Archive for the ‘entertainers’ Category

To all cheap caricaturists:

While discussing fees with colleagues recently we found ourselves divided into two camps; those who knew their value as artists and entertainers and those who didn’t care and were grateful not to be jobless! Unfortunately the latter camp are driving our prices down as they battle to get paid less and less!!  One northern caricaturist publicly boasted (to paraphrase) “I charge low fees because I’d rather be working every night than charge silly fees and be sat at home!”  Great business plan brainiac! So what is the net result of your pricing structure? You work more frequently because you win jobs from other artists by undercutting them, you do not create more work by under-pricing, no-one ever said “Wow I found a cheap caricaturist (he’s shit but cheap) so lets put on an extra party every night just to hire him!” No! There are a finite number of gigs available in any area on any date, no matter what you charge. You simply now have to work three times as hard to earn what you should be earning in one night, while other full time artists go hungry, unable to drop their prices lower than you. Well done – great ethic.

Know your value and stop undervaluing your colleagues by association and if you are grateful not to be stacking shelves, then maybe its because that’s closer to your true vocation, but I trained all my life to do the creative job at which I excel and will not be comparing my talent to that of a shelf stacker or fairground busker anytime soon!

Do some basic research, find out what your competitors are charging and value your skill by comparison, then endeavour to raise your prices and standards, instead of lowering theirs to meet yours. If you still find yourself at the lower end of the price scale, then maybe its down to the quality of your work and you should consider retraining?….

Recently I have picked up more corporate event bookings and larger events, where I am expected to tow-the-line and work more like a production line than an entertainer, often in unsuitable circumstances. I was beginning to question what I do and if I enjoy it anymore, but last night’s booking has restored my joy in what I do. I walked into a swanky VIP event, smelling of garlic with stains down my suit (after an earlier food accident), full of self doubt and apprehension and the first hour dragged as the VIP clients avoided the smelly weirdo with tattoos, but by the second hour I had won them over and people were clamouring to be drawn. The poshest, prettiest, potentially vainest people were complimenting me on my drawings and so a rapport was struck and I was free to put on a little act and show off to the audience. I had 100% positive feedback and left the event feeling a million dollars.
Such a contrast to other less successful gigs where I am touting for business in a loud, crowded, dark bar or dining room, to be ignored or told “Looks nuffink like me!” or even better “Draw a dick on his head!” and then threatened if I don’t draw all his 6 kids before I go. I’d rather look for more job satisfaction.
I do so enjoy performing as opposed to working like a kitchen porter or production line! So much more liberating that sitting at an easel behind a huge queue of demanding punters, but my hat is off to those Carix who manage that format.

After 24 years as a professional caricaturist and entertainer, I still find myself battling against the same deadly foe; The Amateur Artist!  Despite my excellent reputation for quality service and product, I am constantly compared to ‘the local bloke, who draws for half the price’!

Today I demonstrated my skills as an artist and entertainer at a local Wedding Exhibition, after which I was approached by two venues, both of whom used the same local caricaturist at their weddings. Their main complaint was that he sat in a corner, head down and took 10-15 minutes to draw each individual, which did not impress the Brides or other guests, waiting to be drawn. They could not believe how fast and entertaining I was and both venues offered me a space at their next exhibition, on the strength of what they’d witnessed.

Now I’m no exceptional caricaturist, just a professional, much like dozens of other professional caricaturists, all having to fight against the infux of untutored, unskilled amateurs, who are collectively killing our industry! It should not be my place to constantly educate the public to the standard of artists and entertainers available, it should be the place of those selling us and those competing with us to step up to the mark, as opposed to us lowering our standards and fees. Unless these Artists and agencies peddling our trade get their act together and start selling quality entertainment, then our industry will be reduced to a novelty much like a chocolate fountain or crappy photo booth!!

I’m just saying!

Caricature Workshop

Running a small workshop during Leicester Comedy Festival 2014, at LCB Depot, limited to 30 spaces, Free entry! Running an exhibition alongside it at The Y Theatre. Pop along.

Each year it takes us all by surprise and each year we end up crossing our fingers and hoping that the spirit of celebration takes the nation by storm again. So far its the usual slim pickings for me, with a stark November and and even bleaker looking December ahead. I am comforted by the steady stream of random last minute commissions, from bosses who remember they have to produce a calendar within 5 days or love struck boyfriends wanting to show their affection by spending £5 on a scribble!  Most of these enquiries I tend to shrug off, unless my bank balance tells me otherwise, as they tend to be a huge waste of time, often ending with the blunt email, telling me that after a week spent chasing the project, they have found someone cheaper!!

I am currently whittling away at a studio commission which will pay my mortgage and help me into December, but my diary is still clear. I have fielded a couple of dinner party enquiries “Could you pop to Guildford/Blackpool for an hour to entertain my 20 guests?” which all ended predictably in the negative.  That said, I have just negotiated a booking from a new agent who thought he would school me on what my fee should be and how lucky I should feel to get an enquiry in today’s climate… The cheek!  I was probably entertaining diners when he was potty training and have survived 23 years without his help!!  But beggars cannot be choosers and so a deal was struck and I now count 4 bookings so far this Xmas season.

Gone are the days of 18 parties and too much work to manage, thanks in no short part to the influx of new artists, who believe the agents that dictate their fee and remind them how lucky they are not to be stacking Tesco shelves!

My standards have not slipped, my quality of work is still very high, yet I am suffering at the busiest party season of the year. Punters are still hiring caricaturists, according to tales from my many colleagues, therefore I must surmise that its simply down to a flooded market with increased competition. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so!

 

UPDATE: 16/12/13

One more Xmas party tomorrow, a last minute booking as usual, then I have no more weekly wage until… perhaps March?  The perils of self employment.  Along with the freedom of being your own Boss, you have to endure the hardships of no guaranteed wage and when you are used to being paid a weekly wage, that can be harsh!

Merry Christmas

I recently drew at a wedding which turned out to be the most unpleasant reception I’d endured in years. I say endured because it left a bad taste in my mouth but I was forced to smile tight lipped, for fear of my own safety if I should speak out.  Asides the usual unacceptable racist taunts of “draw him as a Golly Wog… you only need black paper” to the few black guests, I also had to endure two drunks at my shoulder discussing ‘the best fights they’d started’ and telling a girl how they beat up a ‘Fat git eating a kebab’ (unprovoked) the previous weekend and a cyclist for jumping a red light before that – apparently proud that they had broken his hand!  But smile and sparkle I did, though my skin was crawling.

I was forced to move spots several times when the loud mouthed racist behind me kept farting – with devastating  effect! The final straw came when I was drawing a Mike Tyson lookalike and another drunk blurted “May as well draw a lump of coal!” I stopped drawing and glared at him to a loud gasp and “Wooooo daggers!” from the audience. I think he got the message, but what on earth made him think I would agree with his twisted humour in the first place? What makes this still acceptable in modern society??

I felt like I was swimming in a shark tank, with a bloody lip and couldn’t wait to escape the heavy atmosphere. The icing on my cake came when an orange leather faced woman asked me “Do you do proper art, ya know painting and stuff… or just charactertures?!”   I didn’t realise it was a multiple choice question, one or the other but not possibly both?!  I encountered pretty much every  kind of ignorance at the event and was very happy to slip away while the bulk of guests were on the dancefloor.

As a professional artist and entertainer it is my job to be charming and entertaining, but this is hard to maintain when I am insulted, badgered, bullied and made complicit to down right racist ignorance. I just wish racist idiots would leave me alone and not assume that my shaved head and tattoos gave them license to include me in their targeted bullying!!!

Being self employed and working from home has many pitfalls and perils, which help balance out the benefits which others see as so attractive. The main peril which is rarely spoken about is depression. This could arise as the result of an unpredictable level of life security, lack of financial security, pressures of increasing competition, the constant job rejections from clients or the anti-social hours of working late every weekend then spending every other day locked in your home office, fishing for your next job. Maybe its just because being self employed is a constant relentless struggle or maybe its just the weather!

Whatever the reason, I have dark days. Today is a dark day… Just thought I’d share that with all those craving self employment as a cure to all their woes.