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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?….

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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.

There are several online forums and FB pages which I enjoy posting on and reading, sharing and comparing styles of hand drawn caricature with other international artists. From one such page I was recently asked to run a caricature workshop, sharing the secrets of my style with the world and helping others to draw like me. I’m afraid I simply cannot see any benefit from doing this and so politely declined.

Imagine if suddenly everyone began producing artwork to my standard, in my style? My style would instantly be de-valued and common as day, as you could get a ‘George style caricature’ from almost anyone! I have already noticed several artists copying certain line and shading techniques from my live caricature work, resulting in semi-clones on the internet.  Value comes only with uniqueness and so promoting a generic style can only harm my own value and any artist who does so is only promoting their own demise in my opinion.

I am of course flattered that others may be inspired by aspects of my work, as inspiration is important to all artists, but teaching artists to draw like me is off the agenda I’m afraid!

I was recently filmed while drawing the MD at a corporate fun day in Wales, managed him in just 2:48 which is pretty damn fast.  It was interesting to watch myself and enlightened me as to exactly how I do it, I appear to draw from the shoulder with an ever sweeping arm which never keeps still.  Take a look…

Never let it be said that I am uncharitable, I have my charities which I contribute to via DD on a monthly basis and I rarely pass a beggar by without offering some coins, not to mention my Lottery donations. However I do suffer regular begging emails from various charities, all asking for my time and assuming I would lose nothing by offering them it. On the contrary, as caricaturing is my full time occupation, every day which goes unpaid is the equivalent to losing one week’s wages. How many of you would gladly give £450 to a charity and go hungry for two weeks??  How many of you would work without pay EVERY week, foregoing your income in order to aid a charity? Every charity event I attend means one less paying job.

This week I have received three requests from charitable organisations, asking me to do just that, which is equivalent to losing £1300 of my wages. In an effort to redraw the balance, I have drafted a response letter which I shall send to each charity who contacts me from now on:

Dear Sirs,

I am a sparse profit making creative venture, founded in 1991, with numerous celebrity endorsements, but desperately in need of funding. Rises in inflation, fuel prices, materials and competition mean that surviving as a sole trading artist is painfully difficult. All little Georgie wants is the chance to make people smile and offer all the equal opportunity to enjoy his works of art. I write to you in the hope that you can offer Georgie gainful employment and help raise cash for the ‘Help Art Live Fund’. As a profit making venture I cannot offer his time for free, but he would love to entertain your guests for the full going market rate of £420.

Please help make little Georgie smile again, pay the full fee so another artist doesn’t end his days as a tearful voice at a McDonalds’ drive-thru.

I look forward to your response.

Following the publication of my advice regarding underpricing and lowering the market value of Caricatures, I felt the need to point out the dangers of flooding the market with cheap artists.

New caricaturists are currently quoting clients ridiculously low fees for their services (and even charging ‘per person’), the net result of which is to lower the market value of all caricaturists in the eyes of the customer. The long-term result is far worse; Lower fees lead to more clients being able to afford to hire caricaturists, in turn the caricaturist will need to work twice as hard, just to earn a decent weekly wage. Pretty soon, every event will see cheap, crap caricaturists, scrawling their trade and becoming common-place. The end result being that no-one wants or respects caricaturists anymore, having grown tired of consistently crap, cliche’d renditions of caricatures being pedaled for pennies… Indeed hiring a caricaturist as a wedding gift will be as popular as giving a stick of seaside ROCK!! The mass influx of new artists, presumably prompted by the Recession, high unemployment and the idea of making an easy buck will magnify the above effect and possibly see the end of established artists and newbies alike

Please, please, please Newbies… SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE!!  All I have to do to compete is lower my fees and I would mop up the customer market, but we’d all lose out, so lets keep the fees at a respectable level, along with the levels of drawing and professionalism.

Update – December 2012

This year’s Christmas season is predictably bleak once again, though several dates have been flooded with enquiries and events are popping up all over. Reports are coming in of new artists at events and old agents not getting in touch. This is the effect of Flooding the Market! A recent web-crawl of Google showed several new caricaturist sites popping up and one particularly hideous Agency website listed around 50 artists, the top 20 of whom, I didn’t recognize!  Presumably this is the new influx of would-be artists, attracted by a flagging employment market and the promise of a good daily rate with a pen in hand.  The agents of course are lapping them up like sharks in a feeding frenzy! All that fresh meat, willing to work for what ever rate they’re told by the puppet-masters. Not one with a proper business plan or knowledge of their own market, many will flounder in the next year or so, but not before they’ve taken the work from established artists and re-enforced the artificially low fee scales, set by agents who (on the whole) don’t care about the survival of their artists.

I have secured 5 Xmas parties this year, compared to a previous 18, most via cherished agents, who know my worth and offer me proper rates. I thanks them, but must assume the other bookings have all been snapped up by the Supermarket sites. I can’t blame the public for wanting to cut costs, but its the Agents’ job to look after the Artists’ interests, not just grow fat off the feeding frenzy caused by inexperienced artists and budget conscious clients.

A punter remarked the other evening; “You draw for GQ and have been on TV? With talent like that you must be booked solid?!” With 22 years experience and a good reputation, I’da hoped so, but as I explained; some people aren’t shown an Artist’s pedigree, only their fee and Cheap is always Better isn’t it?….

A flooded caricaturist market does have one up-side; a recent enquirer was flabberghasted by the proliferation of websites and Agency lists. Not knowing where to begin, they simply chose the most professional looking and least confusing site and ended up booking me. Some are still prepared to be discerning… That gives me hope in the caricaturists’ version of Where’s Waldo?

Update – January 2013

Just lost one of my only bookings to a cheaper artist in Chester. Had a further two enquiries, which came to nothing, presumably for similar reasons. I cannot blame the clients for wanting to save money, though it is always a false economy, as cheaper artists have a tendency to disappoint their clients. Quite basically, the flood of new artists bumbling into my industry and charging bargain basement prices, will ruin the industry for everyone. As caricaturists become more common and less valued, we will all be forced to drop prices to match these idiots and many will be forced out of full time business. Its heart breaking to watch for an artist of 20+ years experience and reputation, who can do nothing to change the trend other than to Blog about it!

“HOW TO MAKE A LIVING….”

Just read with interest a colleague’s Blog, which gave helpful hints on how to become a professional caricaturist.  I found the read interesting and well informed, it offered good advice and followed a basic business model, which many new artists forget about. Nice to see a professional offering his advice. However I must question the logic of encouraging other caricaturists onto the market and helping them to take your work away! The basic business model given aimed at working 2 bookings per week, every week of the year (104 per anum) which is a realistic average. However, speaking as a veteran caricaturist, I have seen the market flood since I began in 1991, when there were around 30 Pro-Carix trading, at 2 bookings each week. Now there are more like 80 artists fighting for the same market, which is not growing, but shrinking! Imagine if another 10 artists are encouraged by the advice given (on the Blog in question) and they take the work from my colleague; making his business model unattainable, with just half the bookings available each year. That is sheer madness surely?! Recent full-time converts may be reveling in their new life choices and enjoying the Caricaturist community, but it is a fragile existence and should be shared with care.

In addition to this, the basic attraction of hiring a Caricaturist is in their unique skill, rare talent and novelty value. If everyone becomes a caricaturist, then everyone will own a caricature, thus no-one will want a caricature anymore. This was underlined last weekend at a wedding in Preston, where a guest remarked:

“I’m not getting a bloody caricature, had one in York and it was crap. You can’t move for bloody caricaturists up there, all over the town they are!”

Quite simply, caricaturists will soon become as commonplace as Magicians and no-one wants a Magician at their event anymore! I would seriously consider the bigger picture before I encouraged any new caricaturists onto the market!!

Update – 26 April 2013

The effects of a flooded market are starting to show. In recent chats with colleagues, most complain about how quiet the market is and how few jobs they currently have, some artists struggling to keep afloat and deeply worried.  They wonder why Agents are no longer calling and offering work and who exactly is getting all the jobs? Presumably Agents are now spoilt for choice and can ‘cherry-pick’ the cheapest artists for each job, as is their Modus Operandi, with no thought for those artists who have helped build their business.

By comparison I have had a recent flurry of work,  but none through Agents. I saw the flood coming a few years back and took precautions, by ploughing my time and efforts into promoting myself online, in order to become independent of Agents and their whims.

I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again; Agents should not have the power to control our industry, they enjoy  a one-sided relationship with their artists, where they wield the power of survival, but offer no loyalty in return. In hard times surely some signs of loyalty would help those established, yet struggling artists to survive…

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THIS BLOG IS A PROFESSIONAL’S EYE VIEW OF THE WORLD OF CARICATURING.  IF YOU’RE SIMPLY LOOKING TO HIRE A CARICATURIST, PLEASE CLICK THE LINK ABOVE.

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