December 26th, 2001
Your 26 December 2001 YouCanDraw.com Communiqué
Hi all, in today's Communiqué:
Hope you had a Merry Christmas - and are still celebrating. It’s a great spirit that
comes with Christmas and I sure want to wallow in it:-)
In today’s e-zine:
1) Elgin Bolling of Bronx, New York asks a great question about exaggeration
2) Ed Nemanic asks about self marketing, pricing in the beginning
1) From Elgin:
I have a question that has been bothering me for sometime. When I am doing a
live gig I often get so nervous that I find it hard to draw smoothly.
(I know the feeling - you ask a great question Elgin.)
I am able to turn out a decent likeness of the person, but I am unable to draw them
with a sense of "ease" for lack of a better word. I would love to have the confidence
to draw exclusively with pen and get a smooth fluid continuous line, but It always
ends up looking nervous and hesitant. The viewer may not notice this, but I KNOW.
Any advice on what I can do to calm myself down and draw with more confidence?
My Answer. That's always a tough one - and a question every performer asks
at some time or another. But the answer is this: the more you draw, the better you
get, the less you worry about it. That's the obvious answer.
How and what do you draw more of?
What I used to do was go to the library, pull down half a dozen picture mags and
with one of those "grandma kitchen timers" I'd draw off one picture after another. I
did this for 6 or 8 weeks before my first real gig some 15 years ago. Look in the
archives, and look up 15 June 2000 for a more in-depth explanation. And what would
I draw? Faces!
Take the pressure off
The other thing Elgin is taking the pressure off yourself. I used to have such
high expectations for every picture I was about to draw I'd get paralyzed. When
I realized that no picture ever turns out the way you plan it, I started loosening up.
"Performance Anxiety" does go away. But in fact you never want it to go away
completely - it sharpens your senses. So if you can, take the pressure off yourself.
(often times easier said than done) Try shorter but more frequent practice sessions -
especially on days you're not drawing. And also drawing things besides faces -
like plants or "life drawing" - those kinds of things give you a chance to draw lots
of long graceful curves that help loosen up your wrist and drawing hand. Following
through at the end of the line - the way you follow through throwing a baseball - you
know, keep your hand going even after the pencil goes off the page I've found really
helped my "loose ends".
Back to the basics
Taking time out to really dive into learning the details of what you’re drawing - this
might help too. And what are you drawing? The face. And the face is made up of
noses, and ears, and eyes, and eyebrows and lips, and hair, and nostrils and nostril
hairs and very subtle shadows that belie the deeper structures of bony anatomy,
musculature, different layers and depths of skin and soft tissue on the face - these
kinds of things - that’s what really builds your foundation. And going back to the basics
of drawing: learning to recognize lines and shadow shapes, and separating forms
from backgrounds, and highlights, and tone and contour...
Art teacher extraordinaire Robert Beverly Hale points out in all his books the
greatest drawers of all time - the Renaissance drawers - all had a deep and intimate
knowledge of human anatomy. All of them could draw an entire human showing in
detail all the muscles of the body - and in perfect proportion - from memory! Modern
day doctors do NOT come out of school with this ability and jsut plain cannot do this
(unless they've made a point to learn anatomy to that depth.)
That’s the approach I personally try to take and to a somewhat lesser extent promote
that approach in the YCD lessons. (But that’s what we eventually aim to do. )
Even if you’re drawing solely caricatures, the more you know about what you’re
drawing, the better you'll be at it. So slow down enough in your non-gig time and
take time to review the basics. Go through them slowly, at your leisure. Nobody
learns anything well unless it’s at their leisure anyway! Cramming fades too fast.
(And until I learned to consistently fall into the "zone" - the place where everything
disappears, words cease, where you go into a deeply observant mode drawing the
task at hand - I was in the "cramming" mode. And I know you've been in "the
Other non-drawing approaches
Other things: getting a good physical work out under your belt (preferably aerobic)
before hand - walk, jog, run, row, a basketball game, volley-ball, anything! Just
not so much that you get over-tired. That helps tone down a little of that nervous
energy. And if nerves are an issue avoid caffeine - caffeine's in chocolate, in tea,
and of course in cola, mountain dew, coffee, even decaf.
One last thing
And there's one other thing I've discovered that really helps me - I learned this in
something completely unrelated to caricature but where I was in front of people
doing very scary things. It's corny, but it works for me. Here it is. Once I get into
the party, drawing room, etc, I look out over the crowd. I spot the person who intimidates
me more than anyone else. In my mind I try and drop all my defenses and I give this
person a real genuine bear hug, like they're a brother or a long lost friend. And I say
to them (this is all in my imagination and with my eyes closed) I say "man, you're
alright" or something along those lines. Then quickly I go through the rest of the room
and do the same for everybody. All in my imagination. Instantly I feel more relaxed.
Of course, having a chance to talk to a few people in the room helps too. But that
little trick that I've told maybe one other person in the world has helped me through
many tough gigs - drawing or otherwise.
Hope that helps a little Elgin.
2) From Ed Nemanic (by the way Ed, if you get this email, please let me know -
I've tried several times sending you this reply and it keeps bouncing)
“I'd really like to know information about the nuts and bolts of running a caricature
business. I feel totally inadequate at this point to think of charging for caricatures,
but I hope at some point my confidence and speed of drawing with lend itself to
making some extra money at this. ( I am a 4th grade school teacher, in my other
life!) So, if you would I do hope that you publish in the newsletter a guide to the
business side of things.”
My Answer: Hi Ed, Ease your way in Ed! (But do make a date to get out there
and at least do a party for fun and tips! - and you're a teacher - the world's most
important and most under-appreciated profession.)...
The answer to your question is a monstrous one. I'm, going to try to add more
to it in the next communique. (the onwe you're now reading) If you have a specific
question in mind, throw it at me :-).
Generally speaking, there's so many approaches to marketing: "multi-pillar"
is the best (IMHO). What's "Multi-Pillar? There's the Jay Conrad Levinson approach
(guerilla marketing) who's great at giving you small actionable ideas all the way up
to national campaigns (from flyers, to t-shirts, to "point of purchase" sales, to web
presences, to guarantees. Then there's the "Direct Response copywriting" approach
of which the YouCanDraw.com web site is an example. Other Pillars: there's public
relations and press releases and special events, and charities. There's brochures
you can make, business cards, envelopes and stationary etc. etc, It's monstrous!
But there's a simpler way...
Just get out there :-)
Try this: start out doing parties for tips-only. It serves two purposes: it gets you out there
and secondly, people see what you do and they ALWAYS ask "Hey, I'm having a party,
how much do you charge?". (And you need to be ready for that too - a simple card
or flyer is fine to start.)
Drawing for tips-only takes the pressure off in amazing way too, plus you can take all
the breaks you want and not feel guilty. That's how I started 15 years ago. (I'd make as
much as a hundred dollars a night on tips, sometimes more, usually less :-)
And friends will ask for friends and/or refer you to others (The "Referral Method" -
world's most effective marketing.) And for some folks, a business run solely on referrals
is enough to keep them "in the money".
To step it up...
Of course, an ad in the Yellow pages is always important - at least as a test for awhile.
But before you do any of that, before you spend a dime on printed kinds of materiel, it's
most important to know what makes you unique as a caricaturist - and this doesn't have
anything to do with how good a caricaturist you are. It has to do with how well you can
tell people what you can do for them. Anything that sets you apart - I have a friend in
Minneapolis who's also a comedian. His "Unique Selling Proposition" is "I'm a caricaturist
who'll make you laugh whether I'm drawing or not". Another caricaturist I know of does
just people's backsides (clothed), another also does face painting - and does a special
deal - face painting AND a caricature with a the face painting you just got ON your caricature
(sounds like way too much work to me :-). Other's have marketed themselves as the worlds
fastest/most cruel/ most loving - whatever it is that people respond to and is true
about you as a caricaturist. You could be the scholarly caricaturist. It doesn't
matter. There's more about refining your "Unique Selling Proposition" in the Archives.
look at 23 December 2000 for some more ideas.
If your're serious about making a business out of your talent...setting up taxes will be
very important as well - and sometimes a little complicated. ...I could go on and on.
But to specifically answer your questions about price...Like I said I started by
drawing for voluntary tips (voluntary on the person being drawn side), Then I
moved up to charging five dollars a picture. Then, because there’s a tax problem
with doing picture’s one at a time I switched, or rather I graduated to charging a
per hour “entertainer’s” fee. (I started I think at 40 or 50 dollars an hour in 1987; these
days starting rates are close to double that).
The one-picture-at-a-time tax problem is this: when the product you’re selling is
just the picture, it’s a retail transaction. That's subject to sales tax. And it really
sells short what the caricaturist is doing: half the fun (or product) a caricaturist
delivers is the entertainment value to the people watching the subject get caricatured
- so the benefit is to the crowd you’re engaging as much as to the person you’re
drawing. The logic being - analogously - a band doesn't charge a per song fee:
“Ok, we'll play the 30 songs we promised plus Yellow Submarine and I Got You Babe
for an extra 15 bucks a piece”. No, you rent a band for your party for the overall fun
they add. It's entertainment. The IRS recognizes this distinction as well.
In time, when you’re confidence goes up Ed, you'll charge more per hour and
then higher prices for “commissioned work” - work, one-of-a-kind studio work
that people come to you to draw for big (or at least bigger) dollars.
That was only a primer. Again, if something specific pops up, ask away Ed! :-)
(Or anyone else out there.)
4702-C West 130th Street
Los Angeles CA, 90250
"Once and for all getting you drawing faces and caricatures"