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Old 10-12-2001, 06:52 AM   #1
Tarique Beg Tarique Beg is offline
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Looking to get back to painting portraits.




Hi Everyone.

I feel like the prodigal son, wanting to return to art, after 18 years of being a computer geek immersed in 9 to 5 corp life of which I'm quite fed up. Besides, this downturn has hit us computer geeks worse than ever. Especially in Silicon Valley. Just about no one is hiring for maybe another six months. I am now getting quite desperate since I need some cash flow.

I was thinking of going back to my on the spot portrait sketching that I used to do 25 years ago. Over the years, I've kept drawing people from life and am still able to get a likeness in about 20 minutes. I used to do that on the streets of Katmandu and India whenever I needed an immediate cash flow. We used to charge only 3 rupees a quick sketch and made about a 100 rupees a day (between my friend and I). The cops would bug us sometimes but we'd bribe them, and they'd stop harassing us. The Nepalese people never tired of having their pictures sketched. Sometimes when I tired, I would be sketching one guy but the picture would begin resembling the guy standing next to him. So we'd have a vote and whoever the crowd around us thought it looked like would get to buy the sketch. Sometimes, fist fights ensued. Anyway, I don't know if people in the US are that enthusiastic about on the spot portrait sketching. I believe there are many strictly enforced rules in the US, which may prevent me from working on the streets. So, I went to a mall and found that they want $10,000/mnth just to put up a few Conte A Paris portraits, an easel, and a couple of chairs. That is, for Nov, Dec. For other months, the rent is about $3000/mnth.

I did see a lady in one of the malls sketching portraits on the fly, and it intriqued me that she would be able to do that and also pay what I thought was an extortionist rent to the mall. Does anyone here have experience in this on the spot sketching business to give me some guidance as to whether I should risk paying the rent up front. I don't know if I will ever recoup that amount. I was figuring if I finished 3 drawings/hour at $20/drawing, I would have to work at least 10 hrs continuously to do about 20 drawings (including breaks and no customers). I have no experience in this area, since is is not Katmandu or India. All I know is that I don't see people fighting over portrait sketches in the US. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
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Old 10-12-2001, 11:16 AM   #2
Marta Prime Marta Prime is offline
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Hi Tarique,
I think you are limiting your options too much thinking in terms of malls. Especially since you live in California! What about the beaches, Carmel, where many affluent people live? San Francisco has a lot of different street performances that go on all the time, it's part of the city's charm. Weather permitting, your options are only as limited as your imagination! Go to CrystalMoll.com web site, she does her paintings literally on the street, she stopped painting in her studio. She is not a portrait artist, but you are talking about sketches, that should be easy. Sidewalk cafe's, or any cafe is another good one.
People in the US probably wouldn't "fight" over a portrait, but don't think they don't love having their portrait done! If you have the talent for a good likeness, I don't think you'd have a problem.

Good luck to you!

Marta
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Old 10-13-2001, 12:56 AM   #3
Tarique Beg Tarique Beg is offline
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Hi Marta

Thanks for your kind input and encouragement. I will definitely try out the places you mention. In fact, we are also very close to the beautiful seaside city of Santa Cruz which I thought had quite an arty, laid back, bohemian atmosphere.

Anyway, there is one thing I am trying to find out before I take the leap: Would you know whether cops bug artists on the streets. So far, I've always worked as a cog in the wheel computer geek in a corporation. I just have this fear that there are a lot of rules in the US, as opposed to the old country India, where anyone can just go and sell stuff without vendors licences etc. there were no rules at all. People just bought and sold stuff at their own risk like it must have been in the days of the wild west here.

I've been reading depressing articles on the Internet about street artists being harassed by local authorities. It feels sad that this should happen in a free country. After all, we're only trying to make an honest buck selling harmless art. I would imagine that cities would be happy to encourage street artist so as to attract tourists, like the famous Momart in Paris I've heard about. What is the opinion of experienced artists here ? Will I get arrested if I try to sell Art on the street or on the beach ?

Appreciate any input.

Tarique.
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Old 10-14-2001, 12:12 AM   #4
Marta Prime Marta Prime is offline
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Tarique,
I would absoulutely get a business license if you are serious about this. They are usually not that expensive, about $25 a year. Just to be safe. And as far as cops "harrasing you" I think it depends on a lot of factors, where you are, how you are handling your business, and if someone has complained about you (on their property) etc. Check with the local authorities. I have found most businesses are happy to have you there attracting clients, but if you park in front of a business that doesn't want you there, or become persistant by bothering people somehow, you may find yourself in trouble. If you are good at your trade, you generally find people enchanted by your work and it will sell itself. Check out local art fairs too. They are a lot less expensive than a mall, but I've noticed a lot of the same artists selling the same thing over and over at most of them. I don't think most of the professionals in here go out on the street to do their portraits, and most seem to have their own art studios and established businesses, but it would interesting to hear what they have to say. The caliber of professionals in here is wonderful, any gems they offer are worth their weight in gold.
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Old 10-15-2001, 05:49 AM   #5
Tarique Beg Tarique Beg is offline
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Hi Marta

Thanks again for the advice. I will look into the vendor's licence thing. I definitely would never encroach on anyone's property or bother people. After all, I have worked as a consultant in big corporations with large teams of professionals on a daily basis. Suddenly, there was a severe downturn and all consulting work dried up. So we went to zero income, with a big mortgage payment. Now I have to do whatever it takes to survive honestly, and the only other skill I had was sketching people on the spot. So, I came across this website and thought I might get some good advice, which I did - from you. However, I didn't realize that this was a board for mostly well known established artists, or I wouldn't have blabbed so much about street art. I know what you mean about the flea market paintings, they have a certain contrived, repetitive, look that can be spotted from a mile. Anyway, I sincerely apologize for discussing anything that may not have been suitable here.

regards

Tarique
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Old 10-15-2001, 06:11 AM   #6
Cynthia Daniel Cynthia Daniel is offline
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Tarique,

There is nothing to apologize about. The site itself is for experienced established portrait artists. However, this Forum is for everyone. I personally know of some portrait artists who are now very established but started doing portraits in malls or on the street.

Local municipalities will each have their own laws governing this. For example, in the town where I live, they don't allow sidewalk cafes. As long as you have the proper license for the town or city where you are, no police should bother you. If it is a place where others are also selling on the street, this would be beneficial in bringing traffic.

This is the type of thing that can be very popular at Christmas. But, I suggest that you hurry because many vendor opportunities get filled up for the Christmas season. For example, I'm fairly certain malls will only take so many people.

Regarding malls, sometimes they have theme shows during the year. Often, there is an arts and crafts show for Christmas. So, if you were interested in a mall, ask the mall about upcoming arts and crafts shows and get the number for the sponsor. You might be able to get in and I would think for a much lower fee. Of course, this wouldn't be an ongoing thing, but might help for the next few months.

In my area, there is a very prestigious hotel/spa/resort and sometimes in the lobby, there is someone doing quick portraits. I also saw this once in the lobby of a restaurant. But, this would have to be arranged, you couldn't just go in and setup.

Regarding people fighting over a portrait, I think as a country we are unfortunately not as expressive as what you described.

In relation to your computer skills, have you checked with the various online sources for jobs and contractor positions?

Good luck!
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Last edited by Cynthia Daniel; 10-15-2001 at 06:21 AM.
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Old 10-15-2001, 07:45 PM   #7
Tarique Beg Tarique Beg is offline
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Hi Cynthia

Thanks especially for the information about artists sketching in the lobbies of a big resturant or hotel. I had been thinking of that and now it's great to know this is possible. I guess, one has to work up a good relation or deal with the managers or owners there. I'll undoubtedly try that. The malls may have a lot of people, but they charge exorbitant rates. For example, the San Jose Mall CA wants $10,000 per month (for Nov,Dec) just to set up a couple of chairs and an easel.

I'm also looking for another computer job. In fact, I have two more interviews set up. The trouble is that many of the interviews nowadays are bogus. We are expecting companies to start new projects early next year. For now, the Hi-tech industry in Silicon Valley has been hit very hard. Also, these atrocious terrorist and anthrax attacks have put everyone into such a sombre mood these days that they could be holding off from commissioning portraits and paintings for the time being. So it must be effecting people here too.

I think sketching people on the spot is a great excercise. When we were college kids doing that in India, we sometimes worked 10 hours non-stop, and still enjoyed every minute, even though by the end, we were quite exhausted. My friend was better than I. I remember I would put in a lot of fancy shading to compensate for lack of resemblance, but he got resemblance in a few strokes. He would do it instinctively, whereas I had to concentrate very hard making a lot of visual measurements.

regards

Tarique.
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Old 10-16-2001, 09:42 AM   #8
Peggy Baumgaertner Peggy Baumgaertner is offline
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Tarique

Another opportunity is working with a theme park. Most theme parks have booths for artists set up within the park. I would think that these positions would be the cream of the profession, tons of people spending tons of money, but someone has those jobs, and it's something to shoot for. Having said that.....

....in regard to the last few postings, I think you might be over-thinking this whole process. If I were in your position, the first thing I would do is get in contact with your local arts group or museum. You need input from people who have been out there working in your community. I would get in contact with schools and churches. Often they will sponsor fairs and dances and would be happy to have an artist on site. Immediately, I would call around to the YMCA, library, or any local group sponsoring a community Halloween party for kids. How much fun would it be to draw kids in costumes? (Hum, I might just do this myself....) A friend of mine, a sculptor, makes some quick folding money every Saturday drawing at the local farmers market. I am often called with people wanting portraits in the $50 -- $100 range. I pass these inquires onto my friend (the sculptor). If you let the local galleries, art groups, etc., in your area know about you, word will spread and you may get referrals. Call you police station and ask about restrictions on setting up a station. You might find they are more generous than you think. Print flyers and advertise for birthday parties or even corporate functions. My mother-in-law attended a very swank wedding where they had an artist drawing the guests! Gumbaro! Get out there, set up your easel, and start drawing. Be flexible, be inventive, be creative, and realize that people want you to succeed, they want to help you, and you'll find that each job you do will lead to more jobs and more ideas for jobs.

Go for it!

Peggy Baumgaertner
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Old 10-17-2001, 01:49 AM   #9
Tarique Beg Tarique Beg is offline
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Hi Peggy

Thanks for the great encouragement and excellent ideas. I should just leap into the waters, start flapping, and handle the situation as it comes. Think out of the box, start marketting myself, and success will follow is what I hear you saying.

Some good news, by the way, is that a few days ago I made a Conte A Paris drawing of my neighbour's kid. She was very happy. Then yesterday she phoned to say shes bringing three families over to get their drawings done. Wow!, I may even get to work in the comfort of my living room eventually. I get what you mean: as long as the work can make clients happy the clients become your marketing force.

In India, I did only 21 portraits of various business people, a couple of clergy, and a few Malaysian diplomats. But that was 25 years ago and have lost touch with people in the old country, so I'm really quite unknown.

Any ideas on how to price charcoal, conte, sepia etc. vs colour in pastel, acrylic, water colour or oil, considering the fact that I am unknown, but can get a good likeness and make people happy, though I know my portraits are nowhere near the quality of seasoned professionals.

Thanks to everyone here for all the wonderful encouragement. I just hope one day I can say good-bye to the dull corporate 9 to 5 life.

Tarique
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