Old gig…clients that don’t listen

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Drawing caricatures live is not only one of the main parts of my job, but is something I really love.The interaction with guests, the energy of live events, the immediate gratification from the audience watching..there’s so many positives that I rarely talk about the negatives, since they’re so few. One negative, though, is clients who won’t listen. I do gigs an average of 3-4 nights PER week, every week. And I’ve done that for at least six or seven years straight. Before that I did a few a month, still. So, doing the math, that’s over 1200 events I’ve drawn at. That’s not bragging, it’s just stating the facts, and it’s to prove a point- I certainly can learn, and am open to learning new ways to do things….but I kind of have an idea about what I’m doing now. I’m not even talking about the art…I’m talking about how to run a gig. How to set up, how to control the lines, etc. One of my biggest pet peeves in this business is working with “party planners” and/or the end clients, who think they know more about how to run my end of the event than I do.
The gig that these pix are from, about a year and half ago, are a case in point. My company had already done this Project Graduation gig for a local high school for a few years in a row, and everything had gone really well. UNTIL this year. They let a different lady at the school run this year’s event. She was a “professional party planner”, she told me, and had her own ideas of how to run things. UGH. I usually bite my tongue pretty well when dealing with hard to deal with clients, but this lady was just very combative and a real know-it-all.
One of the key things I do at gigs is have multiple caricaturists set up in one area. We have many, many multiple artist gigs. There are room layouts that make it prohibitive at times, and I understand that. But, I HIGHLY suggest in our contracts that with multiple caricaturists, they should be split up into groups of no less than two. Preferably more.
This creates a real “scene”, letting us entertain the spectators/those in line, more effectively. A good gig caricaturist is as much or MORE of an entertainer than they are an artist, even. Think about it….do you separate the members of a band? Doesn’t make sense to set the guitarist on the other side of the room from the drummer, and then the singer on the other side, does it? Why are caricaturists any different? I don’t understand that thinking. Setting artists together ALSO lets us run off of one line, and cuts down on people getting more than one caricature drawn, or getting on two or more lists at a time to “see which one their name comes up on first”. Then there’s also the lesser important reason of the artists being able to take breaks easier in this arrangement. Yes, I take breaks. So do bands, so do DJs (in between songs). So do stiltwalkers, magicians, and every other kind of entertainer I work with. Why shouldn’t the caricaturist? We work harder than a lot of those entertainers, and are usually told we were the ones who “made the event” for the group, so we should get the same breaks, and do. But, that’s another soapbox.
AS you can see here, this lady had a lot of distance between each caricaturist, AND had our line so far behind us that they couldn’t see anyone’s picture getting drawn. She effectively killed any and all entertainment value. You can see Joe Bluhm here in this photo, by the way. A great friend and a renowned caricaturist. He and I were there, along with two other of my best buds, Ted Tucker and Kenny Durkin I believe. Two other great caricaturists.

My point is that she had a lot of talent here, but with her stubborness and being unwilling to listen to me about how to set up the event, the kids couldn’t really “get into” the entertainment, as we were never able to build any real momentum and actually ENTERTAIN with how things were set up.

Most gigs go great. There’s no doubt. Usually people WILL listen to me. Then, ever so often, there is the client who will say, when they find out that I have definite ideas of how to set everything up in order to maximize the amount of people who can be drawn and therefore give them their money’s worth, ” Do it your way. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone telling me how to do MY job. You’re the professional here, not me.”. Man, I love when that happens. And invariably, the event turns out well. I don’t tell someone else how to do their job, and I don’t appreciate when they do it to me.

This particular event didn’t book with us again this past year, but I didn’t really care. IF they call to book again, I’ll ask if the same lady is setting it up, and I won’t be working this event, if so!

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4 thoughts on “Old gig…clients that don’t listen

  1. You’re correct Keelan, Ted was at this event as well as Brian Wright and myself. Although I was there with some tremendously talented artists and great friends, because of the set-up, I felt very much alone.What I missed, and was really looking forward to was the energy multiple artists create as we feed off of each other. We didn’t have the ability to inspire each other, compete with each other and put on a good show. In the end, not only does it affect our work, ultimately it hurts the client because they’re not getting the best value for their investment.The band analogy is perfect. We are obviously caricature artists, that’s our job title, but especially in a live situation we are more “CARICATURE PERFORMERS”. It’s a show, and to split up multiple artists is ridiculous.

  2. I certainly sympathize with you on this, Keelan, and totally agree with Kenny above– “the energy multiple artists create”. It’s such a rush working next to friends that when you get your next gig by yourself, it’s almost disappointing…

  3. I remember this event. It was so poorly run. Overall, I try SO hard to get an arrangement that entertains all the most, but sometimes they just assume that separate is better- “you’ll draw more people”.I should tell them in return, “if you carry your clipboard under your other arm, you’ll take more notes,” and wait for the reaction… or maybe I’ll think of something more clever…meh… (great post)

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