Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A Cringeworthy Christmas Story


This is a reposting of an article that I wrote three years ago, and pertains to an embarrassingly awkward situation that I got myself into one Christmas. It's also about one of those regrettable memories that I just can't shake, so I thought it best to open old wounds, and share it with you one more time. Enjoy... 
 
A few hears ago when I was working for a well known London gallery, a colleague asked me if I knew of anyone that would be interested in earning a bit of extra cash over the festive season doing caricatures at a Christmas party in The City (London) for some big corporation. The job was very well paid, involved a couple of hours of work drawing caricatures of the company's employees - and more free food and drink than any poor starving artist could wish for.
Well... what could I say but 'look no further - here's your man!'
I got the job and being overly confident in the fact that I'd always been pretty good at caricatures at school (they'd got me in and out of trouble with both pupils and teachers alike on more than one occasion) I did no more preparation than buying myself a new set of Tomboy brush pens and turning up at the venue.


At first, everything seemed to be going well. I was introduced to a hip-looking young man and woman who handed me my wages for the night (good start). They both looked super stylish. She had a cool bob (similar to Uma Thurman's in Pulp Fiction) and he was slightly camp and incredibly well turned out. So when they asked to be the first couple to be drawn I had no problems. I quickly rendered them in a minimal, sharp cartoon style that suited their look and everyone was happy.
Then everything seemed to go down hill from that point onwards. Unfortunately the next subject wasn't so aesthetically well rounded and feeling that their true essence wouldn't be captured using the previous style, I changed tack. Instead of creating a fun stylised cartoon version of my new subject I honed in on, and exaggerated, my hapless victim worst features. It wasn't an intentional act of malice. I had merely focused on the most prominent features and run with them – not thinking how the eventual image may turn out. Needless to say, it didn't turn out well – at least not for the subject. They weren't too pleased. I'd even go as far as saying that they may have been a little upset.



I quickly realised my mistake. I had failed to fix on one style, practice it beforehand and stick with it regardless.
By this point I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable – which didn't help when it came to the next subject. Desperate to salvage the situation I tried yet another style but the only problem with this was that unless I stuck with my tried and tested methods there was the chance that the drawing would pay little resemblance to the person in front of me so I soon reverted back to knocking out grotesque renderings from the now large line of people forming next to me.
It was a very strange experience. I seemed to be upsetting an ever-growing number of people yet more of them were queuing up to be humiliated. And the more I tried to alter my style of drawing the worse these sketched monsters turned out (this may have been something to do with the vast number of drinks people were plying me with – which I was eager to consume in an attempt to dull the anxiety).
Not only was there a long queue of people waiting to be sketched but a large group had formed of slightly drunk folks who were obviously enjoying their fellow employees' visual assassinations (at this point I honestly no longer felt in control of what my hands were producing) - so much so that splinter groups were now breaking off from the main mob in search of juicier victims. A couple of them dragged over a lady who must have been the fattest person in the whole company. I think that the alarm in my eyes must have mirrored that in hers. My mind was screaming 'please – not her!' but my fingers showed no mercy. One poor chap, after I handed him my rendition of him, simply looked at me with such devastation in his eyes and said 'I'm gonna go home now and hang myself'. I truly believe he didn't really mean it and it was just the drink talking but it obviously didn't ease my conscience.
After two of the longest hours of my life I apologised to the long line of people still waiting to be drawn (I should really have apologised to the ones I'd already sketched) and made my escape. I tell you – once outside of that building, London's air had never before smelt so fresh and the sense of relief never so palpable. I probably won't be doing that again - probably!

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