Monday, December 29, 2014

Let's Talk about Chelsea Peretti's Nose

In all fairness, she does talk a lot about it herself. Ms. Peretti highlights her prominent feature in several of her standup bits, like this one discussing how she ended up with the nose of both her parents' cultures (Italian and Jewish). She is featured on the website "Hot Girls with Big Noses," where she is described as having an "anchor" type of nose--it was neat to see a shape reference like that, it really calls to mind the process of caricature.

Chelsea in real life, and in Jeff's sketchbook. I like the sleepy eyes and
protruding lower lip--but yeah, that schnoz does take center stage.
Speaking of caricature--apparently it's okay to talk about Chelsea Peretti's nose, but drawing it is not cool. San Antonio artist Jeff Pecina drew this quick sketch caricature of Ms. Peretti and threw a hashtag on it identifying her. This whole instance took place years ago--look at the tag there, it was 129 weeks ago that this screencap was even taken. But it's only come to my attention now because Ms. Peretti was heretofore unknown to me . . . that changed with the release of her comedy special "One of the Greats" on Netflix. She's funny. She's on the cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and she was a writer on one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, Parks and Recreation.

Anyway, back when Jeff originally put the picture on his Instagram feed, he immediately experienced one of those weird instances only possible because we're living in the future hive-mind. Jeff actually was contacted pretty quickly by Ms. Peretti herself--who said she did not appreciate the picture or the hashtag. Jeff kindly shared his screencaps with me, which I now share with you.

Okay, take a moment to read through the back-and-forth on there. Go ahead, I'll wait. Then let's discuss.

All right . . . first off, let me say that if Johnny Depp had contacted me to criticize any of the 21 Jumpstreet drawings I did of him in the late 80s, I would have freaked right the hell out. But with the amazing power of the hashtag, any fan, commentator, artist, or teenaged worshipper can sometimes get the attention of a celebrity--whether or not they are trying to. Sure, hashtaggers might be attention hounds eager for any celeb eyeball time . . . or they might just be trying to create an easily indexable set of drawings, or reach out to other fans, or identify the subject if that person isn't particularly well known (as I said, I had never heard of her until recently).

Chelsea came in like a hammer: immediately calling for Jeff's death and forcing an early proof of Goodwin's Law by getting to Hitler in her second comment.

All right though, she's a comedian. They get an initial pass on stuff that might make me think someone is a raging asshole . . . she might be saying those things ironically, like in a comedian way.

But she goes on. She's irked that she was tagged. She states that other caricatures Jeff did made women look hot (did she take the time to look through his feed then, see other drawings of his?). She claims that caricatures aren't a super tricky art form, just give people big noses if they have a big nose.

Well, okay, yeah she has a point. Caricature can be highly rendered and incredibly complex--but it can also be a delightfully simple art form. If you drew a caricature of someone like Chelsea and gave them a small nose, the caricature would fail. But she echoes a joke I often tell when people ask me what caricature is. I say "Well some people think it's just a cartoon drawing with a big nose, but that's a vicious rumor started by people who are angry that they have big noses."

The comment exchange ends with her eloquently quipping "I don't hope you die I hope you have to make your living as a caricature artist bye boo boo."

Jeff is pretty calm, in my opinion, and retains some class and etiquette. He's a little sarcastic but he never name calls or derides her profession. And he complies with her request to remove tag and his other post. He tells her he likes her work and doesn't think she's ugly.

I didn't think she was ugly. Not until the comment thread anyway.

But seriously, it gets more irritating. I had heard she mentioned caricatures in her Netflix special, so I dialed it up and watched the whole thing. At minute 36, she talks about how social media and "comment culture" might have damaged great minds and artistic geniuses of the past. How young comedians at early stages of development might have their "artistic journey" stunted by jerks commenting about them online. She's being cheeky and sarcastic, but she's clearly trying to make the point on behalf of comedians.

Yeah, young comedians should be protected from that sort of thing, of course. How awful that they have to deal with folks saying rude things to them online. Like wishing them dead or comparing them to Hitler.

At minute 39, she mentions googling herself and discovering Jeff's caricature. She calls him "someone" and doesn't mention his name, but she talks about commenting on it and repeats these comments pretty verbatim. The audience laughs. She gives Jeff a saucy French accent and guesses he might have been at a State Fair when he posted it. She rips on the general art form and says its a way for bullies to get into art.

More laughs. Now, she's no dummy. Jeff pretty much handed her material to use on her comedy special. She used it, she's making great money from it, and if you ask me she really owes Jeff a fruit basket and a thank-you card, at the very least.
Chelsea dishing it out.

And complaining about a caricature does fit in with Chelsea's brand of humor. As I state above, she has exploited her nose in her comedy before. When you get into dissecting the whole situation, I'm not sure if Chelsea was really irritated at all--or if she was playing around by commenting, really just trying to ruffle Jeff's feathers, and then decided to make it into a comedy bit. Or, perhaps she was initially irked and felt sensitive about her nose but drew on that knee-jerk reaction to create a few jokes that felt genuine. Plenty of comics make a living caricaturing themselves verbally on stage. Chelsea has a lot of female-centric humor that focuses on feeling self-conscious, comparing herself to male comedians, and the standard of beauty. She's crass and filthy too, and has been compared to Sarah Silverman.

I have one big piece of evidence that tells me Chelsea really cannot be all that sensitive about the size of her nose. One big, anchor-shaped piece of evidence that sits in the center of her face. After years in the spotlight and probably seeing hundreds of troll comments saying "this chick would be hot if she just got a nose job," she has not yet paid an LA doctor to hack it off her face. I commend that. Having listened to her comedy special, I would say with confidence that any surgical change to her nose would throw off the nasally voice she does as a gag to describe her selfish or bored thoughts. It works for her the way it is now, she is smart to keep her nose. Kudos to you, Ms. Peretti. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Drew Friedman's take on Jerry Lewis.
Male comedians with less-than-model-looks are everywhere. Caricature artists love drawing comedians. Drew Friedman published a trio of caricature books titled Old Jewish Comedians, More Old Jewish Comedians, and Even More Old Jewish Comedians. To my knowledge, none of the big-nosed comedians contacted Friedman to tell him the drawings were anti-Semitic or hurtful. But Friedman himself told me in person (along with the rest of ISCA) about how Jerry Lewis reacted to his caricature . . . he first called up Friedman and left a less-than-delighted sounding message, saying he wanted to discuss his appearance in this caricature book. Friedman finally got the nerve to call him back and Jerry said, in his over-the-top high-pitched Jerry Lewis voice said "I LOVE IT!"

As I have said before, racialized features are a hot button--yet, if you think logically on it, isn't erasing or ignoring that feature way more offensive than celebrating it? If a feature has become identified as indicative of a certain race, then downplaying it would be dishonest and disrespectful. It says "I like you as a comedian, but wow, if I draw your nose the way it is you'll look JEWISH and that would be AWFUL, so I'll clean you up a bit and de-Jew you . . . there, isn't that better?" How condescending. My motto is that if a caricature is done with love, if the intent is celebration, then try and look at the art with that in mind.

Plenty of caricatures are done in celebration. If you want to take a tour of funny-looking caricatures of well-loved comedians, start with a search of "Robin Williams caricature" on google and see how many drawings make fun of his nose (not to mention his body hair, his beady eyes, his chin, and his lipless grin). With his recent death, many many artists took to the internet and posted their drawings of him out of respect and love. No one was trying to skewer the guy.

Beautiful Robin Williams caricatures by Paul Moyse, Anthony Geoffroy, and Jeff Stahl.

Robin is missed, and loved, by so many who make their living going for laughs--be it in the standup arena or on paper in theme parks and yes, State Fairs. These caricatures really do well at capturing his expression and evoking the feeling of who he was. I cannot imagine him complaining about how his nose grandly protrudes and dips below his mouth in all these depictions.

Anyone remember Jennifer Grey? She had a face, a
memorable cute face. Then she erased it. Still cute, but
now more meh-morable than memorable.
Of course, it bears mentioning that the female "Old Jewish Comedian" that Friedman caricatured in his aforementioned books was Joan Rivers, who herself became an icon representing plastic surgery and the constant re-surfacing the female face apparently needs in order to stay famous. Sigh. Now, Joan wore it as a badge and was brashly unapologetic about her surgeries. And I agree that it's totally her right to do what she wants to her body and face. But I'm talking as a viewer and a caricature artist: man, what I wouldn't give to see what she would have looked like at the age of 80 without any nips, tucks, and smoothing out.

Too many women with great noses, or great unique features, are hacking them off and smoothing them out once they arrive to Hollywood. And I'm not sure doing so really does them any favors. Pretty might be pretty but it's a dime a dozen. Barbie doll features are only good for so long, and they're interchangeable. I'd like to think that stand-up comics are akin to caricature artists in that they have developed a really fine-tuned ability to make fun of themselves, and one another. Louis CK has elevated self-deprecation and making fun of his schlumpy, aging ginger appearance into an art form. Anyone who has seen a celebrity roast knows these guys (and gals) can really take it and dish it out when it comes to lampooning each other. A big-nose drawing should not truly rankle any comedian.

I'm glad Ms. Peretti's nose is still intact, and if her reaction to Jeff was an honest one, I hope she eventually gets a little more loosened up about having it drawn. If Robin Williams is any example, the more famous and beloved you become as a comic, the more people will be drawing you. Many of these drawings will have big noses, because you have a big nose. Some will be exaggerated, because that is what caricature does. And you have a choice at how you react to this. You can try and bully the artists one by one into removing hashtags and taking down their work (just, if this is the way you go, beware the Streisand Effect) . . . or you can embrace any caricatures you find as proof that you are getting more widely known and beloved.

From John Martinez's deviant art page, part of a larger
collection he did of the whole Brooklyn Nine Nine cast.
Realize, too, that putting time and effort into doing a detailed sketch of someone, studying their face, pulling out their features bit by bit and seeing how it all works together and exactly how far you can stretch a big nose while keeping the readability of the likeness--that task in itself requires love. I did a search online for "Caricatures Chelsea Peretti" and found very little. And the one actual pro-level drawing that did turn up (on the 3rd page of results finally) was elegant and well done but very tame as caricature goes. As of this blog writing, it had one comment: "You got all of her details without exaggerating too much." Sigh. Someone sensitive to big noses might say the lack of caricatures is a relief. To me it looks like a sad lack of love. 

As for my end, I promise to do my best and refrain from going onto young comedian's Twitter or Instagram feeds to compare them to Hitler and hope that they die. Because, you know, that might stifle their artistic development.

And Jeff, I too hope you make your living as a caricature artist. You're damn good at it, boo boo.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The 2014 ISCA Con!

Well, another con has come and gone. From November 16th through November 21st, the Peppermill resort in Reno, Nevada, was overrun by a band of nearly 200 hooligan caricature artists from all parts of the globe. The annual gathering for the International Society for Caricature Artists did not disappoint this year. Along with the standard camaraderie, liberal drinking, mutual admiration, inspiring artwork, and stunning display of weird faces (both on the wall and on the artists), this year I also had two unexpected celebrity encounters.
Sorry, your cover is blown, Hawkeye. 

It began, for me, on the very first night of the con, when I spotted Jeremy Renner ("Hawkeye" in the Avenger movies) across the dim casino bar. In Reno. Reno!?? What the hell?--Reno is not exactly a celebrity magnet of a town. In fact, as I sauntered up to Mr. Renner, I fully believed he was just a guy who LOOKED like Jeremy Renner. I planned to ask if I could take a photo as a joke for a friend of mine who is a superfan of Mr. Renner. Well, once I got up close I just stammered, "Uh, I was going to say you look like--but you are." And he said "I am." And he kindly obliged me with a photo (it was dark, sorry) and an autograph for that friend of mine. I bought him the drink he'd just ordered, and he was a patient, classy guy. That friend was overjoyed when I later gave the autograph to her and said the same thing I had: "What on earth was he doing in RENO?" A few other artists got to meet Mr. Renner and chat with him that night . . . I wish I had told him to seek out Joe Bluhm, our resident Oscar winner (Renner has been nominated twice but never won, he could have asked Joe what it was like, hee hee).

My roommates were delightful, as usual--and the Peppermill rooms in the Tuscany Tower were beyond luxurious: the bathroom was as big as most entire hotel rooms, with its own TV, a double-headed shower, and a bathtub large enough to rehabilitate an injured dolphin. We had a newbie among us this year, my friend and local colleague Celeste Cordova, and it was really fun seeing the convention through the eyes of someone who'd never been.

The biggest problem I have with the conventions is that I want to do everything. This year I was slated to deliver a seminar on client interactions, and I had done a ton of prep work in my nervousness--but there is always more that can be done, right? My slot had been moved to Friday, so I (foolishly) left a few odds and ends to smooth out during "down time" those first few days of the convention.
Lar and his new accessory, the ART FIGHTS
belt! Along with newly minted prez Nolan Harris.
(photo by Diane LaFlamme)

Down time. Haaaa haa ha. That's hilarious, I crack me up.

There is no down-time at a convention. For anyone. Finding time to shower and sleep is hard! The opening night icebreaker led right into the Art Fight, which was won this year by the astounding Lar DeSouza, in his full Sailor Bacon regelia, no less! Opening breakfast the next day is early, then followed by seminars--and even though I've seen Caricature 101 about a dozen times, each time is different. Mac Garcia did a great job this year talking about what makes a successful caricature and illustrating exaggeration techniques. He also pimped the hell out of Tom Richmond's The Mad Art of Caricature, which was nice to see (I am not biased one bit when I say it's the best how-to book on the market, for beginners and pros alike).

Seminars lead into competitions, and even though I've also competed in that darn likeness competition like a dozen times, I still feel like it helps me to see everyone's seven-minute take on the same photographs. Judging it is still a pain in the ass: looking at over a hundred drawings of the same person in innumerable different drawing styles is mind boggling. But I love seeing what people all did differently . . . figuring out which one did it the best is another story entirely!
While we looked at the unending array of likeness competition drawings covering the walls, Lorin Bernsen, myself, and Robert noticed we were twinsies (tripletsies?) with our khaki pants and olive Kruger convention shirts.
(photo by Emily Anthony)

The speed competition never gets old, as the adrenaline really takes over when you're sitting in a row of powerhouse speed drawers and going full-guns trying to pump out fifteen-second drawings that still bear a resemblance. I didn't make the final heat, but it's exhilarating to push beyond any personal best you could hope for at even the most fast-paced gig.

The party caricature competition was extra spicy this year, thanks to roving hecklers and "problem guests" coached by Baltimore artist and agent extraordinaire Mike Hasson. I was picked to be a whiny bothersome guest, and I think I did a good job irritating and trying to distract competitors . . . but I was nowhere near the level of feigned douchery put on by Nolan Harris and his roving band of drunken bro-dudes. They would circle and then pounce, grabbing at drawing supplies, unplugging all of Jon Casey's cords, kicking easels "accidentally," crowding the artist outrageously to take a group selfie, and even taking the pants off a few unlucky (or lucky?) male artists. They were a sight to see, and it was clearly a form of catharsis for them (and me, and other artists) to take on the role of truly obnoxious drunk guest, a problem we all have to navigate from time to time in our profession. There were multiple types of caricature going on that night: the kind drawn on paper and the play-acted caricature of assholes, imitated and exaggerated perfectly to match the behaviors we gig artists see over and over.
What do you do when a drunken, roving band of bros abuses you and then
takes down your pants? If you're Manny, you keep on drawing like a pro
and enjoy the breeze. 

Bat is a southern gentleman and totally let me win.
Then, between and after the seminars and competitions, there is always drawing time in the main ballroom. We are all sucked in, like moths to a flame, to that ballroom, and people stay there far longer than even the most dedicated office workers stay chained to their desks. I know I went in there several times intending to spend just a half hour, or an hour . . . and then four hours later I was still working on some details of a sculpture, eyes glazed over, or wandering the room looking at everyone else's awesome works in progress, or taking my turn arm-wrestling some artist from Tennessee while a crowd whoops and yells.

The whooping and yelling gives way to hugging, dancing, and general merry making. There are a lot of inappropriate displays of affection at ISCA cons. I am not normally a hugger--my friends all know this--but at the con I think I get more hug action than I get during the entire rest of the year combined.

There was a lot of guy-on-guy inappropriate touching at the con. It was pretty great. 

There is Beau Hufford's really nicely edited, 6-minute wordless, artsy and punk-feeling retrospective video, which features more artists engaged in inappropriate touching, and dancing, and balloon phalluses.

And there was this super sexy lineup of ISCA butts (my favorite would have to be Mike Graessle's).

Canadian alcohol, Belgian chocolate
 from the lovely (if sleep-deprived)
 Liesbeth Beckers, and Johanna with
 her licorice of doom.
Another one of the perks of this touchy-feely international "family reunion" of artists is that many people bring snacks from their homelands. I baked pumpkin scones and laid them out one night, where folks snapped them up. Lar brought his maple goodness in the form of both cookies and vodka infused with that flavor. The Belgians brought chocolate, bless their souls. And Johanna Veerenhuis filled up a giant fishbowl of what she claimed was strong salted Dutch licorice but I suspect was really burned bits of Sculpey she was trying to poison me with. That would be just like her.

Anyway, between sculpting at my little work station next to the delightful Kamal Dollah of Singapore, I spent time wandering and chatting here and there, and found myself sampling Lar's maple vodka and his pumpkin whiskey, plus a little Kahlua just to see what that flavor would bring to the party . . . and it wasn't long before I was waving off the red solo cups and saying I could not possibly drink more than a sip, as I had to get upstairs and draw a picture of myself poisoning a well for my seminar slide show. Lar, that dear heart and super prolific web comic artist, said "Oh, that sounds like a fun drawing!" and began sketching it out effortlessly on his Cinitq. Within minutes he had the layout of a beautiful visual aid for my seminar. I didn't mean to Tom Sawyer him into doing my work for me, but somehow I ended up getting a wonderful addition to my slide lineup AND I got to get tipsy and hang out that night. Thank you, Lar.

There were some key folks missing, who we will hopefully see next year. One ISCA couple, Court and Debbo Jones-Burmeister, were away on their honeymoon, and another ISCA couple, Glenn and Joanne Ferguson, were busy planning their wedding, which just took place! We missed you guys and hope to see you next year. See what all this drinking and inappropriate touching leads to? Sheesh. Speaking of which, we missed you too, Michael White!

The seminar lineup was varied and inspirational, and, in a strange twist, seemed to have an underlying theme of "There Can Be Life beyond Caricature!" We heard the fuzzy, cuddly Jert (Jeremy Townsend) talk candidly about how the unrelenting business of live retail caricature was killing him, psychologically, back when he did it full-time. He shared some anecdotes about his young life as a working class kid who loved to draw and was fascinated with faces, and he recounted advice from guidance counselors that just sounded soul-crushing. They told him if he liked to draw he should focus on architectural drafting so he could draw plans for houses. I paraphrase, but he said something like "Draft plans for houses? Fuck that, am I right?" It resounded with the room, as I'm pretty sure we had all been through similar meetings with guidance counselors as youngsters, and we all had thought fuck that. As he showed us a video chock-full of Jert's brand of delightfully disturbing violent cartoon images, he explained how he nevertheless used what those long years of caricature had taught him, incorporating those skills into his current career as a sought-after artist for concert posters, beer labels, and alternative art collectors.

Steve Fishwick rallied the room to get excited about their potential and reach for success, as he took us on a tour of his rise--from caricaturing at a typical theme park stand to learning about licensing, making vital contacts and networking, launching his own gallery, and producing fine art for Disney and many other major properties. He talked about how valuable his partnership with Beau Hufford has been, as artists need trusted people who can critique their work honestly (and harshly!) and help bring it to the next level. And, kudos to Steve, he actually gave his talk TWICE, since a video snafu resulted in some last-minute rearranging of the seminar schedule and people hoping to see his seminar had unexpectedly missed out.

Joe doing a quick color demo of what he thinks Popeye and Sting's love
child would look like... wait, I mean Jamie Rockwell.  (Photo: Tad Barney)
Joe Bluhm gave two presentations: one was a digital speed-painting demo, and the other was a career retrospective. I was pleased to see that Joe really spent some time talking about his early days in Sea World and what being a caricature artist in the retail trenches instilled in him--and he provided plenty of photos to go along with that early part of his career. That career has (so far) culminated in multiple awards for his animation and designs at Moonbot Studios, the animation house that put out 2011's Oscar-winning short, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," as well as the familiar animated Chipotle ad with that slender, depressed scarecrow and haunting vocals by Fiona Apple. We were treated to a sneak peek at some projects Joe has worked on or is currently working in, including some Woody the Woodpecker reboot test footage and a beautiful, dark, gothic animated short film of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." Joe's birthday happened to coincide with the day he was giving the presentation, so board members and a few others kindly ambushed him with a birthday cake, a song, and about eight gallons of silly string at the end of his talk. It was pretty adorable.
The dry witted Jeff Redford, with Sebastian Kruger and
Joe Bluhm (Photo from Jeff Redford).

Sebastian Kruger was our guest of honor, let's not leave him out. His business manager, Bernd Schoenebaum, did a lot of the talking during the video presentation that featured Kruger's work. This great master of caricature seems to have taken a turn recently in his painting: "he has aesthetically moved away from a stylistic 'star caricaturist' to New Pop Realism, pushing his rendered subjects into a psychological arena" according to his website. Some artists asked him about why he was departing from caricature, and his answers were spare and minimal, but amounted to "well, I did caricature, this is the next thing," if I may paraphrase. He nevertheless was kind and mingled much more with the artists than I remember happening the last time he attended the convention, some twelve or thirteen years ago. He also drew live for a special gold-members-only reception, producing a caricature of Keith Richards and a highly rendered skull (both of which he kindly donated to the ISCA fundraising auction).

Kruger gets a tits-eye-view of Johanna's
 version of me. Watch out for that bowl
of licorice, Sebastian! It's poisoned!!
During Sebastian's walkabout in the ballroom, I got to chat a little with him myself. And I got to ask him about his one experience, as a teenager, doing party gig caricatures. Ha! He really hated it, he said. And it was because of "the people" he told me, the overbearing guests at the party who strong-armed him into staying way past his paid time. I used that in my seminar, it was a fun little interaction. It's hard to imagine ANYONE strong-arming Sebastian Kruger into anything these days!

Verrrrry funny, Johanna. Verrrry funny. 
Meanwhile, my Netherlandic nemesis, Johanna, was working on a semi-secret sculpting project. I was so busy putting the finishing touches on my seminar that I barely noticed enough to get curious, but BOY did I get an eyeful when it was revealed. She had chosen to re-create Botticelli's Venus, but with her sculpting nemesis (me) as the model. Once she had most of the sculpting done, our pal Emily took me over and I think they laid bets as to whether I'd be flattered or furious. Of course I was flattered. Johanna's phone camera was filled with sneaky pictures of me (and quite a few of my rear end!) that she had taken over the first day of the con.

The finished piece was truly breathtaking. And, true to ISCA tradition, I got to take it home with me and keep it forever, where it shall sit on a shelf and make my stepchildren uncomfortable for many days to come.
It's been a while since my boobs stood at attention like that, but I'll take it. 
I, meanwhile, was busying myself on a little project so that I could at least say I produced one piece during the con. Longtime itinerant artist and friend Sam Klemke and his fair lady Kathlynne Moonfire were both attending this year, and I jumped at the chance to do a matching set of the two of them, on a little stand made of teensy tiny caricatures.
Sam was most pleased to see I gave him a Super-8 camera that reminded him of the one he owned for years.
And I had mentioned not one but two celebrity encounters. This second celebrity wasn't just your typical Hollywood actor type. During one of the many hours I sat sculpting in the ballroom, an unassuming fellow with a shaved head and glasses walked over and noticed my James Randi sculpture (which I had just moved from the studio judging table). "Hey, that's James Randi!" he said. "Yeah!" I said, pleased that someone recognized him--Randi's not a household name, but in certain circles he is a demigod of reason. "I know him," said the fellow.

Ben Radford, author, paranormal investigator, and skeptic; he
contributes to, edits the Skeptical Inquirer, founded
the skeptic track at DragonCon, and once killed a
rabid chupacabra with his bare hands.
I looked at the name badge of this (I assumed) unfamiliar artist. Benjamin Radford. "You're Benjmain Radford?" I said. "THE Benjamin Radford?" And just like Jeremy Renner earlier in the week, he said "I am." But he was a bit more taken aback that someone knew who he was. He is only famous in certain circles, and one would not expect the skeptic circle to intersect much with the caricature art circle in the Venn diagram of life. But that day I happened to be wearing my Skeptic's Guide to the Universe t-shirt, plus I'm a regular listener to a few skeptic podcasts that Mr. Radford has been a part of, and I have read some of his writings and even heard him speak at the Amazing Meeting once or twice. I definitely knew who he was, though I didn't know him by his face, just his voice and his writing.

All of this escaped me at the moment, as I stammered "You do the thing, on the show, podcast, Monstertalk, I've heard you--you write stuff, I know your name! You're Ben Radford!" He helped fill in the holes as I butchered his CV, and I dragged him around the room to introduce him to a few other skeptic types I knew in the caricature community. Ben and I went down the list and found we knew a few people in common; like the caricature world, the skeptic world is also one that doesn't have too many degrees of separation.

Ben is also featured on one of the
Skeptic Trump Cards, a series drawn by
 the talented and prolific Neil Davies.
But--what the bloody hell was a skeptic doing at a caricature con? His badge read "guest," and I asked whose guest he was, thinking he must be married to, or related to, or good friends with one of the participating artists. Nope. He said he was just a fan of caricatures as an art form. He had come across the ISCA website while doing a search online and saw that there was a convention ("it seemed oddly understated for a con," he said later). On a lark, he had registered and bought himself a plane ticket to come see what happens at a caricature con. I was kind of stunned. NO ONE does that. At least no one had done that in prior years. We have had some persons of note walk through our ballrooms in the past, as a "special guest" of sorts: Teller (of Penn &) had showed up and looked at all the art years ago when the con was in Vegas, and, in San Diego, sitcom actor Patrick Warburton ("The Tick") had been brought in by one of the artists who was a personal friend of his. But, to my knowledge, no civilian had ever chosen to seek us out and embed with us through an entire con.

Ben is an investigator by trade, so it's no wonder he discovered our little five-day slice of artistic bedlam. Might others come next year? Is that even a good idea, or would it taint what we have all come to love as a closed-door, be-yourself, draw-crazy, screw-the-public type of event where the hoi polloi aren't really allowed in? Should we welcome the the public a bit more? Or should we kidnap and torture Ben to make sure he never reveals the whereabouts of our convention to any other muggles? Hmmm.

The ISCA convention (back when it was the NCN convention) used to have a big "public day" that was promoted through press releases and seen as an outreach event, to raise public appreciation of the art form, where one day--or several hours, at least--was set aside as a "free entrance" time for members of the general population to wander in and look at the art. I forget what led to the organization abandoning the practice. It may have been lack of turnout, or even theft (I do recall some art supplies and/or computer equipment going missing, way back when, but cannot recall details). Or it may have just been forgotten as time marches on. Watching Ben, who is an enthusiast but not a professional artist, walk around and admire the walls, made me wonder if inviting the public back into our cons might be a fun thing to do. Or if we should just keep ourselves to ourselves, and only reward the intrepid few who discover us and seek us out. It's an interesting question, something for the current board members to consider (in addition to the eleven billion other little details they have to consider!) . . . for the NEXT CONVENTION, which is planned to happen at the Kalahari water park resort in Sandusky, Ohio, and will have as special guests Jason Seiler and CF Payne!
Robert and I, looking all fancy.

The new location was announced at the awards night, along with the many awards. I also gave my seminar, finally, that morning to a surprisingly large crowd (I honestly expected most everyone to be in their rooms hung-over and catching up on sleep after the week's full-court-press of funny picture making). But it went okay, no one booed, and I made it through without hyperventilating or passing gas. Well, without audibly passing gas. Going through what I talked about would require way more space than this blog has, but folks who want a copy of my notes are welcome to message me and ask.

But, awards night! We all got to dress up and have a nice slab of prime rib with all the fixins, run around and take photos, and admire all the outfits. There was a gaggle of beautiful ladies in kimonos, Mae Adao in her clever Queen Victoria-inspired black lace frock, and Anne Bush mostly contained in a stunning bowed corset. The guys ranged from GQ to "Gee, blue jeans?" but they all cleaned up pretty well. All the outfits helped us bide our time as we awaited the announcement of the nosey winners. Prior to that there was the fundraiser auction (that Kruger original went for major cash, congrats to the dedicated Nolan Harris on his purchase!) all the OTHER awards, which I'm not going to list here, but the whole rundown will show up in the next Exaggerated Features. 

Speaking of Exaggerated Features, editress-in-chief Debbie Burmeister and newly minted Mr. Burmeister (Court Jones) made an appearance via video and announced the winner of the Facebook challenge drawing.

Mongolians in the hiz-ouse!
As I expected, I sadly did not place this year in the 3D category, nor did I deserve to! While it was fun making the piece for Sam and Kathlynne, there were some really awesome sculptures this year that blew mine away. And Johanna, who had used me as her curvaceous muse, did indeed take home the trophy for first place. But at least I didn't fall for that poisoned licorice of hers.

One of the standouts that I began to take notice of was the short, unassuming Mongolian artist Gambaatar Choimbol, who was here at his first convention and had brought his wife and young daughter. His work had a quick savagery to the linework, fun to look at and very passionate. There was a likeness, but also a viciousness to it. His watercolor and ink had an energy that was refreshing and new (and there's not much that seems new after so many cons!). It reminded me of Gerald Scarfe or David Levine, but with a primitive flair. And I wasn't the only one who liked his work--Mr. Choimbol took to the stage at least half a dozen times to collect awards, all the time bringing his young daughter along for the ride. 
At awards night, old rivalries are forgotten. I even forgave
Johanna for the whole licorice thing.

The drive back was also an adventure! I filled my SUV full of crazy caricature artists then we headed up to Virginia City, toured an abandoned mine, drove through rural Nevada, stayed the night at Tonopah's famously creepy Clown Motel, then hit Rhyolite and saw "The Venus of Nevada" (a 25-foot-tall pink cinderblock sculpture--it looks kind of like Minecraft porn), then drove through parts of Death Valley and took a bunch of neat photos that would make good album covers if we ever form a band . . . phew! It was a pretty packed, awesome roadtrip. But that's a story for another time.
Three Las Vegans and a Philadelphian stand on rocks.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ebola Shmebola, Texas is Texas

Well, looks like my initial fears about fair attendance dropping never came to pass. Here we are a week and a half later and we once again have record-breaking crowds. Even the weeknights have all pushed our stamina. 

I'm typing this out on the morning of the Red River Rivalry, the Texas-OU game that marks the busiest day of the state fair. Not necessarily OUR busiest day, as football fans are not caricature buyers, esoecially before the game--they just want beer, fried food, and noisemakers. We had to open at an ungodly 8am today after a pounding thunderstorm kept us all up half the night. Only to sit, shivering, as we are serenaded by chants of "Texas . . . Sucks!" and "O.U. CAN LICK MY BALLS!" Plus random screaming and WOOOOOOO!!!!

Here they are, streaming into the Cotton Bowl like a herd of red- and orange-shirted zombies. 

But it'll get busy soon enough. I did just draw two drunk 50-year-old women at 8:45 am. Their husbands came by and showed off the T-shirt they'd bought that stated "I came to Dallas for the Texas-OU game and all I got was EBOLA."

Yeah, Texas is the honey badger of states. Not much rattles them here. In fact, this guy I drew last week is a career serviceman, and he said he was leaving soon to go help build three hospitals in Liberia. 

Talk about bravery and doing good work. Made me wish I had drawn his eyes less crooked. 

I'm writing later now, finishing this post while on the plane home. Just remembering how god-awful crowded it got that day of the OU-Texas game gives me anxiety. Here's a glimpse of the crowd pressed up on our booth--they were shoulder-to-shoulder pretty much everywhere, moving slowly except for random impatient darters (who often tried cutting RIGHT THROUGH our booth!). Ugh. 

Yeah, that's Emily Anthony trying to make her way back from a bathroom break. It was very insane right after the game let out. 

And Oklahoma won, which allowed me to use this nifty gag when I got a "mixed fan" couple:

The parade of "regulars" has increased, seems like. I have a few special folks I remember well from year to year, including one young lady who has been drawn by me seven years running--and what an awesome metamorphosis. From a doughy, shy, anime-loving tween this girl has blossomed into an athletic, tall, well-spoken young adult who fights in real boxing matches! This year she asked me to draw her fighting the Russian from Rocky IV, and to stick her coach in there. Normally none of us would EVER add so many bells & whistles to a non-studio caricature, but seven years of kindness and good tips can earn special dispensation!

Her family has been drawn a few times as well; a few years back I drew them as Ariel, Ursula, and King Triton. This year her dad wanted to be a demon (to make fun of how scared he gets at horror movies, they said). It's always fun "demonizing" someone in the chair!

Then, weirdly, within a day or two of drawing the boxing Russian from Rocky IV, I found myself drawing ANOTHER opponent of Rocky's, thanks to this guy's t-shirt:

Another longtime regular (also in the "7 timers" club) asked for a Firefly theme, which I was happy to deliver. 

On the whole though, we just seemed to draw a ton of people who had made it a State Fair tradition, or who had relatives and/or friends that were caricatured and so they were inspired to get in on the action too. 

I got to draw cute lesbians, Dads with their football-loving sons, and big Latino families (who tried sticking the baby in for free). Dallas has variety! 

I also drew folks with sombreros, folks with mohawks or flowery headbands, and a fellow complaining about all the wine his wife and her BFF had just bought. 

And the BABIES... Holy hell, the babies were everywhere. I tried paying closer attention, but gosh it's tricky--they all have such similarities it feels like you're drawing them all the same! Still, there were all colors and varieties, including two adorable infants that projectile vomited in our booth as they sat. 

All in all, from the numbers Emily crunched, we each drew nearly a thousand faces over the course of the fair. And it was really unusually lucky for me: out of that thousand-or-so drawings, I didn't get a single reject or mess up a paint job and have to restart due to damage! That's not typical, believe me. 

At 24 days, the State Fair of Texas is the longest one there is. It breaks people. There are days you push yourself beyond what volume you thought you could handle. I had a moment this year, after 12+ hours pretty much nonstop, where I lost my bearings and, for a fleeting second, I had no idea what I was looking at on the paper. Was that line I just drew the upper lip? Or an eyebrow? Where was I? What am I doing???! Then my face-blindness cleared and I plodded on. But mental fatigue is real, and it's your constant enemy at a fair. Plus there's physical fatigue, just as annoying.

Rob, my other half, came out this year to replace one of the artists who (after 15 years of mental and physical fatigue) needed to skip Texas. He did great! People really dug his extra-spicy stretches, and he posted some awesome shots of his chairwork. 

His stamina was quite impressive considering he's not a regular on the fair circuit--but by the last week he was hurting. I mean literally, his tendons were giving out. On all our advice, he tried switching to markers. They require less pressure and so put less strain on your muscles. He kinda HATED those chunky-nibbed crayolas I have come to love, though. I started doing caricatures with marker some twenty years ago, whereas Rob has always been a graphite guy. Ink requires you to glide the marker around the paper like an elegant little ice skater, so you get a nice line quality and variation. To get decent line quality with graphite, you chug and push and scratch like you're ploughing a field. Rob's more a plougher than a skater, I guess. He didn't post any drawings from the one day he tried markers, ha ha!

One other nice thing about having my hubby with me in Texas was that (for the first time since 2008), I got to spend my anniversary with my spouse! And it was a biggie! 

We were able to ride the rotating observation tower, take a cutesy anniversary photo, and have a romantic corny dog dinner (not all on the same day, but we worked it all in eventually). Ah, it's good to know I married a person who can handle carny life. 

Speaking of love and marriage, we had not one but TWO marriage proposals at the booth! And they both ended up going to Vlad. The first one went beautifully, with the girl gasping in surprise as her beau dropped to one knee, and all her family and friends watched, taking photos, and she gushed YES! and hugged him and he put the ring on her finger. 
Even Vlad said "Awwwwwwwwww." 

The second proposal didn't go so great. It was a much more crowded night, and instead of the intended's family and friends, it was a lot of strangers packed in and watching. Older couple this time, maybe forties. Vlad said he could tell just by looking that this lady was not going to appreciate the public display she was about to be a part of. By the time you're fortyish, personality traits almost get burned into the face (for better or worse). As George Bernard Shaw said, by fifty every man gets the face he deserves. 

Sure enough, he turned the picture around, she smiled for a milisecond, then gasped (but not in a good way), blanched, and ran off. The crowd wanted to know what her answer was, but she hadn't said anything at all. Just a look of terror mixed with anger that she shot at her boyfriend, who didn't even have time to get the ring out. Poor guy. He went after her, then came back, paid for the picture and assured everyone she was just shy and embarrassed. It raised the awkward level around our booth a few notches for a while--but now I finally can say I witnessed a caricature proposal that DIDN'T go so well. At least the blame wasn't on Vlad's drawing, it was spectacular and soft and adorable (I was going to snap a photo after the reveal but never got a chance). 

My coworker Emily Anthony (who normally works in the Philly area) got an unexpected surprise as well--her fiancĂ© John showed up in disguise, revisiting an epic prank he pulled several years back. This time he showed up at the fair with facepaint, 44-DD pumpkin boobs under a flowy dress, and a headscarf that hid his other features. 

We all gave "her" the brush off, saying we were all done for the night (we were), but "she" kept being creepy and annoying until it dawned on Emily who exactly was behind the facepaint and disguise. 

There were a few REAL douchebags that didn't turn out to be our friends in disguise. There always are at a big fair. There was the guy who got huffy with me because he asked how much for three and I told him the price was per person; he angrily pointed out that the sign didn't say anything about how much THREE people would be. Then there was the lady who found out there was a line and she couldn't just waltz in from the side and get her kid drawn instantly. When I motioned to the dozen or so people lined up, she snarled "So basically ALL THOSE people get to CUT IN FRONNA ME?!" and walked off with a head wag of attitude. Yeah lady, all those people are cutting in front of YOU, that's what's happening. Sure. And then there was the drunken group of football fans who sat their Pakistani friend down for a picture and kept wanting me to draw a turban "or something terrorist" on the drawing. I asked "Do you want a turban? This is your caricature." He said no, absolutely not. Then one nitwit girl in his group demanded I draw a plane crashing into the twin towers behind him, because that would be hilarious and she promised she'd tip me. I had a tip for the Pakistani guy: get better friends, dude. 

And there were a few moments where we got to run off and actually SEE things. I fed a cow. Emily and I got our annual Big Tex photo, and the creative arts building had numerous cooking and baking contests that we smelled whenever we headed in for a bathroom break. 

As part of the oddities we see each year, there is also a pun-based "glue a shoe" contest that is on display inside. This year's winners included Vladimir Bootin, Mount Rushoemore, a Ferris Heel, a shoeing machinr, and Aladdin singing "I can shoe you the world."

But amid all the glued shoes, the babies, the crushing crowds, the general douchebaggery, and the awesome regulars and fans of funny faces, I also got to say hello and spend a little time with the Dallas ISCA folk. Chris Galvin, Miguel Aguilar, Art Nations, and the fantabulous Lorin Bernsen all came by to say hello--we even got a glimpse of Martha Watson one day! Lorin was kind enough to work a couple shifts at our spot, and it's ALWAYS nice to look over the shoulder of a different artist, especially one as skilled as Lorin. 

Hope to see you all next year, too! But this time with no Ebola, please. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Deep in the Heart of Texas!

Well, that time has rolled around again! I'm with our little crew of miscreants (which includes my husband Rob this year, yeeehaw!) at the State Fair of Texas. The largest state fair in the world! Because that's how they roll in Texas. 

Oh shit. Oh shitty mcFucking shit. BREAKING NEWS has just wiped away all other little silly tidbits I was going to share with you, gentle readers. 

Of all the things I worried about that could put a damper on a State Fair, this wasn't even close to being on my radar. 

Fucking ebola. 

The first diagnosed case in the US and it's here. We got back to the camper tonight and watched the news, finding out (with increasing uneasiness) that ebola had been confirmed IN TEXAS. Then as the story unfolded, the newscaster mentioned it was North Texas... Then... DALLAS. Oh crap. 

Now, understand that my unease here actually has nothing to do with my fear of catching this virus. I have read enough to know that as long as I don't go exchanging bodily fluids with infected folks, I'll moooost likely be fine. Rather, my worry (and the worry of my campermates) is for our bottom line. 

At the risk of stereotyping an entire state, um... Texas has not been known for the level-headedness or scientific acumen of its general populace. (Curse you, shitty school boards and alternative science textbooks!) Pretty much all of America is wrapped up in ebola hysterics right now--and now Dallas is the flashpoint. We sat in our little camper, eating candy by the handful and watching as the news went on and on and on and on about the disease. It was literally the entire half-hour of news tonight. (Er, yesterday night--as I write this, we are nearing midnight and it will be Wednesday.)

Rain on a Saturday is a bummer. Rain over an entire weekend really sucks. But this? This is unprecedanted. Who knows what it will do to fair attendance? My coworker Vlad said his numbers were down by 30% the year thay swine flu was dominating the news. 

I'll bet the Fair management is really wringing hands right now. Maybe they will be showing up on local news or blasting commercials to assure people it's safe to come out to the fairgrounds. 

Me? I think I'll go to sleep and wake up tomorrow then see what happens. Sigh. At least we had a really stellar opening weekend. And if the rest of the fair is less than fair--well, that gives me more time to write haikus. 

Caricature haiku #5

Supressing your smile
makes you look like a muppet
with a fist inside.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Caricaturing for Uncle Sam

That time between starting a drawing job and "the big reveal" can seem excruciatingly long--and with most live drawings it's only a matter of minutes. In this case, it's six years. 

It all started in early 2008, when I got an email from a potential client who wanted to know if I could work from photos. Well, yeah, of course. He further explained that he would like to commission a few dozen black and white caricatures, suitable for reproduction, for a project. Well, that set off my reproduction rights radar and I asked about what sort of project, how many copies, etc. etc. 

Some clients get vague when I ask details like this--they are either trying to get a bargain basement price, or they really don't have much of an idea themselves. This fellow, to my surprise, bypassed vague and simply answered in the negative. No, he could not tell me anything about the project. And I would not be at liberty to publicize it. He said he worked with the government and then he asked if I would be all right working from very bad photos, some of them of corpses. 

Well, this was turning into an interesting little email exchange. I learned that the people I would be drawing were warlords in Afghanistan. Maybe "warlords" isn't the right word. "Power players" might be more apt, definitely more politically correct. My initial (overblown) fears that this job might get a Fatwa put out on me were assuaged as he explained that the drawings would not be anything that would ever endanger my life in any way. This was, remember, around the time that Danish cartoonist was in fear for his life after drawing a controversial image of Mohammed. 

We struck a deal, and he began sending me photos of the subjects--often along with color commentary about their personalities, the regional clothing or hats they were wearing, and whether I should emphasize the mean look in their eye or instead focus on the playful expression they had in another photo. And yes, a couple of them were really awful, fuzzy photos and a few were post-mortem. I did my best. My contact was very supportive, telling me when I was going in the right direction and, overall, he was happy with the results. 

Then, much more recently, he emailed to tell me that the work he had done in Afghanistan was amping down as the situation there got less tense, and so he was able to talk openly about what the caricatures were used for. And, likewise, I am now allowed to post a few on this blog. He also kindly answered a few questions, which I am publishing below . . . 

1. Can you describe what the caricatures were used for?

Certainly! The caricatures that I engaged you to do were personalities that were already controversial public figures. Their affiliations were well socialized in the media. The caricatures you provided were chosen and designed to aid in illuminating the Afghanistan problem for folks tasked with bringing stability to the region.  Specifically, the caricatures continue to serve a three-fold purpose. Firstly,  they have been used to develop a baseline knowledge of the major power-brokers in the Afghanistan region. Secondly, they have been incorporated into a board game as a training tool (not commercially marketed at this time) that incorporated aspects of intent and agendas of these figures. Lastly, they will serve as a legacy to those who dedicated much time and energy into Afghanistan and especially those whose sacrifice was great.

When 911 enveloped our nation and the world in a dark and angry fervor, our best military minds and the brightest in the Intelligence Community were stymied by the concept of the War on Terror that was about to be waged. Thrust into a scenario that modern warfare had left behind by half a century in the remote country of Afghanistan, all the sophistication that the western civilized world could bring to bear proved to be an utter mismatch for the challenges that lay ahead.

It quickly became apparent that planning to "win" in Afghanistan was a far more complex proposition than one could imagine. There was no overarching doctrine to embrace or exploit. The local rules of engagement were varied, archaic, and involved concepts beyond what most westerners could grasp.

It became evident that--as with meeting with success in any conflict--that an eventual hearts and minds campaign would be essential. To do so, the world had to understand Afghan motivation and thinking. Only then could a lasting peace be created after two decades of constant war. To do so meant becoming knowledgeable on tribal dynamics, local interpretations of Islam and fundamentals of Afghan politics, custom, and culture.

Kept for many years among limited numbers who have been working behind the scenes to make Afghanistan a better place, these caricatures which greatly aided as avenues to insight into the Gordian Knot that is Afghanistan can now be shared as part of this blog portfolio.

2. Why did you consider caricatures for this project?

Each of these power brokers in Southwest Asia--ally, enemy and in-between--had huge personalities. They were political as well as militant. Some went on to take positions in the current Afghan government. Some are still waging war or jockeying for power. Some have since been killed in combat or assassinated. Their personal histories were each audacious, outrageous, arguably larger than life. In the truest sense of political satire cartoons universal to publications around the world, each were prime to be immortalized in caricature!

As the Taliban leadership had chosen to side with Usama Bin Laden, the anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance instantly became allies to the west. They were intimately familiar with Afghanistan's rugged terrain. They knew when horses were preferable to tanks, and when donkeys were preferable to horses. 

But, each of these Northern Alliance leaders (soon to be re-dubbed warlords) had individual agendas. Each were power brokers in their own right. Each were accustomed to employing brutal means to an end. To keep these individuals from reverting to infighting, they had to be understood. 

3. Was there any worry (from you or others) that caricatured likenesses might be seen as offensive by the culture or individuals at hand?

There is always concern when cross-cultural references are made--especially in cartoons. Knowing how sharable and popular caricatures tend to be, I did seek consultation. No one thought that any mayhem would ensue. I have been prepared to address any issues. Likewise, if your role as a caricature artist comes under fire, you can honestly say that I never told you the identities of the persons you were sketching at the time. Or since, you now know (years later) who they are/were, you are empowered to field any inquiries yourself.  

Culturally speaking, only one caricature was remotely religious in nature.  The purely fictitious Mullah Nasruddin serves as the foundation of much of Southwest Asian humor.  No believable chance of crossing any redlines there.  As far as the Northern Alliance personalities, outside of complaints based on vanity, risk is/was low.  As for the adversarial opposition figures, of the many "western" acts that they would deem offensive, we assessed caricatures to be quite far down on the list.

4. How did the target audience respond to the game, and the images? Did caricatures work better than photographs for your purposes?

Reactions have been unanimously positive. Many, if not most, have been gamers to some degree or another, so it was not a difficult sell. After all, the term "The Great Game" was coined in the 1800's by Authur Conolly, an intelligence officer in the British East India Company's Sixth Bengal Light Calvary and popularized in Rudyard Kipling's novel, Kim (1901) to describe the conflict between the British and Russian empires for supremacy of Central and South Asia. It was only natural to capture many of the same dynamics in the same region in an actual game depicted in recent times. Caricatures tend to add much more dimension to persons of interest than photos.  Captured in a genre akin to political cartoons, caricatures tend to emphasize the interactive social aspects of these characters. My aim was to impart a better understanding of the nature of the power networks in Afghanistan, how influence works, and to provoke thought about how actions taken in Afghanistan would have secondary and tertiary effects on these networks and influence. With this in mind, caricatures were preferable.

I thank him for kindly taking the time to shed so much light on what the drawings were used for, and painting a picture of the challenges he and his colleagues faced in understanding and communicating such a complicated array of forces and intents. 
Some of the inked originals, including "Mullah Nasruddin," a character who
(along with his donkey) is the source of many jokes in the region. I also learned
about different hats worn in Afghanistan, not just turbans but pakols and kufis.

Sometimes, at the booth, when I draw soldiers, I thank them for their service and jokingly say "Thank you for serving--because I would be terrible at it. What could I do, draw funny pictures and throw them at the enemy?" It always gets a chuckle. But it does also take my mind to this particular assignment, which is probably the only time I'll get to feel patriotic because of having drawn funny pictures. It's a good feeling. A danger in this business is feeling like none of your work matters, like it's all fluff, and you're not really contributing to humanity in any meaningful way (this is an overwhelming feeling when you've just worked a party full of toddlers or drawn a very drunk party girl who can barely remember how to open her purse to pay you). But this one, I'll hold onto this one for a good while. 

While I'm at it, I should also point out the tremendous work that the National Cartoonists Society does with the overseas troops year after year. I have gotten to read all about the USO trips Tom Richmond, Ed Steckley, and many others have taken in order to spread some good humor to the men and women serving abroad. The pen may not actually be mightier than the sword, but it can be put to good use! Have fun drawing, and remember, you never know how important your next project will be.