Perhaps the First Practical Business Application of Live Caricatures
Most people consider caricatures more whimsical than practical. As beloved as the art form is by those who appreciate an exaggerated portrait, it isn’t exactly an integral part of most business plans. Few think a caricature might help land the next big deal, and most business-minded folks consider it a simple amusement that belongs on family trips to the theme park, nowhere near the corporate conference room.
This thinking is rapidly changing, however, as a growing number of businesses are taking advantage of this unique service in a truly practical business application in the corporate world. Live digital caricatures, specifically those performed on-site at trade shows and industry conventions, are becoming increasingly popular as a practical service for generating draw to brand messaging, products, and services displayed in trade show booths and exhibits.
While it may be difficult to see the practical value of this at first glance, it’s difficult to deny once examined. Due to its unique nature, this practical application is also arguably superior to many of the other self-promotional goods and giveaways that corporations and brands routinely spend healthy budgets on when trying to gain attention from prospective customers at B2B events.
According to the 2012 study “The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy” published by PricewaterhousCoopers LLP, there were 273,700 industry conventions and 10,900 trade shows in the United States alone in 2012. The trade show and convention industry is undoubtedly a necessary part of the fabric of B2B commerce in the world, so it’s no wonder that so much money is spent preparing for these events: $280 billion dollars spent in direct spending related to corporate functions in 2012 alone.
B2B is difficult because unlike direct-to-consumer marketing, businesses are harder to advertise to by traditional means. This is why trade shows are so vital. At trade shows, corporations and brands are able to erect temporary storefronts on the trade show floor allowing them to network with their prospects like traditional face-to-face
Common giveaways are mugs, keychains, t-shirts, USB drives, pens and the like. Occasionally, businesses get a little more creative, offering something more exotic like a free back massage. The challenge is finding something that 1) creates real draw to a trade show booth, 2) advertises for the brand, 3) creates a real opportunity for customer engagement (i.e., time), and 4) is personalized enough to create real impact. Live digital caricatures are one of a few services that actually meet all of these criteria.
15 years ago, I decided to make a full-time business out of drawing caricatures for a living. This was no small task.
Very few people make their entire living based on the art of caricature but I already wasn’t making enough as a freelance artist to support a family and the idea of working a full-time job was too depressing to consider. So, I took a breath and dove right in.
One of the first places I decided to try out was at our local annual art festival in Rochester, MI called Art & Apples. It’s been around for 50 years and was close enough to my home to risk seeing if I could make it work. The first year was in 2004 and I didn’t even own a tent. However, me and fellow artist, Ben Pierrot stayed busy enough over the 3-day weekend to come back the following year. The next year, I had a tent and my business grew. Then I started opening other caricature stands in different locations throughout the U.S. I have had as many as 9 retail stands coast to coast over the past 12 years. And each year, I would return as a sponsor at Art & Apples and each September, another artist and me would draw for 3 straight days.
We became a crowd favorite at the festival. Customers looked forward to seeing us each September and we became a tradition. Heck, 2 years ago, I drew a couple at the festival who decided to hire 3 of us to draw at the wedding. A year later they came back to Art & Apples for another caricature. This time, they wanted one showing that the couple was expecting their first child! They handed me an envelope that showed if it was going to be a boy or a girl. “Whatever you do, don’t tell us! We want it to be a surprise until next week when we use your caricature for the official announcement.” There were many special moments like that one. I always looked forward to drawing friends and family each September. I enjoyed working with several different artists over the years. We always had fun even though we weren’t making a fortune. I was always able to cover all my costs and pay my artists who helped out. That, plus the annual exposure, justified all our efforts.
In 2016, we decided not to participate as a sponsor of Art & Apples due to a significant increase in the sponsorship fee. It was the first time in 12 years that we were not drawing at Art & Apples. We were not there in 2017 either. However, in 2018, Paint Creek Center for the Arts, the producer of Art & Apples, approached us about returning at our original location and sponsorship fee. We accepted. I have always looked forward to drawing in my hometown but I also liked the spirit of community I felt from my involvement with the local festival. Even though we have caricature stands in Tampa, Los Angeles, Denver and other locations around the country, I considered Art & apples to be the place where it all started. And fortunately, it now continues! We just wrapped on our weekend at Art & Apples in 2019 and we were busier than ever. Looking forward to 2020!
Last November I attended ISCACON24 which is the annual convention for the International Society of Caricature Artists. I have been going for over 10 years. One of the highlights is a VIP reception for members to mingle with the guest of honor. This time, the guest speaker was Jason Seiler who is a phenomenal painter and artist from Chicago. He decided to do a digital painting demonstration during the reception. Projected up large on a screen was the caricature he was painting while members socialized and drank over the 3 hour reception. Jason interacted with members as he painted. They asked questions and the artist would respond, all while painting a guest who was ecstatic about being painted by him. The atmosphere was very unique and enjoyable. It was from this experience that I came up with the idea to offer a similar service for cocktail receptions, corporate events, fundraisers and other related functions in which an award-winning artist could paint a guest or host while engaging with attendees during the event. Think of it; as an added feature to your hi-end event, an award-winning artist sets up and does a live painting of the host, guest-of-honor or a winner’s favorite celebrity which can then be used for a charity auction once it is finished! 7 months later, we have put the finishing touches on our brand new service with our new web page featuring 6 incredible artists who you can now book for your function anywhere in the U.S. or abroad. I am very excited about this new service and I am looking forward to seeing what these artists can do for our clients. Check out the page and Let me know your thoughts!
Over the years, Goofy Faces has had the good fortune to be involved with many great and interesting causes and movements. This Spring was no exception. The Kent County Youth Summit hired 6 artists from Goofy Faces to draw middle school and high school students while they attended the 5th annual Youth Summit which took place at the Devos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, MI.
This year’s theme, Be the Hero, is a declaration of the collective power of this generation to take a stand as everyday heroes and to drive positive change in their community, while transforming health and wellness trends and overcoming pop culture messages that suggest that alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are not harmful. To help celebrate this point, the Summit asked Goofy Faces to draw as many heroes as they could in 4 hours during the youth summit on May 6th. To help achieve this goal, Goofy Faces provided 6 artists and 2 predawn templates of super heroes to help speed up the drawing process. The results were hundreds of happy teens who enjoyed posing for their super hero caricatures during the summit!
In case you haven’t heard, Goofy Faces offers eSketches™ nationwide and they are becoming more and more popular each month. “What are eSketches™”, you ask? Good question. eSketches™ are caricatures that are drawn & colored digitally live at events, trade shows and parties. Our artists use a digital drawing tablet to work their magic in minutes. Guests enjoy watching each eSketch take shape on a nearby large display. Once your eSketch is finished, the artist prints out your very own color copy to take away with you. In addition, we provide all our clients with a link to all the eSketches™ that were drawn during their event. They can share them with their guests and clients as well as post them to their social media accounts like Instagram and Twitter! If you want to add a cutting edge artistic element to your next function or event, give us a try. You can fund an artist and see rates by searching our directory. Watch our sample video below to get an idea just how fun and unique eSketches™ are!
I am very happy and relieved to report an update to my previous post about my close friend and great artist, Glenn Ferguson. As many of you already know, Glenn was viciously attacked by another artist at Universal Studios on New Year’s Day. Glenn was stabbed in the side of his head with a pair of scissors near the caricature stand that he has been drawing at for over 20 years. It took over 5 hours of surgery to remove the blades from his brain.
All of us in the caricature artist community were horrified when we learned of Glenn’s situation. Glenn is highly respected and greatly loved by many of us who share his trade of drawing caricatures for a living. A few of us organized a GoFundMe campaign to help offset all the costs and lack of income that Glenn was enduring while he is recovering. People from around the world have reached out with support and donations. So far, we have successfully raised over $67,000!
Miraculously, Glenn regained conscious a couple weeks later. However, that was only the first step. He has had a tough road since then. The injury affected his vision, speech and the vital functions that most of us take for granted daily. He was unable to understand what people were saying to him. He couldn’t walk. He didn’t know how to speak. Imagine waking up and not even knowing who you are. That’s exactly what Glenn experienced.
Fortunately, the wonderful therapists worked with Glenn in the hospital for weeks and were surprised at how quickly he responded to treatment. They had never met nor worked with someone like him before. Being an artist meant that his brain is wired a little differently than most people. And the therapists were learning a lot from Glenn while helping him recover. Glenn progressed well enough that the hospital discharged him ahead of schedule and sent him home. Now Glenn is working with his therapists from home several times a week. He is learning to read again. He still gets tired easily and he has no peripheral vision in his right eye. But the Glenn we all know and love is alive and hasn’t changed regarding his personality. That is a huge victory!
It’s incredible to think that only 45 days ago, Glenn was clinging to life by the smallest of odds. I am as blown away with his progress since then. Glenn has been overwhelmed regarding your compassion and support. As I mentioned before, Glenn is really one of the good ones and apparently greater forces than ours appear to agree. Keep up the great recovery, Glenn!
I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. I make a comfortable living doing something I really enjoy doing on a daily basis. I get to create. I bring smiles to thousands of people every year. And aside from the occasional unsatisfied customer or perhaps an extra long gig that is too close to a DJ speaker, my profession is very low-risk, high-reward. As many of you know I am also a member of the International Society of Caricature Artists. It’s a trade association of caricature artists from around the world. It’s membership is around 500-600 artists and many of us have been involved for years. We are an extended family to one-another.
One of my closest friends that I met through ISCA is Glenn Ferguson. We both served as board members for 6 years. When I became president, Glenn was my vice president. We got along so well over that time that we became best buds. Even after we finished serving on the board, we keep in touch. He’s been to Michigan several times and has drawn with me at the Art & Apples Festival near my home. My family has visited with him and his wife, JoAnn near his home in Orlando. Glenn is an extremely talented artist who manages the caricature concession for Fasan Arts at Universal Studios, Orlando. He’s been there bringing smiles to visitors for decades now. Not only is he a very popular artist with guests but he is greatly admired among the artist community as well. In addition to serving on the board, Glenn has won more awards at the annual convention, ISCACON, than any other artist in history, including the top award of Master of the Year. Besides being an outstanding artist, Glenn has got to be one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure to know. He encourages other artists, he is mean to no one and he has the patience of a saint. He also has a great sense of humor. In short, Glenn is one of the good ones.
On the morning of New Year’s Day 2016, Glenn Ferguson was attacked at Universal Studios, where he has drawn thousands upon thousands of caricatures over the years for tourists. He was viciously stabbed in the side of his head by a disgruntled co-worker and had to undergo a lengthy emergency surgery that lasted more than 5 hours. Glenn’s prognosis remains unclear–what has immediately become clear is how many people are pulling for him, a testament to how many lives Glenn has touched.
Right after celebrating their first wedding anniversary, his wife JoAnn is now facing the fallout from this attack–it will no doubt contain many bills from doctors and hospitals (even with insurance, copays and deductibles add up) and a long road ahead involving rehabilitation and recovery time. We all hope and pray that Glenn can make a full recovery, but there will no doubt be many hurdles to overcome since Glenn has suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Several of us who have known Glenn through the caricature community have set up a fund to help, which JoAnn will be able to access as bills mount. If you already know Glenn, I am certain that you have already donated or you are about to soon. If you do not know Glenn, please watch the video I included to get a sense of the kind of guy Glenn is. The world is a much better place with him in it and with your help, hopefully he can recover so that he can get back to his drawing table and delighting people once again.
It’s that time of year once again. Each year around November, the International Society of Caricature Artists holds its annual caricature convention. This is the 24th year that it has taken place. This year’s con is at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, OH. The convention lasts all week long with seminars, competitions, networking and lots of catching up with fellow artists from around the world. This is my 11th convention. Last year was the first time that I missed it in 10 years. As a former board member and president, I have invested a lot of time to help this organization grow and succeed. I am happy to see how well it continues to improve over the years. This year, I am one of the guest speakers. I am looking forward to spending the week catching up with old friends and making new ones. If you care to check out the activities on Facebook or Twitter, look for the hashtag #iscacon24.
This week, Lego™ announced its latest video game mash-up called dimensions and Goofy Faces was there to help celebrate. Yesterday, Goofy Faces artist Jason had the pleasure of drawing Legocatures for several hours at The Garage in New York City. Visitors to the event enjoyed having their likenesses turned into actual Lego characters along side Batman, Gandalf and Wyld Style right before their eyes. Below are some awesome samples from the event!
Beginning tomorrow at 4PM, Goofy Faces will be drawing caricatures for its 11th straight year at the Art & Apples Festival located in Rochester Park in downtown Rochester, MI. This is the only festival we do each year because it is in our home town and it gives us a great chance to be part of the local community as well as spread the word about what we do. Many attendees stop by each year for an annual caricature of their family. We have some customers who have had their caricatures drawn at 5 or more festivals in a row! In those 11 years, Robert has drawn with 5 different artists. This year, Robert will be drawing caricatures with Shawn from Ohio. Michelle will also be on hand to paint faces as she did last fall. The festival lasts for 3 days starting tomorrow from 4PM-7:30PM. It will be open all day Saturday from 9AM-7:30PM and on Sunday from 9AM to 4PM. Our tent is located near the middle footbridge near the central food court. You can download a map right here. Make sure to stop by early because our booth gets super-busy by the afternoon and usually stays busy until close. Check out some photos from Goofy Faces at previous Art & Apples festivals over the past 11 years. See you at Art & Apples!
For 50 years, the Art & Apples Festival® has transformed the 30-acre downtown park in Rochester into one of the nation’s top fine art fairs with over 290 exhibiting artists from across the country. The festival is a program of Paint Creek Center for the Arts, a regional, nonprofit art center located in downtown Rochester.