Monday, January 02, 2012

I GOT A CHINESE GUY TO DO IT!"

"I GOT A CHINESE GUY TO DO IT!"

Let me start off this post first my saying, rather strongly, that I am not in any way, shape or form prejudiced against Chinese people, I am not angy wit them, I have no ax to grind with them, I have no desire to ridicule them, I do not hate them. Anyone who walks away from this article thinking otherwise has made up their own minds about what THEY believe I am implying. 

So, why the title?I GOT A CHINESE GUY TO DO IT!"

Recently, in the latter days of 2011, that phrase,I GOT A CHINESE GUY TO DO IT!" was uttered a lot by potentially high paying clients, and the frequency of this response caused me to reflect on just hiw many times I've heard this phrase uttered by a client.

It would be an understatement to say,  I've heard it a LOT.  So many times, in fact, that it's become a private joke. A bad one, but a joke nevertheless, and the "funny"part is, that the jokes on me, and my fellow NYC caricature artists.

Here's how the scenario usually plays out...
Client A calls me up frantic and excited , ranting about an assignment that involves a caricature of a boss, employee, family member, or lived one. The client assures me that I was chosen specifically from a cast of billions of other caricature artists. I am told that it was MY work, MY Style, MY special intangible, irresistible "something" that made me stand out from the pack. I purr like a freshly petted kitten and bask in the sunshine if their praise before inquiring as to what they need. Client A explains that they have an impossibly tight deadline, and require my services, or a picture that includes caricature, scenery, and my own sparkling personality. I smile and give my price waiting for that familiar sound of wallets opening, and cash being cheerfully pulled out into my waiting hands.  I look up, and Client A's face has become a stoic mask of concentration. I begin to hear as if coming from a far away dimension the words, "I have to consult with my husband, colleagues, dog whisper, etc. But I'll get back to you!"

I flash another smile and say, "OK" with as much enthusiasm as possible, knowing that this may be the end of what started out to be a beautiful business friendship... I still hold out hope though!
After all, they DID choose ME because of MY style , my "special something"right? I mean, you can't just get that anywhere! It's MY "special something" after all, and only I can make it!

I recheck with Clent A within the hour to find out how their consultation with the other parties went. I call with renewed confidence! I was worried for nothing! Just a silly, momentary Lack of confidence....

Then I hear the dreaded response on the other end:

I GOT A CHINESE GUY TO DO IT!"

For those of you readers who are not NYC Caricature artists, the afore mentioned line, I GOT A CHINESE GUY TO DO IT!" may ave gone over your heads. Allow me to shed some light on this.

In NYC caricature is big business. Tourists love them. And all , they have to do to find one is go to the "caricature Mecca spot" Times Square. From West 42nd street up to about west 50th street, you can practically trip over a caricature artist as you're being dazzled by the bright lights, jostled by the crowds of shoppers, and gawking at the tall buildings. You would think in the proverbial cultural belting pot that  NYC is famous for, you'd see a variety of artists of all creeds and races, curiously, that's NOT SO!  The fact is that Chinese portrait artist have the place on lockdown taking every available spot  

Whenever a cheapskate client doesn't feel like paying an artist what they are worth, they always can go for the default plan of going to Times Square and ayi g a Chinese guy to do it for a whole lot less. I can understand saving money, but what's unfkrgivabe is that these clients ask the world of you And expect to get it for discount prices. The fact that they choose the Chinese guy tells me that they don't even NEED all the trimmings they demand from me, when they KNOW they know will settle fr less....


Because they do.

6 comments:

vhpayes said...

I share your frustration with that. I know that clients will usually go for the cheaper artist as there are many people who choose an imitation tablet over an iPad despite the obvious superiority of the iPad. Of course you could have a "street" product and a "premium" product. That has worked for me most of the time.

In the end, we all must live with ourselves.

vhpayes said...

Is it true that it's basically a "mafia" to get a spot there? I've heard people have been threatened with knives if they try to draw there.

Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling said...

That ain't just an urban legend. My pal, Kenly Dillard, who drew on 42 and Times Sq for years told me stories about how a lot of these artists roll up in a big van would sometimes come out at two and three in the morning to secure their spot, all under the watchful eyes of their bosses. One time I moved into someones spot only to have one of these jokers literally Kay hands kn my chair and stand and physically try to move me, all the time screaming, MY SPOT, MY SPOT! I started arguing and protesting and within seconds I was surrounded by Chinese men with bad intentions...the cops literally harass and run off every non Asian artist, and do virtually nothing to these guys. There are other spots in the city where you can set up but these guys unofficially "own" Times Square.

vhpayes said...

Hey, I think I know Kenly. I worked him very briefly in Orlando.

I guess there are caricature mafias everywhere. Legal and non-legal.

RAA: Writers Group said...

Caricature mafioso? I'm much happier with my world of editors and art directors...fewer knife fights. Though, these travails make from an interesting story. I did--once--see someone get a paper cut...does that count?

Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling said...

A PAPER CUT? Get outta here ya poser! I got those in caricature reform school!