Then a couple walked up and asked "Are you Celestia?" I answered in the affirmative, but couldn't quite place them. They looked familiar . . . but a side-effect to this job is that everyone starts looking just a little familiar.
"I'm sorry, but I can't remember how I know you . . . Do I know you?" I stammered.
"Kind of," said the woman. "You were actually instrumental in us getting married."
Well that struck me. It took a moment but then she mentioned the restaurant, and it all came back. I was hired by an agency back in early 2011 to work a very unusual job: they offered me one hour of my party rate to drive to a restaurant, pretend I worked there every night, but draw just one picture. It was the dreaded proposal picture! Eeeeeeeek! I say "dreaded" because every caricature artist is both honored and scared shitless when one of these comes up. I've drawn maybe six or seven in my time working as a caricaturist, and each and every time the same fears run through my head:
She might say no.
She might say no and then hit me with her purse for drawing her nose too big.
She might say yes but be lackluster about it, making the guy feel like hiring an artist was a stupid idea.
She might be completely weirded out by her caricature and forget to even answer.
They might not like the picture and then be mad that I ruined their special day.
|Um, yeah. There are ways to screw up a marriage proposal.|
They are likely 100% unfounded fears, yes, and none of the above has EVER happened. In fact, each and every time has worked out perfectly, with the proposal recipient squealing with joy, saying yes, a tender kiss being exchanged, photos taken, and the couple thanking me. But that doesn't prevent the fears from setting in when I find out I need to do one of these. It's a high-stakes game instead of a lark--and we caricature artists are used to being a lark, some piffle of a thing to do at a carnival for fifteen bucks. We are unaccustomed to pressure.
Most of the proposal drawings I've done were semi-live. Meaning that the fella would come by the stand and tell me on the sly that he was bringing his intended by in a few minutes, or after lunch or something, and he has been wanting to propose and he has this great idea and could I please draw him proposing, then when I turn the picture around he'd whip out his ring. Exciting!
Lately, I've taken a few precautions due to one or two close calls with idiots walking behind me as I drew and almost spilling the beans or asking douchebag questions like "Oy! Hey! Did she say yes?" before the big reveal. I make like I'm testing out my pencil on the scratch sheet but actually write a big all-caps warning "DO NOT GIVE AWAY THE SURPRISE!" This might tempt the douchebags, but it also draws in regular people, who gather around and tend to keep the jerks in check. I've seen people shush other people and keep the order as they wait for the picture to be finished. Yay for people!
When it's turned around, there's always the couple seconds of processing--which seems like an eternity if you're already in on the secret. I can almost see the saccadic movements of her eyes as she looks to her nose, her boobs, her everything in the caricature . . . then what's this, a word bubble? What does that say . . . Oh my gosh! She looks at him, sometimes asking "Is this for real?" and he (if he's quick) already has a ring out and is on one knee.
|This guy was afraid he'd drop the ring while on|
a helicopter, so I ended up being his back-up plan!
And then there's kissing and stuff. And over the past few years, there's eager folks texting or emailing their cell phone pictures of the proposal to the happy couple.
One nervous guy in Florida sought me out while his girl was in the ladies room, and told me nervously how he'd taken her on a ride earlier on the open-air helicopter across the fairgrounds and intended to propose then, but he completely chickened out because he was terrified he'd drop the ring and it would be lost forever out the helicopter door.
One other fellow found me on the internet and hired me for an hour, with the stipulation that I mill around the front of the Bellagio and pretend to be a "street caricature artist" (oh, the indignity). Plus I was doubly nervous that authorities might take issue with anyone sketching for money--be it city authorities or Bellagio authorities (Vegas resorts are known for having pretty clear ideas on what can and cannot happen on their private property, after all).
|My short career as a street caricature busker.|
Then there was kissing and stuff.
But back to that Bat Mitzvah a few weeks ago. The gal had changed her hair since I'd last seen her--in 2011 at Battista's Hole in the Wall, a popular Italian eatery just off the Strip. I had to do some talking to the manager, who raised an eyebrow at my story about being hired by someone to come in and pretend to be the "house caricature artist." I had understood that the client had called ahead and arranged it so I would be allowed to do this, but the guy at the front of house was not keen on the idea. I talked him into letting me do my job provided I'd only approach their ONE table and ask if they wanted a caricature (I had thought I'd draw a few and make my way over there, just to look like I really was part of the establishment). Oh well, luckily their booth was situated so it really wasn't obvious that I'd made a bee-line right to them.
|The happy couple back in early 2011 . . .|
Just like at the Bellagio, I "pretended" to draw a quick one of them on my hand-held drawing board, but I really whipped out the nice airbrushed one that I'd hidden right underneath the first few sheets of paper. Again, a stare, a jaw-drop, then she looks at him, he has a ring, and then cue the "Oh my god! Yes!" and the kissing and stuff.
I also had wrangled one of the waiters into taking photos from a hidden spot, so he provided them with a few images of the event as it took place. Sorry, I don't have any of those, but y'all can imagine.
After shaking the soon-to-be groom's hand and telling the newly engaged young lady that she had a thoughtful and inventive fiance, I departed and breathed a sigh of relief that none of the imagined disasters took place and I was leaving a happy couple to plan their wedding. Phew!
|And the happy couple now! (Er, this was in|
December 2013) . . .
Well, now, almost three years later, that couple popped back into my caricature line of fire and was tickled to tell me they had a delightful wedding, were happily married, and wanted an update! I snapped their photo and told them I would love to blog or Facebook about the cool experience of running into them again, and they kindly obliged. Then they waited for the kids to all get drawn, as often the adults take a backseat at Mitzvahs and kid birthday parties. Luckily, I was able to draw them at the end--but dang it, my phone was out of batteries by then, so I couldn't get a picture of them with their new caricatures. Oh well, a picture's worth a thousand words, and I think I've typed out a thousand by now!