Sunday Mailbag

April 13th, 2008 | Posted in General

Q: I’m thinking about doing some caricaturing at a local festival. I purchased a 10 x 10 outdoor booth but I’m not sure how to set it up. I do most of my art at home, so working on-location is somewhat of a mystery to me. Can you give any suggestions for my setup? I’m planning on doing pencil and ink (no color) drawings.

A: There are several important elements you need to create a good, approachable retail caricature setup. These apply to any kind of retail operation from a multiple artist building at a major theme park to a one artist booth at the county fair. They are simple and mostly common sense, but are surprisingly absent from many caricature set ups I’ve seen.

  • Impressive Display– Arresting the attention of passersby and, more importantly, engaging that attention enough to get them to stick around your booth for a few minutes is the most important thing you need to accomplish. You cannot sell a caricature to someone who walks right on by and never sees you. Create as large a display as you can with as many caricatures of celebrities on it you can. 12 to 20 or more samples are ideal. You want to use celebrities for two reasosn. First, you are trying to demonstrate your skill as a caricaturist and you can’t do that unless you show you can capture a likeness… ergo you must draw subjects that everybody will recognize. Second, a wall full of celebrity samples gets potential customers to start trying to name everybody… that takes several minutes and creates an opportunity to get them in the chair or at least generates some interest around your booth. Make your samples representative of your live work but add some fun themes and gags to them.
  • Good, Readable Signage– Nothing says “bush league” quite as much as some bad, hand done signs. My advice is always to get some professional signs done… at least for your main “CARICATURES” sign. That main sign is the important one, as you need customers to identify your booth from across the walkway for what it is. With computers these days you can design a sign yourself and bring it in to a fast sign place and have it printed on a banner or a piece of plastic. Price signs also should be nice and readable, and framed or encased in some display holder.
  • Enough room for a crowd– Make sure you leave enough room around you for a crowd to gather and watch. I’ve seen some caricaturists set up so that is difficult to do for onlookers. That is a big part of the attraction, so put on a show.

There are other elements as well, but these are the primary ones I feel are the most important. I assume you meant a 10′ x 10′ outdoor “tent” rather that “booth”, so I would advise you construct several 6′ x 3′ panels out of simple wood or lattice to use to hang your samples on. Paint them a neutral color, or cover them in fabric. have a vinyl banner type sign made that says “CARICATURES” to use on the outside of the tent. Print your other signs on a computer and frame them with inexpensive frames for display. Use folding chairs for your models. Bring a taboret or some kind of side table for your supplies… a bedroom end table from a thrift store and spray painted works well for that. Yes, this involves a little investment, but not much. You can then reuse the display and equipment next year or in other fairs and events.

People respond to professionalism. If your booth is clean, the stuff looks well put together and the samples and signs are neat, look good and are well done, they will have the confidence to buy your work.

Thanks to Meredith Randazzo of New Bern, NC for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here. I’m out!!!


  1. Trevour says:

    I’ve only been doing live caricature for 3 years, so I’m really no expert, but I’ll share some advice:

    When working after dusk, lighting is critical too. The festival organizers will usually be accommodating if you need a power source, but some are strict on your electrical setup (breaker box regulations, etc.). In any case, I bring along several Bayco clamp lights, and secure them to the frame inside the tent. They really light the place up at night! I’ll sometimes bring an old stylish floor lamp to make the interior more ‘cozy’ for the customers, and I also like to hang up strands of white Christmas lights around the tent. “Ooh, sparkly lights, it must be fun inside that tent!”

    Make sure your signage is well-lit too if you’re working into the night. I made that mistake at my very first festival – my signs were literally left in the dark. As a result, many people came up to me and asked what I was doing. After I told them, they asked if it was free (since they couldn’t see any price signs). It was just a whole lot of added confusion.

  2. yondaime_kazekage says:

    i’m no expert too. But one thing for sure, within 1 years from now, i will come up with my own stall. So, for this mean time, i’m a stick to this website and keep up with every tips on caricature that Tom’s going to share with everyone.

  3. meredithd says:

    Great advice! Is there some kind of portable drawing table (vice an easel) that works well? The tables in the Nick Universe post look like good folding tables. Thanks!


LA Workshop no. 2 underway today!

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: