Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Now, if you live in Nevada, like I do, you probably have relatives who own bunkers just in case civilization collapses. Even if you live in one of the "softer" states, places that have a less deadly landscape and fewer rural militias, you probably have a pantry of nonperishables and a few gallons of water on hand in case of natural disaster (or if you don't, you should!). As a Christmas gift, my brother once gave me a duffle bag of MRE rations and a crank flashlight and radio. I have been taught how to handle a horse, fire guns (semi-automatics, handguns, and revolvers), shoot bows (compound and recurve), and dress a wound. I'm no Daryl Dixon, but if there's a zombie apocalypse and you happen to be at my house when it all goes down, you're in fairly good hands.
There's only one person who never needs an emergency kit,
and that's this guy.

But what about CARICATURE EMERGENCIES? We've all had them. I've had things go terribly, horribly wrong at gigs and lived to tell the tale. Some disasters cannot be prevented by having the right tools . . . like once I was given bad directions by a waitress and, as I tried to make my quiet exit from the wedding hall, heading through a back door down a very dark hallway, I set off the damn fire alarm (which must happen a lot at that venue, because the manager was over in about 30 seconds to shut the alarm off and had a look on his face like "here we go again!"). And at another event, years ago, which took place right after 9/11, the host gave a short speech and asked for a moment of silence to remember those who had been killed. I was way toward the back of the auditorium and quietly kept working, as is my habit unless told otherwise by my client. When I turned the picture around, my model (who I had not realized was quite tipsy), found her picture HILARIOUS and guffawed loudly while everyone's heads were bowed in respect for the dead. Suddenly all eyes were on us, and not in a good way.

So, drunk people and fire alarms aside, there are plenty of little disasters that can be avoided by having the right items with you. Now I'm not perfect--I don't ALWAYS have everything I'm listing, but I try to keep a majority of these items in my gig bag or in the vehicle when I'm heading out to draw for folks. For the sake of brevity, I'm not including drawing supplies on this list. Having extra paper, bags, and stuff to draw with is a no-brainer. Likewise, doing digital gigs is a whole other can of worms. Having ink cartridges, cables, and backup systems are an obvious must. Let's look at some of the stuff I've learned isn't so obvious but can save your butt sometimes. 


You should also have, it stands to reason, a spotlight to plug into that extension cord. Venues can sometimes be brightly lit until the very last second, and then WHAM, the party planner has the lights go down to dance-club level dark. It's a pain to draw in the dark, and I know from experience that not all clients read that fine print in my contract that recommends they place me by a wall outlet so that I can easily plug in my spotlight. So keep one of these babies in your vehicle just in case. But cords can trip people, so . . .


MacGyver is my patron saint, and this is one of his holy relics. It comes in handy! Taping cords down to avoid tripping hazards is the number one use for it, of course, but I have also used it to stabilize my easel on a swaying boat, affix quickly-made signs, and restrain wiggly toddlers to the seat (okay, I haven't actually done that last one, but I've thought about it plenty). Bear in mind, duct tape can also be used in a pinch for items 6 and 9 on this list too!


You might not have the luxury of an outlet, or you might find yourself drawing during an electrical blackout (it's happened to me!), or you might have any number of things working against you being able to plug in a standard spotlight. At a gig long ago that had really awful lighting, I was hired to be a "strolling artist" (I hate the strolling events, for the record). You can't exactly stroll around with an extension cord trailing behind you, but luckily I noticed the waitstaff all had these little LED plastic ice cubes in their tip jars to help them see well enough to write down orders.
These LED lanterns can be found in most camping
sections and are quite inexpensive.
I spoke with the bartender and got LED cubes for me and the other artists working the event, and, while not super bright, they did the trick. In lieu of little novelty ice cubes, these days I use a little camping lantern with four little LED lights that can be individually removed and placed however you might need them, and that has come in really handy. At a party held at one of the local "Gentlemen's Clubs" in town, I found myself in a nearly pitch-black room with no outlets anywhere nearby. I took one of the LEDs and affixed it with my duct tape (see item #1) to the back of my easel to light up my subject, and affixed another to the top of my easel to illuminate my drawing board. LEDs don't provide the greatest quality of light to draw by, but they can do in a pinch. 


Every once in a while those little tiny screws on your easel get loose
without you even realizing it. Loose screws might make for an annoying wobbly easel . . . or, worse, suddenly at an event your entire easel might collapse mid-drawing. I've seen it happen! So I've got a special pocket in my gig bag that has a couple of the screwdrivers that fit my French easel's hardware and a spare screw or two just in case one goes missing. And often I end up tightening everything up before a gig just to make sure it's all sturdy and ready to go. A leatherman tool or Swiss Army knife (also a holy relic of Saint MacGyver) can be a good go-to fix for these problems too, but if your easel hardware is tiny, get some tiny screwdrivers and have them with you.


If you are a lucky artist who books multiple gigs a day and has to cram drive-thru food down your gullet as you race across town to get to the next event, make sure you have one of these. Or invest in a bib and wear that sucker as you eat in the car! Because one drip of special sauce and suddenly you look like a slob when you show up to the next gig. But stains happen. Luckily we live in a modern age of delightfully effective chemicals and potions--and the instant stain remover stick is a miracle worker. Its a few bucks and it takes up a mere few inches in your emergency kit. 


Along the same lines, a lint roller is a must for any professional who has to wear formal black clothing on a regular basis. If you have a cat, or a dog, or a rabbit, or a guinea pig, or ferrets, or other humans, or any sources of fuzz in your home, then you likely already own one of these. Again, they are a few bucks and can really snazz up your appearance in a moment. 


Now I swear I'm not being paid anything to shill for Triple A. But I've been a card-carrying member for nearly a decade now and they have helped me out of quite a few scrapes. If you find yourself having car trouble on the way to a gig, you have good reason to panic. No magic bullet exists to make all your engine woes go away, but AAA is relatively inexpensive (around $50 a year) and they respond immediately in most situations. I have had flats fixed and batteries replaced so quickly that I was on the road driving again within twenty or thirty minutes of placing the call . . . and while none of those car problems have hit me
on the way to a gig, I'm relieved to know that I have the card in my back pocket if anything ever does happen en route to an event. If AAA can solve my issue in under 30 minutes, there's still a good chance I can get to my gig on time! (And I'm sure the readers paying attention out there are making fun of me right now for not changing my own flat after all that bragging I did about being ready for the zombie apocalypse . . . you got me, you got me. I freely admit I'd feel more competent decapitating an undead walker than I would jacking up my car, guilty as charged!)


Let's just say this has helped me and leave it at that. Ahem. 


You cannot put a band-aid on a bruised ego, so these won't benefit anyone you have drawn. But you can be a total rock star and save the day if a youngster at the event gets an owie and their parent doesn't have a bandage. I try to keep a few varieties on hand so kids can pick from camouflage or the Muppets or Hello Kitty, and let me tell you, they get used up. I owe several generous tips to the fact that I had a band-aid at the ready when some little kid walked by crying their eyes out and holding up their wounded finger like it was going to bleed out. Moms and dads are very grateful if you can help them calm their traumatized kid down, and colorful band-aids do the trick. 


Depending on your materials, sometimes these are a necessity between every few drawings! But even if you use marker and never get any smudges on your dainty little hands, there's no telling when Pigpen is going to bump into you. Kids have gotten ice cream on my elbows and dripped other sticky sugar-based things onto me and my easel plenty of times. Having a wet wipe right in my bag saves me a trip to the restroom for paper towels and a hand-washing.
There are adorable little plastic containers that new parents use for their diaper-bag, if you want something fancy to carry wipes around in, or you can just grab a few of the mini-wipes that restaurants give out (those little packets that look like condoms but are much less fun to use). They are easily tucked into a shirt pocket or gig bag.

That about does it for my emergency items. What do you keep on hand in case of emergency at your gigs? Energy shots? Ibuprofen? Let me know if there's any item you've found indispensable, as I'm always willing to add one more item to my kit! 


  1. I carry band-aids....but mostly for MYSELF! Seems I'm highly prone to paper cuts on the job.

  2. I carry battery torch and wet wipes. I've been thinking of buying some ready-made bug out bags and emergency kits for trekking because I'm awfully annoyed because of the weight issue. I checked out this website http://www.emergencybugoutbags.net/ which had some really cool kits and I think I should check out some more options online. Well thanks for sharing such useful information.