15 June 2000


YouCanDraw.com's Insiders Communique


In this issue:

1) Working up to your first "live gig"
2) From stick figures to full portraits in 5 days: quick
visit Betty Edwards "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" site


Getting started: your first live gig

So you're feeling confident, you're ready to get out there and start drawing
at some parties. What are things to consider there? Where's the best place
to get started? Should you start drawing for friends? For strangers? What do
you charge? Feeling scared? (I did!)

Money changes things

I found that when I first started drawing gigs for money, the money changed
the whole thing. How did it change anything? It added pressure. It made me
feel like I had to perform not just "at my best" but at a whole level beyond
that. Was I capable of that? I didn't know. Adding all that extra baggage
to an already scary situation just made me overly critical of my own work -
and I criticized myself every step of the way. That's not the way to do it.

Pre-party preparation: easing your way in

Before my very first live drawing gig I spent 6 weeks going to the library
3-4 nights a week. (and this was about a month after reaching a place where
I was feeling pretty confident about my drawing). The library was my
favorite practice ground. I brought a watch, a small pouch with my pencils,
erasers, and smearing tools (like the "paper pencil" - a rolled up piece of
paper with a point like a pencil...you can buy these at most any art
store...and a patch of chamois). I brought an 11 x 17 pad of newsprint. It's
pretty inconspicuous - I wasn't putting on any show walking in and I really
didn't want to attract any attention while I was drawing.


Then I found one of those cubicles that were like cells - they were pretty
much guarded with short walls on three sides. I really wanted to do this
without anyone knowing I was doing it. On the one hand I was a little timid
but more than that I just didn't want to be seen as "showing off". I was
never able to just jump out there and do this. I needed to take little
"safe" steps towards going public.

Lots of material

At the library I'd grab the latest People, Entertainment Weekly (I think
they had this out back then), or Time magazine. I'd carry 3 or 4 of them
back to my "cell". I sit close to a clock too. The magazines were in a pile
to the right of my drawing pad, (I'm left handed).

Timed drawings

At the beginning of this 6-week cram session my goal was to draw a picture
every 10-12 minutes. My goal at the end of the 6 weeks was one picture every
5 minutes. I'd cut off a minute a week. Doesn't sound like a minute a week
would be noticeable - but it was :-). I took out my wind-up timer (which I
hid under my hat or sweater or scarf - this was January in Minneapolis -
if it seemed like it ticked too loud). Wound it for a full hour. Then I
started flipping through the magazine - stopping at the very first face -
of any size.

Choice? What's that!?

My thinking was since I wouldn't have a whole lot of choice about who I'd
draw at a party I wouldn't be particular now. I could if I wanted to but
that wasn't the way I saw other caricaturist's do it and I didn't think
people would like it too much if I started turning them away ("No, I don't
want to draw your FACE". Doesn't sound very good, does it? Can you see how
that might tick someone off, maybe hurt some feelings? Not good for
business. Not good for my own state of mind either. Draw everyone who wanted
to be drawn. That was the deal.)

So that first week I'd shoot for doing 5-6 drawings an hour. Every 10-12
minutes, no matter what point I was at in the drawing I'd stop after 12
minutes. Flip the pages till I found the next face. Boom - 10-12 more
minutes for a picture. 12 minutes, next face. Ding! One hour timer went off
- take a five minute break and do it all over again. You can never run out
of material at a library - there's so many pictures books and magazines.

Moving to live models

But not just magazines and picture books - there's also lots of people
milling around, standing there in an isle or leaning on a book rack,
"hangin' out" for 4, 5, 6, 10 minute periods. Perfect! After doing my 2-3
hour timed sessions, I'd just draw people that might be standing around. And
you'd be amazed how "stealthily" you can do this. Yes, it seems kind of like
an invasion of privacy when you think about it - staring and such. But hey,
we're all looking at each other all the time anyway, right? I tried to
look, gather up what I could, and draw what I saw.

If someone ever cast a dirty look, I'd just draw someone else. Maybe twice
in the six weeks did anyone ever look over my shoulder and look to see me
drawing. Both times it was along the lines of a whispered "Cool - this
guy's drawing PEOPLE". Did that blast off the "pride scale"? You better
believe it!

Getting gutsy or building "Chutzpah"

And you be amazed about one of the positive side effects of really getting
into a drawing session: r-mode does get you in this observer's role and
you're not nearly as intimidated by other people's reactions. You no longer
interpret every comment or quip, or "loud non-verbal" as a personal attack.
It has a brazening effect. You don't lose your social judgment, you're just
harder to ruffle. For me, this was an awesome discovery. (I had a real
self-confidence problem back then.)

Wind sprints

On days away from the library, I'd still do little 30 or 45 minute "sprints"
at home. Same thing: grab a magazine, time it, put it away when I was done.
I did start spending more time on the last drawing to add as much detail as
I could: strengthening shadows, adding more hairs, checking the anatomy a
closer. (Btw: the more lines you have in the hair, the more realistic.)
Occasionally I'd draw a brother or sister who'd come over. I drew few
friends - stakes seemed too high.

My first gig

Ironically my first party was at one of my best friend's sister's Birthday
bash. I wore a tuxedo, (It was my bar tending uniform - I bartended for a
year in-between medical school and PA school...I left medical after one
year). I brought a drawing easel, a Spartan office chair, actually more of a
studio chair, glued and taped 11 or 12 penciled caricatures to a red 3' x 4'
poster board - that was my marketing material. Stuck that on a tripod.
Clunked down a white plastic bucket with "Tips" magic-markered on it's side
right on my drawing table. Stuck it at the upper right edge.

I threw 5 crumpled-up dollar bills and one twenty dollar bill on the top as
"seed money". (I learned that bartending) And I made 80 dollars! All my
friends were there. And this was what was amazing to me: I never had so much
support. I really didn't expect that. I was more than a little afraid of
what my buddies would say. That they'd really back me up, I just didn't
expect that. It was a very pleasant surprise.

Getting to town

Looked at my watch, it was 9 pm. Starting time. I did the first person
twice. (My buddy Russell.) The first one went "splat", but Russell was a
great sport and let me try drawing him again. Took me just those first two
drawings to get rolling. I drew maybe 25 to 30 people over the next 3 or 4
hours. Might have been longer - it all went so fast! (That included two 20
minute breaks.) I was aware of the dance music, sensed all sorts of people
looking over my shoulder. In fact I was acutely aware of what was going on
in the room without being distracted by it.

In the end my friends loved it, thought it was a real addition at the party,
and I got instant invitations to several other parties - some at the same
rates I did this one for, some asked "how much per hour?". (I did this
first party for tips only. No hourly fee. I thought after maybe half a dozen
"practice" gigs I'd feel justified asking for hourly pay on top of tips.
(And I did. $45 and hour to start.) In my mind, this first party was an
absolute raging success. I felt fantastic.

The real reason I "had" to do this gig

Of the few people I heard criticize what I was doing, it was easy to hear
the "envy factor" pretty clearly in their voices. Incidentally, the most
critical person there was my ex-girlfriend. "Ex" by her choice. Not mine. In
fact, I have to tell you this, the biggest, strongest, most compelling
reason that drove me to do this party was to impress her - maybe win her
back. So the stakes were extra high. Did it work? Did I get her back? No.
(But she was sure acting funny - I was so into drawing I didn't have a
chance to react to her. I must have looked up 50 times to find her staring
right at me :-) And you know what else? The success I had at the party made
that seem not so important anymore. It was the start of a whole new thing
for me. (The drawing that is.)

To sum up:

1) "Ramp up" to doing your first gig. That is, set aside several weeks to
concentrate on building speed - don't get hung up on it, it'll happen with
practice. (I actually found it pretty fun to time myself - it became a game.)

2) Keep the stakes low: work for tips. Don't ask for money. Money before you
feel ready to ask for it just seems to take the fun out of it.

3) Drawing for friends and family might just be the safest place to start -
even though getting their approval seems like the riskiest thing in the
world. (You might be very pleasantly surprised.)

4) Approach your prospects (friends and family to start) with something like
this: "hey, how'd you like a free caricaturist at your party? I'm looking for
(and need) the practice and I'll do it for you for sodas and tips. It'll
add a whole new level of class to your party". (And it does!)

5) Ease your way into it. Draw for people who'll support you. You need to
arrange your first drawing gig so you can control it - so you can say "OK,
I'm taking a break" or "I'm done" when you want to - and not feel imposed on
or threatened.

6) Just getting an hour or two in at a party will do wonders for your
confidence and esteem - even if it didn't feel that way at first. Something
happens unconsciously after taking an action, especially a scary one: in a
day or two you'll have a whole different, positive perspective.

7) If you have an "ex" or you're trying to attract someone, this might be
another feather in your hat. Of course, no promises :-)


2) Betty Edward's Site

I've mentioned on occasion how Betty Edwards routinely amazes people with
how fast she can teach them to draw - people who could only draw stick
figures and at the end of 5 intense days were drawing full portraits.

Here's a link to a page in her site showing before and after pictures of
various students. This is no trick. I've seen it over and over again.
If you're really stuck, her live classes (not so much the video), may be
what exactly you're looking for. She's expensive, but she's effective.

Check it out:


Until next week, have a great week and keep on drawing!


Jeff K.

Kasbohm & Company's


Copyright, All rights reserved 1997

e-mail: jeffkaz@YouCanDraw