The end of an annual tradition….

12 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.

Unfortunately, all that changed in 2016. Paint Creek Center for the Arts, the organization that runs Art & Apples, decided to raise their sponsorship fee by 120%! I have paid a bit more over the previous 12 years but I had never seen a hike like that. I asked if there was any way we could work out a better rate but they refused so, sad to say, 2016 will be the first time in 12 years that Goofy Faces will not be at Art Apples. It makes me very sad because not only did I always look forward to drawing in my hometown but I liked the spirit of community I felt from my involvement with the local festival. Even though we have caricature stands in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and other locations around the country, I considered Art & apples to be the place where it all started. And sadly, 2016 is the year where it ended. It was a great run. If you are a regular customer of ours from Art & Apples, you can order your caricatures online at If I find another local festival to set up at, I will keep you posted.

Robert Bauer