will get you by. I learned to draw caricatures at the theme park, thanks to having the opportunity to draw and work with some really talented artists. There is nothing like drawing 3,000 faces a summer to get your caricature drawing skills going. A lot of people will look down their noses at theme park or party caricaturists, saying that it’s all garbage. Not true. While there is a fair share of lousy artists who manage to make a living doing live caricatures (often it’s their ‘performance’ that gets them the jobs), there are also many with tremendous talent who are just starting out or have found a love of this kind of work and do some amazing quick draw art. If you visit a theme park, have a look at all the caricaturists before you choose one to get drawn by. See if one has a style that catches your eye.
I don’t draw live caricatures personally much anymore. I spend most of my time working on my own freelance jobs, and in the summer I work with new artists to teach them techniques and also handle the business end of things. However I do travel around to my various locations during the season, and this weekend I’ll be at our concessions in St. Flags New England, drawing on Saturday and likely Friday as well. I still enjoy it when I get the chance to do it. If anyone stops by mention you saw this post and I’ll make your ears look like satellite dishes at no extra charge.
One more cool thing about this trip. Each year Bunny Hoest, one of the creators of “The Lockhorns” strip, hosts a picnic at her home for members of the National Cartoonists Society. This happens to co-incide with my visit to the area, so I plan to attend. Lot’s of big time cartooning legends show up that this get together, and I will be having a lot of fun meeting and talking with some of my heroes. MAD artist Ray Alma and his wife will be giving me a lift there, and rumor has it I might finally get to meet Hermann Mejia, the outstanding MAD artist whose work I greatly admire. Hopefully I can post a pic of Hermann and I later.
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