After nearly 20 years of drawing caricatures at theme parks and running the show daily out there every summer full time, I went into theme park ‘semi-retirement’ a few years ago. Between my increasing frequency of doing MAD jobs and my other clients and freelance projects, it was becoming impossible to devote the kind of time and attention needed to run one of these operations properly. The last 5 seasons or so I have had a manager out at my park in Minnesota, and my role has been regulated to just the business end of things, teaching the new artists the techniques we use and occasionally sitting in the chair and actually drawing.
I’m actually quite happy to be working in a quiet (relatively, I DO have 4 kids) studio in my home, free from mosquitoes, sticky and nacho-breathed kids leaning over me and endless “where’s the bathroom” questions. 20 years of that will wear you down. However this week I was required, through a set of rare circumstances, to have to draw a full four days between my operation at Six Flags New England and Valleyfair here in Minnesota. I was plenty rusty and it took a few days before I started doing some decent drawings, but on day three I was back ‘in the groove’.
I had forgotten how great an exercise drawing live caricatures can be. The difference between that and studio work is like the difference between 3 hour life drawing renderings and 3 minute gestural life drawing. Doing live caricatures sharpens your observations and instincts with the face, expression and exaggeration. You don’t have the time to over think anything… you have to draw reflectively and spontaneously. Even the bodies and situations you draw with the face must be done on the fly without any sketching or preliminary work. Drawing in this manner forces the artist to do all that ‘sketching’ in their head rather than on the paper, and it really develops and sharpens visualization skills.
Of course, it isn’t all wine and roses. Theme park ‘guests’, as they are called ‘in the business’, can be downright rude and stupid. Most are very pleasant but you get the occasionally idiot. The afore mentioned nacho breath isn’t very appealing, and I am at least half a pint low on blood thanks to the Minnesota State Bird (commonly known as the mosquito) who seem to laugh in the face of Deep Woods Off. My wife must be some kind of saint for all those years of letting me crawl into bed at midnight after coming home from a 12 hour day working in the summer heat, smelling like sweat, bug-spray and airbrush paint. Somehow we still managed to conceive four children despite the malodorous funk. Hmmmm, maybe I should bottle it and sell it over the Internet…??á¬¨‚Ä† “Eau d’ theme park”?
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