On the Road Again

April 28th, 2007 | Posted in General

For the second time in as many weeks, I’m currently away from the studio visiting my theme park operation at Six Flags New England.

Each year the spring is a hectic time for me. In addition to my usual freelance jobs and business work, it’s opening time for my caricature/art concessions in the seasonal parks. Our operations here in Massachusetts opened on April 15th, Six Flags St. Louis opened on April 21st and Valleyfair! in Minnesota opens May 12th. There is a lot to do, settijng up displays, hauling out the equipment, cleaning it and getting it set up, replacing the things that are breaking down and generally making it all nice and shiny for a new season.

All that stuff is just busy work. The real challenge with these art concessions is finding good artists to do the caricatures. I send information and a full color poster out to area art schools, place ads in newspapers and on Craigslist, and review the work of many artists in order to put together a crew for each location. Outside Minnesota I have some very capable artist/managers who pre-screen interested artists and, in some cases, contract those who will work out on their own. Finding artists that are capable of doing good caricatures quickly and who possess the necessary people skills is very difficult. Our approach and live techniques do not lend themselves to being picked up quickly or by those with less than very strong drawing skills and a natural eye for caricature. I hate ‘genericature’, where every face looks basically the same with just superficial variations, and work hard to avoid these pitfalls with our artists.

The seasonal nature of the work also makes it tough to keep a stable crew. Since the job is over in the fall, many artists move on to find full time jobs elsewhere and are not available the following season, setting up a never ending cycle of turnover. College students usually make the best recruits, as they have school in the off season and often return for multiple seasons. I put myself through art school doing caricatures during summers at Six Flags. It’s a fun and challenging job where you are surrounded by other artists in a highly creative environment. It’s hard work, but getting paid to draw funny pctures of people is a tough job to beat.

I remembered to bring my camera with me this time, so next week I’ll post some pictures of the Six Flags New England operation and maybe some live work.


  1. SteveH says:

    Here’s hoping you have a smooth transition into the season with good artists and many keen customers! Your energy and professionalism is an inspiration, he who dares- WINS! 😉

  2. kingoffoolz says:

    As a native New England area cartoon fan I follow the caricature scene
    here. Most of the talented artists that you seek prefer to stay independent as opposed to working for a chain like yourself. To them its a step down because its saying I failed on my own and now I have to work for someone elses operation. An artist friend of mine here in the Boston area said he turned down a job offer from Disney to do caricatures because he didn’t like Disney they were too strict. Good Luck finding your artists in New England. You’ll find a lot of the art students are more into computer graphics and holding a real marker in their hand is new to them.
    You’ll also find Mass. people to be very “cold” -snobby to deal with.

  3. Tom says:

    Thanks for the comment- We are not new in New England, but have been open for six seasons.

    It’s tough finding talented artists anywhere, and New England is no exception. I actually only contract art students and/or inexperienced talent as established caricature artists are generally so set in their ways that they refuse to accept constructive criticism or are willing to adopt our specific techniques. Frankly many of them I wouldn’t want drawing for me regardless. Better to start with fresh talent and teach them to do things right from the beginning. The enormous percentage taken by the theme park prevents me from paying a very high percentage to my artists, so the reality is young talent that learn our methods and then after a few seasons move on to be independent themselves.

    This year we have a great rookie crew, with only one or possibly two more spots open. It’s gong to be fun to see where these kids go with their caricaturing skills this summer.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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