Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Caricature marathon gigs, I love and hate them...

Just finished a type of gig that's kind of unique to Vegas. Or at least more prevalent here than elsewhere. This is the land of giant, round-the-clock casino resorts, which employ literally thousands of workers split over three shifts.

When these resorts decide to throw an employee party, it can get complicated. Rob, Doug, and I worked a long day today for an employee-appreciation celebration and it was so much fun! But also exhausting. Honestly, this blog post will probably suck. I have no wind left in my sails today. Typing kind of hurts. I got about three hours of sleep last night because I'm really bad at making myself fall asleep early. Not the best approach to preparing for a caricature marathon that starts at sunrise.

I'm used to these gigs around December. Some of the holiday parties are crazy long, employing multiple artists over sometimes a stretch of 12 hours straight in order to give all three shifts of workers a chance to get to the event. This one was for a smaller sized Strip resort, only about eight hundred employees, so we were hired in spurts. We arrived at 6:30 am and drew for two hours, then got a long break and worked again from 11 am till 2 pm, then had a longish break again and finished up our last drawing shift at 9pm. So though it was a 14-hour day, at least it was broken up a bit. However, we were kind of trapped on property because you can't really leave and do anything substantial in a couple of hours. Going home would eat up 45 minutes each way, if traffic was cooperative, and why bother wasting the gas?

Likewise, we don't want to be too obviously on property while we are relaxing between drawing sessions--it's just bad juju to hang out too close to where the client and guests are. If you linger, you invariably invite questions from the hoi polloi: When are you going to start up again? How can I sign up to be first when you guys start? Can you start early, pretty please? Twice in the ladies' room I found myself recognized. "Hey, you're the caricature artist! When do you guys start again, will you be here tomorrow too? You're way better than those two guys working with you." (Hahahaahah! Rob and Doug probably got the exact same thing in the mens' room.) It's just more comfortable to get as far away from your target audience as possible when you're not on duty.

Luckily, this gig was happening near where Doug does tattooing part time. So we were able to sneak into the "Tattoo cabana," which happened to be vacant. A small room, but comfortable and with wifi. We killed nearly two hours in there, just chatting, and Rob caught a short nap on the tattoo chair. It was peaceful and, more important, away from all of THEM, all those people we'd been drawing and would be drawing again soon. We kept the curtains drawn, the lights dim, and just enjoyed the quiet. Rob said it felt like we were hiding from the Nazis and suggested someone start a diary.

I make it sound like we hated the people, but nothing would be farther from the truth. The drawing time wasn't bad at all. With any group of local people like that, you get to experience Vegas being a small town again. A good portion of the employees we drew were lifelong Vegas natives, and so we end up finding people who went to our same high school, or even graduated in the same class. So the chatter is always fun. Banter happens, and it's an adults-only environment where one can lapse into blue material if you also stay coy and classy about it. And on three hours' sleep I'm friggin' HILARIOUS. Or at least I think so.

Our contacts were awesome, and though there were a few bureaucratic snags (there always are when dealing with a large corporation and it's accounting department), they resolved everything in due time and made us feel really welcome. When they were unable to get us special dispensation to eat in the employee dining room, they instead handed us three comps for the nicer tavern restaurant out in the casino. It's definitely awesome working for folks in the hospitality industry!

To minimize muscle strain, all of us were using markers, which flowed with ease and stood out on the paper. I'm really loving the Crayola marker barrels filled with copic ink, and I'd made enough for all three of us to use. It was fun being between Rob's excellent structural skills and Doug's adorable, curvy linework. Both of them, being seasoned pros, took to the markers with ease. We were going at a good clip and, between the three of us, produced around 300 caricatures over the course of the day. Any feelings of awkwardness or needing to "warm up" fade after the first leg of the race, so I felt "on" for the rest of the hours. And just like some experience a runner's high, I swear there is a "caricaturist's high."
This guy. I had SUCH fun drawing this guy!

The different demographics filed in group by group, we'd spend an hour working on housekeepers, then several valets and bellhops would file in (sweating and happy to be indoors, it was 111 degrees today!). Managers, dealers, cocktail waitresses, lifeguards, front desk receptionists, I.T. folks, all took their turns. The security guards all had a great sense of humor and kept asking me to draw them "mean" or "angry." I ended up drawing one of these guys looking furious, with the Hulk in the background saying "Calm down, Hulk no like you when you're angry." I figured it would be a hit or a flop--luckily the guy loved it and laughed for a solid thirty seconds before showing it around. (Doug made fun of me for needing to do a quick Google search in order to properly draw the Hulk.) It felt like the last few drawings were breaking into new territory for me, pushing a little farther than I've been able to before. At the end of a gig like this I feel such a combination of exhaustion, giddiness, and euphoria . . . it could all be an illusion, as I said I'm crazy sleep-deprived right now, but pushing yourself to that point seems to be a way to tap into a deeper level of muscle memory and learning. I felt great.

Now I really, really, really need to sleep.

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