Last month I was given a very interesting opportunity in the form of an offer from Rosetta Stone (yes, the language learning folks). They were exhibiting at the Carnegie Mellon University Job Fair and were wondering if I was available to draw caricatures for the attendees in their booth. I had been drawing digital caricatures through my Iconize Me site for almost a decade but had never attempted to do it live, in-person. It was a daunting thought to say the least.
I immediately accepted, seeing this for the unique experience that it would be, and got to work figuring out how I could best execute a live, digital caricature. You may be wondering "So what? People draw live, on-demand caricatures all the time". Yes, they do - with regular pen, pencil and paper. A digital caricature is a very different beast. In some ways, it's far more flexible, but that flexibility comes at a price. There's a whole "administration" layer that's added. Because that person can simply walk away after I snap their picture, I need to collect their name and email addressed. I then need to correctly associate that information to their image and caricature and make sure everything stays in order. However, this is all great for the individual because they don't need to sit for the drawing – freeing them up (in this case) to continue walking around the career fair.
In the midst of all this planning, it struck me – this is performance art. It's not so much about the end-result as much as it's about the process. I rather liked this idea. It somehow took the pressure off. It meant all I had to do was my job, and it'd be a success.
When the day arrived, I went to Pittsburgh – complete with laptop, drawing tablet, digital camera, and a plethora of wires – and set up shop with the awesome people from Rosetta Stone.
We eventually settled on a lottery system, by-which attendees would come by, pose for a photo and hand me their information. This created a small library of photos, which I would then pick from at random every 30 minutes. At this rate, I was able to complete 12 caricatures throughout the day.
The cherry on top of all of this was that we arraigned to have a computer monitor mirror my laptop and face the show floor. This allowed for anyone walking by to watch what I was drawing at that very moment. I'm very pleased to say, we had a very interested (and friendly) crowd huddled around nearly the entire day. Granted, most of them were simply waiting to talk to the Rosetta Stone recruiters, but I like to think I livened up the queue.
For me, this was a blast. Just imagine doing the work you regularly do everyday, and having people sit and watch with unrelenting interest. It provides a slight ego boost, I can assure you. It also vindicates what you do as "interesting" and "worth-while". The blurred line between visual art and performance art is definitely something I could see getting into more.