Tales from the Theme Park

Tales from the Theme Park #17

February 2nd, 2017 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

This story is legendary, and comes from back when I had an operation at Six Flags St. Louis. At the park locations we are always ribbing each other over the quality of each other’s work and the guest’s reactions. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear one of the artists who is not drawing at the time do a fake cough masking the word “Yamistem” (aka “you missed him”) at an artist who is drawing. We would sometimes joke about how the customer clearly hated the drawing an artist just did (after the customer had left of course). One summer one of my artists (name withheld…… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #16

June 28th, 2016 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

This happened around 1993 or so at a short lived nightclub complex in downtown Minneapolis called “Mississippi Live”. I had set up a single artist location in a big commons area where patrons could come out of the various clubs and bars that opened into the area with their drinks. Lots of very drunk people. One of the staples of a live caricaturist’s repertoire in an adult setting like that are “boob gags”.  Not exactly highbrow humor but your play to your crowd. Quite a few of the women joke about giving them bigger breasts in the drawing, and 100% of the men with them… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #15

June 21st, 2016 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

Here’s another in a long line of “nobody believes a theme park caricaturist does anything but theme park caricatures” story. This just happened earlier this summer when I was filling it at one of my locations in Minnesota: A couple sits down to get their caricature done. One of them is wearing this shirt: Me: “Hey, I did the artwork for that shirt! I do a lot of work for Jeff Dunham!” Her: “Yeah….. Riiiiiiight.” Me: “—-” Okay, so it’s not much of a story. It’s just funny that so many people find it hard to believe that anyone who does live caricatures at theme… READ MORE

Tales From the Theme Park #14

May 12th, 2016 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

Getting new, fresh samples on the walls of my theme park operations was always a challenge… especially since I spent most of my free time doing freelance work. So, since much of my freelancing had to do with caricature, I would often convert the caricatures I did for various jobs into samples for the parks. This sample of comedian Tom Green from 2002 is an example: I had originally done that caricature for a job for MAD (#406, June 2001): This led to the following exchange with a 10 year old kid out at the park: Kid (looking at the sample on the wall): That’s… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #13

April 21st, 2016 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

Last Sunday’s mailbag reminded me of this story. When you work a theme park caricature stand you meet a lot of people. Every once and awhile I’ll get told I look like some celebrity. In the 80’s when I was just a kid I heard John Travolta quite a bit. Jon Cryer from “16 Candles” a lot as well. Once I got into my late 20’s early 30’s the one I got all the time was Paul Rieser. In fact, here’s an example of one of the more forgettable ones: I’m in my mid 30’s drawing at Valleyfair one summer day when two really good… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #12

January 28th, 2016 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

The Worst Return Ever When you work drawing caricatures at a theme park or in a retail setting you will occasionally get returns. Unavoidable. Ultimately the customer is the client, and it’s your job to do a piece of art that makes them happy so they pay for it. That is not such an easy task considering the art you are creating is meant to make fun of the very party you expect to pay for it. Returns happen, and since the theme park you work at is all about kissing their “guests” hindquarters far past the point of all rationality or fairness, you have… READ MORE

Tales From the Theme Park #11

September 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

It’s another thrilling tale from the live caricaturist trenches at your friendly neighborhood theme park! There are many annoying things that transpire around you when working at a theme park, but by far the worst is repetitive noise. Things like the repeating park soundtrack, shows that play near you a dozen times a day, games barkers that say the same thing over and over on their microphones, etc. Theme park management usually does nothing to help people keep their sanity when things get out of hand, so sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Way back in the 80’s when I worked… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #10

July 28th, 2015 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

There is a funny story at the end of the historical stuff, so if you don’t care about how airbrushed caricatures got started in theme parks, skip down to the last three paragraphs. The Origin of the Airbrushed Live Caricature There are many different techniques used to color live caricatures, from the old “chalk and glove” method to prisma color stix (essentially crayon), to pastels, to watercolors. Airbrush is one you see in a lot of theme parks and tourist centers all around the country. While I’m sure a few of them started doing it independently, the vast majority of them are offshoots of the… READ MORE

Tales From the Theme Park #9

December 11th, 2014 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

This one is the story of the closest I ever got to getting beat up for a caricature I drew. This happened in the summer of 1989 or 1990 while I was managing a concession for Fasen Arts at Six Flags Atlanta. It’s sad that I was in a position of authority and still pulled this stunt… I apologize to Steve Fasen for my actions a quarter of a century ago. It was a typical day doing theme park caricatures at Six Flags. I was working at our busiest booth located in the center area of the park when I started drawing a group of… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #8

August 7th, 2014 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

“The Drawing Muscle” This isn’t much of a story but it is something I used to freak my fellow caricaturists out with all the time. The technique I learned to draw live caricatures invoked using a lead holder and a 4B or 6B 3mm graphite lead. Many live caricaturists use a marker for their lines, which is wonderful and can be used to great effect. I learned with graphite, and the principal reason for this was we used an airbrush to add the color. With the airbrush it was better to use graphite as it was not as intensely black as the lines from a… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #7

March 6th, 2014 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

This story actually comes not from drawing at a theme park but from doing a state fair. I didn’t do many of those but for a couple of years in the early 90’s I would pack up my gear and a 10×10 tent and drive to Oklahoma to do a state fair. The fair lasted for 17 days, during which I became an honorary carnie… except I had all my teeth. To be fair, most carnies also have all their teeth, but they keep them in a jar on their dashboard whereas all of mine are still in my mouth… but I digress. Doing fairs… READ MORE

Tales from the Theme Park #6

February 6th, 2014 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

The Craziest Theme Request Ever… When you do live caricature, especially in a theme park or retail setting where speed is not as important as it is when doing parties or events, you get a lot of people asking to be drawn doing this or that. There are many standards like “as a baseball player” or “singing karaoke” or “riding a motorcycle”. I encourage my artists to charge a few bucks extra when the theme being requested is something that will take more than a minute of extra time… they are paid on commission after all. Now, these are caricatures and supposed to be funny,… READ MORE


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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