Times are tough, and if you’re like most everyone else, you’re looking to either cut costs or land a second part time job. But here’s an even better idea for the artistically-inclined: Grab a sketch pad, pencil, a felt tip marker — and a “tip” jar — head to the nearest party, bar or restaurant, and start sketching people’s faces!
Of course, you’ll need to ask permisson first, but you’ll be amazed at the reaction, and most importantly, your filled-up tip jar.
People love art — whether they admit it or not — especially when it comes to seeing THEIR face on a frameable piece of paper. Back when I started doing this I got the urge to walk into a bar, pencil and pad in tow. When I was finished, I’d had 4 free drinks and $35 in cash!
If you’re nervous about drawing people, and/or afraid they may be overly critical, DON’T be. People work hard to see themselves in the picture you draw, and nine times out of ten, they’ll see their likeness. As you get more practice under your belt, YOU’LL get better too — and one day you’ll wake up and say “Hey — I’m a bona-fide ‘portrait-caricature’ artist!”
More importantly, you’ll also realize you’ve come up with a new way to make ends meet!
What to charge? If you’re just starting out, it’s always best to do these “free,” with a tip jar close by. Yes, some folks will take you literally and walk away without tipping, but nine times out of ten, you’ll see a tip, anywhere from $1 – $5. Yes, you may have paid a theme park caricaturist $25 for a drawing years ago, but hey — the theme park takes most of that money. AND, it’s a good bet you’re not working at one of those high-priced parks.
Once you’ve become adept at drawing faces, you might land a “paying” gig at a local restaurant or bar, drawing customers — especially the kids! Caricature artists are “great draws” at these places (no pun intended) and they’re hard to find. Plus, you may start landing parties, where you are hired “by the hour” to draw the crowd. Caricature artists make $100-$200 an hour at these events, doing 1-3 per day on weekends!
Caricatures are by definition “exaggerated features” of faces, but that doesn’t mean you add three extra chins to an overweight person, or draw a guy with even less hair than he already has. Caricature artists have field days with politicians and celebrities for newspaper drawings, but that person sitting in front of you is generally NOT a public figure. He or she wants to “look mahvelous” — that’s why they’re getting their picture done.
For older folks — especially women — see the beauty in their faces. Diminish bags, wrinkles and double chins — you can always add more. Pay close attention to the beauty in their eyes too. Men are less picky about age lines, but they can be sensitive over their hair (and lack thereof.)
Go easy on the kids. A big-eared boy may be “brain-damaged for life” if you draw him looking like “Dumbo.” Little girls see themselves as princesses, and you should draw them that way. I’ll never forget one “chunky” girl’s request that I draw her as “Tinkerbell.” While it was all I could do to keep from cracking up, I did just that. Her smile — and subsequent tip — made it all worthwhile.
How fast can you draw? One veteran advised me that “six minutes per black and white caricature is pretty standard.” That equals roughly 10 per hour. Some caricaturists do these in three to five minutes, others, 10-15 minutes — each. I do 12-15 per hour — now — in black and white. Color generally takes longer, especially if you add figures and backgrounds.
Some caricature artists use 11 x 14 paper, but I use 8.5 x 11 paper, because they take less time and the paper is easily frameable — with standard-sized Walmart frames.
Materials? I use pencil, eraser, brush-tipped pens, “Wausau-brand” brite white paper — and those all-important envelopes to put the drawings in. I’ll usually “pre-pencil” the art, then ink over it. For color, I use the “Chart-Pak” color markers, usually found at any full-service art store.
I did not draw live caricatures until I turned 50, and in previous years, my response was “over my dead body” when asked to do so. When economic times forced me to jump into this field, I was overwhelmingly surprised — not only at the crowd’s reactions, but at my own personal enjoyment doing this. As one veteran caricaturist said, “Bet you wish you started this 25 years earlier.”
My answer? “You got that right.” With over 20,000 portrait drawings hanging in homes around the world, I’m proud to be a caricaturist. Someday, you will be too.