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.
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