When you watch a talk show or hear a speech, do you like it better live or rehearsed?
Just think about that for a moment.
Your and my political opinions aside, there is a reason why a certain candidate for president has such a large following. People like spontaneity. It can be dangerous sometimes, but it has a way of reaching, relating to people that something planned and rehearsed cannot.
Last Saturday, I signed up to share a tent with three fellow artists at Artisan Forge Studios at the Artist’s Market held in Phoenix Park, here in Eau Claire. It was an absolutely beautiful day–sunny, not too hot, with a gentle breeze.
A perfect day for doing drawing live portraits.
We got set up at around 7 am, and things were slow for the first couple hours.
Then, around 9 am, things really took off. The market was starting to get busier with more people passing by every minute. I asked one my fellow artists to sit for me and I did a free portrait of him to “prime the pump.” That portrait broke the ice and soon enough I had a small line of people interested.
I ended the day having done several portraits and the last drawing was 4 faces on one paper!
Here’s why I love doing live pencil portraits (though I still like drawing from photos too.)
1. It keeps your drawing skills fresh.
Capturing a person’s likeness in about 10-15 minutes is not easy, especially when they move around. (I often find that children hold still better than some adults do!) In addition, the challenge of seeing a three-dimensional person and transferring them to a two-dimensional paper preserves and strengthens your overall drawing skills. Again, doing drawings live is not as precise as doing them in a studio environment from a photo, but the exercise helps keeps your creativity from going stale!
2. It’s a great way to meet build relationships and meet new prospective clients.
Some of the folks I have done live portraits for have asked me to do larger, more detailed commissions from photos later on. Or, alternatively, others who don’t have time or don’t care to have their portrait drawn live pick up a business card and contact me at a time that’s more convenient for them. While drawing portraits, I enjoy chatting with the person I’m drawing and get to know them a bit. It’s a fun time!
3. It kicks perfectionism in the teeth.
When you have a line of people waiting, you don’t have time to fuss over every detail in a portrait. A perfectionist by nature, it goes against my grain to have to crank out a portrait so quickly, knowing it has many flaws, but it is good to be able to do that once in a while. I am continually amazed that, while creating a portrait, I can see that I didn’t capture the likeness as accurately as I wanted, but most of the customers are just thrilled with it. Well for $10 or $15, they aren’t expecting a Rembrandt, and they probably just think it’s cool to have a decent sketch of themselves or their kids done live in just minutes.
4. It helps pay the rent.
I charge $10 for a single face on an 11 x 14 paper, and $15 for couples both of which take less than half an hour. Many customers like their drawings so much they frame them and give them as gifts. It’s a nice value to the customer for a very low price. With that, I can do close to 25 portraits on a really good day. That all helps to pay studio rent and supply more papers and pencils!
5. It’s fun to be outside doing art.
Do I need to explain more?
As of the writing of this post, this Friday I plan on being a part of the Untied Special Sportsman’s Alliance Summerfest Event held in Pittsville, WI. This is an event that caters to children with special needs, offering them a variety of sports and activities from archery to horseback riding. Everything there is free. I will be doing live portraits there, with the goal of capturing the beauty of these children and bringing encouragement to their lives.
I will let you know more about that after the event takes place!
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