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Always an annual tradition….

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!

Robert Bauer