Subway Sketches Part C

100 Subway sketches!!

Subway Sketches Part XCIX

Subway Sketches Part XCVIII

Subway Sketches Part XCVII

Subway Sketches Part XCVI

Subway Sketches Part XCV

The Problem with Getting Paid

Small theatre companies are notoriously cheap. Convincing them that they need to pay designers is hampered by the fact that, in New York at least, there are always younger, more desperate designers that will be willing to work without pay so that they can get that elusive NYC credit on their resume. At the beginning of your career there is always a certain amount of free and cheap work to be done to build your cred and establish yourself. I've always been of the opinion that this is damaging not only to designers who are trying to work, but to the theaters who hire these designers willing to work for free. Seeing a theatre offer me $50 to design and then giving the show a $1500 budget has often enraged me. I guarantee that I'll deliver a better show with a $1000 budget, and getting paid a decent amount, than whoever they find that is willing to work for $50.

For the past few weeks I have been shotgunning resumes and portfolios to theaters all over the US in an attempt to get work for the summer, and hopefully beyond. Today I received an email from what seems to be a new company trying to establish themselves. It contained the following paragraph, details have been altered to protect the "innocent."

In order to help build Theatre X into an artistically and financial sound organization our pay schedule for the 2006 season will be contingent on our productions ending their run in a positive financial situation. This means that pay for all artistic talents are dependent on the production doing well. As plans are laid now, artistic contracts will be written to express that a set amount will paid only after all financials have been calculated for the production and only if the production made money above and beyond the cost to mount the production.

I call BULLSHIT! This arrangement is 7 shades of outrageous to me. The letter continues to state that this arrangement applies to "all non-acting talent, such as directors, stage managers, designers, and crew members." These artisans spent weeks, and in some cases months devoting themselves to shows. The clear implication of this arrangement is that the theatre in question feels that designers are completely secondary to actors in determining the success of a show. I have come to expect this sort of thinking from audiences who have trouble understanding what happens behind the scenes of a production, but to think that a professional theatre is operating with these delusions saddens me to no end. The idea being put forth is that the time, sweat, and effort made by a production team is secondary to the success of a show. However being paid for that work is dependent on the success of the show. Do they not see what an oxymoronic situation that is?

Looking at the location of this theatre, which is in a relatively small town, about 50 miles from a major metropolitan city, and looking at the shows that they are choosing for their season this proposition becomes even more risky. While I always applaud a theatre for choosing to stage edgy and forward thinking productions I also know that this type of production needs to be balanced in a season against guaranteed audience pleasers. The budget for a show should not be dependent on the success of a single show, but the success of the season. An edgy show that some people, especially in a smaller town, will find offensive is never going to make as much money as a child friendly Christmas comedy. A few of the shows that they have chosen would have trouble finding an audience even in the heart of a large city, being lesser known works from lesser known playwrights. Don't get me wrong, they are good shows, and perhaps even important shows, but saying their names to the average middle American won't instantly get them interested in the production the way say a Neil Simon, or a Shakespeare would.

The pay arrangement that they propose also seems disingenuous to me. They say that they will pay the designers "if the production made money above and beyond the cost to mount the production." Paying designers is PART of the cost to mount a production! If you were GM do you think you could get away with saying that you'd pay your lineworkers if the sale price of the car was more than the cost of building it? Disconnecting the ability to pay the greater part of the staff for a show from the supposed success of the show just seems like a way to redefine success.

This also begs the questions of what happens if you make enough money from the show to pay some of the designers but not all? Who is more important? The stage manager who attended daily rehearsals for weeks, and every performance of the show? The design staff who spent weeks coordinating their schedules with each other, and you in an attempt to make an integrated design? The production assistants who dressed your precious actors, and made sure that their props were in place so that they could perform the show properly? Do you not see that by failing to guarantee that these people get paid you may not be getting the best effort out of them? Would you devote yourself entirely to a project that was not your own if there was a chance that you'd never get paid for it? Especially when other workers on the same project ARE guaranteed to be paid for it?

Needless to say I will not be working for this theatre under these contract conditions. I am very tempted to send them a letter explaining to them exactly why I won't work under these conditions. What do you think? Am I overreacting? Is this a legitimate way to run a business? Would you send them a reply to their email?

Pros and Cons

The time of year has come for me to start considering seriously what I want to do with my career for the summer.

Summerstocks are fickle places, and the designers that work there are no less flighty. That creates a recurring loop where in the theatres start seeking out their staffs earlier every year to get the best people, and the designers work to keep their options as open as possible while at the same time seeming to have committed to some place, usually a stand-by favorite, knowing that they'll dump that commitment if something better comes in the next day's email.

I've been asked to return to the theatre where I worked last year, (look at the archives for June, July, and August for that whole story), and of course I am considering it. I've done exactly what I said... basically they know that I will return there unless something better comes along. I was very honest about it. I've read over my archives so that I have a refreshed memory of what last summer was like (an added benefit of blogging) and to try to influence my current decision.

Pro: With a year under my belt I can do a much better job knowing the condition of the theatre, the tools, the stock, etc.
Con:The relative obscurity of the theatre. I feel I may be able to get a better position this year.

Pro: Several of my friends are returning.
Con: A few (very few, but a few nonetheless) of the returnees are people that I'd rather not spend the summer with.

Pro: Two of the scheduled shows are very exciting to me as a designer.
Con: Two of the 7 shows are not only shows that I am not interested in designing, but shows that I feel are wrong for the theatre, and will make my life difficult.

Pro: Stars, trees, woodsmoke.
Con: No cell service, no internet access, a huge diminishment of connection to the rest of the world.

Pro: Being away from the city for a while, having hiking trails, fishing, rafting, and animals nearby.
Con: Having access to nothing besides Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Shop-Rite.

Pro: Not having to worry about finding work or a job for several months.
Con: Not having easy access to finding other work, or work for after my return to the city.

I have about two weeks before this quasi-decision has to become a reality.

Subway Sketches Part XCIV

I Love My Job

Just one among the greatly varied pieces that I had to research and illustrate today. Is YOUR job this cool?

Work Dilemmas: UPDATED

Yesterday I went for an interview for a show that needs a designer. The show is exactly the type of show that I shouldn't be doing anymore. The budget is tiny, the restricted use of the theatre is ridiculous, the requirements of the show outstrip what I'd be able to give it with the limitations, and the pay is basically nonexistent. I should have turned the show down on the spot.

The problem is that the director may end up being a good contact. He has a goodly number of shows under his belt, (though none on Broadway) and is what is known as a "working actor." He has the NYC filming trifecta on his resume, he's a regular on Law and Order, and has appeared on Sex and the City and Oz. You can barely call yourself a serious actor in this city if you don't have at least two of these shows on your resume. If you can manage to catch The Sopranos as well, you're golden. So, as an actor at least this guy has the potential to be big, his directing credits are sketchier, which is of course where my interests really lie.

So I'm faced with the dilemma of doing a show that will undoubtedly be annoying in the extreme, for compensation that amounts to little more than a hope that I impress a guy that might end up giving me future work.

Wow, doesn't sound like such a choice when you spell it all out like that does it?

UPDATE: Jan 25, 4:17pm
Well, this decision has been taken out of my hands. The producers called this morning to inform me that they had decided to go with a designer that they had used before (as is often the case in these small budget/small venue shows). Oh well.

Subway Sketches Part XCIII

Subway Sketches Part XCII


Here I sit, a few days later, two more first date notches on my gun handle.

Turns out that the Architect was first, it was one of the better first dates I've ever had. Fun, flirty, easy conversation with a charming man. We'll see how it goes this week.

The Artist followed up the next day. Good conversation, though not as easy. I walked away with more of a friend vibe than a romantic one... but you never know.

The rarer second date notches have been harder for me to claim of late, but I'd be happy to receive on from either.

The Scientist seems to have faded. Probably for the best based on distance and what-not.

I continue to be proactive though. I've had correspondence with two others this week. Pit-bull determination. That's what I have on this subject.

A Blogging Milestone

At 10:12:17 P.M. Eastern Standard Time (US) Terri, who commented on the previous post, and who visits my blog from Australia became the 10,000th visitor to this blog.

Thanks to everyone who visits, and enjoys my sketches and musings. I look forward to the next 10,000!

Subway Sketches Part XCI

Subway Sketches Part XC

Subway Sketches Part LXXXIX

Yesterday in the Everyday Matters message boards a discussion arose as to why we as artists chose certain topics to sketch, and it was suggested that the we avoid the things that we aren't comfortable sketching, or the things we feel we aren't good at. Lin said that she had drawn nearly everything in her house except her bookshelves, so I called her out and challenged her to give them a try. After her sketch she came back and asked me what I avoided in my own work, and challenged me in the same way I had challenged her.

So here you go Lin... hands. The whole of human anatomy is contained in the hand, foreshortening, joints, creases, folds, bone muscle, hair... it's all there. And I have to admit that I have trouble drawing them. Part of the problem is that I spent quite a long time doing animation, and in most animation the forward knuckle is eliminated and hands are drawn as if the fingers only had two joints. Even more than a decade later I have a tendency to want to drop that middle knuckle. I tend to elongate the fingers, and the transition from finger into the back of the hand is a trouble spot for me. If you look back at my sketches you might notice that I rarely tackle the hands of my subjects, usually sticking to faces and bust shots.

So, honoring Lin's challenge I spent the day concentrating on hands. It's tough because hands tend to move more than faces, as people read, and shift, and talk, but I was lucky enough to catch three relatively still models and complete three good sketches. Like every one of these sketches I see problems with them, but I'm proud to have risen to the challenge.

Subway Sketches: METAPOST

Some of the folks at the Everyday Matters yahoo group have asked me about posting one of my less finished sketches as a glimpse into process. I had to bump up the contrast in Photoshop in order to get the undersketch to show up clearly, so it looks a little "burned" but here it is. I try to get as much information down as I can in a short time so that I can complete these sketches if my model happens to get off the train too quickly. Then I tackle the details, usually face first, then hair, or clothing details. Occasionally I'll finish off a sketch back at my apartment, evening out the shading, or finalizing details like texture of clothing.


We currently have a house guest, a friend of Roommate M who is moving to the city, but her job was ready before her apartment, so she's occupying an air mattress here until then. It's been fun watching her adjust to the city, learn the ins and outs of the subway, things like that.

Last night it snowed. My first thought was street flooding and salt dried in the cuffs of my jeans. Slushy sidewalks and half frozen piles left by the street plows. Her first thoughts were the joy of a snowfall, the beauty of it. Both of us grew up in a place where the amount of snow we received last night (about 4") would have crippled the city. Here most of it is gone by the time I write this. Plowed into piles and pushed to the side by supers with salt bags and shovels.

I've never liked snow, at least not as an adult, so I won't wax poetic about how I've lost some sense of wonder regarding the stuff. It was endearing and cute to watch someone who does have a sense of wonder about it though.

Subway Sketches Part LXXXVIII

I seem to be creating accidental "series" of drawings lately. Last week it was couples sleeping against each other, and for the last few days it seems to be square jawed guys in hats, in straight on poses. Serendipity in drawing perhaps.

Subway Sketches Part LXXXVII

Subway Sketches Part LXXXVI

Proactive Dating

So I've reached that point again. My dating life goes through cycles, much like everything else. I can be content to be alone for months at a time, often years, and then something will kick into overdrive and I'll decide that it's time to get moving again. I've been sort of feeling around the edges of it for a while now, since before Christmas, but in the last two weeks I've really made a concerted push.

Like a lot of people that pretty much means online dating for me. I mean, I work freelance, so I don't meet people at the office. The few people that I do meet on the job are usually actors, which, while fun for occasionally playing with, haven't often provided me with much in the way of a substantial relationship. Most of my social activities are with straight people for some reason. So online dating it is.

After two weeks of proactive dating, emailing guys, chatting online, and occasionally on the phone, I have three prospects. The Scientist, The Architect, and The Artist. I haven't met any of these guys in person yet, but on paper they seem like decent prospects, though there are a few problems.

The Scientist is great, funny, smart, an atheist... lots of good qualities, but he lives on Long Island. He assures me that he gets into the city quite frequently, but living on Long Island might as well mean that he lives in Ohio. His town is an hour to an hour and a half out on the Long Island Railroad, plus the 30 minute subway ride from Penn Station to my apartment, (assuming he'd be coming here, or me going there). That's quite a haul for a date. So while I'm enjoying talking to him... unless he turns out to be just perfect this is probably going to be a problem.

The Architect is the newest of the prospects, we've only been chatting via email for a few days now. He's a southern boy who knows my hometown well, and even knows my "real" hometown, where I grew up, not just the place I call home. Also cute and funny, with plenty of southern charm left, but... I'm afraid that he might be beyond me in a financial/professional situation. He's a partner in his architecture firm, actually lives in a town in NJ where he has a house, and a very large garden that he enjoys quite a bit, but maintains an apartment here in the city where he lives during the week. He also recently purchased some property on a rather exclusive island not far from my hometown. While all of this is great, and he deserves his success, it intimidates me somewhat. He's 6 years older than me, granted, and has had more time to become an established presence in his field, but in a lot of ways I am just starting out, and certainly won't be buying any property, either here or in GA anytime soon. I hope that this won't be an issue, but it could be.

The Artist is much more like me in the financial/professional regard, a fellow freelancer, in graphic design. He'll probably be the guy I meet first, in fact it may happen tonight. We had talked earlier in the week about getting together tonight for a beer or two, but those plans are still nebulous and may get delayed, since it is getting late in the afternoon and nothing has been decided yet. There aren't any glaring red flags on this playing field so far.

By the way, if one of you is reading this at some point in the future, Hi! Aren't you glad we met/worked through that/got along so well?

Fun with Google

I noticed tonight that someone had landed here after googling Cully so I decided to look through it myself and see what else there was.

This blog shows up on page 2 of the search. You have to go almost 80 pages deep into the search to get a reference to me professionally. I share a name with a professional comic book artist, Cully Hamner which I knew, but I also share a passing resemblance to him, which I didn't know. I also share my name with a popular ski resort area in Switzerland and a hotel chain there. An archaic definition of cully as a word, rather than a name, is "dupe" or "fool." As a name Cully has a Gaelic origin and means either "handsome" or "dwells in the woods." (Guess which definition I prefer?)

Complete Set

I don't often share my "real" art here, the things that I do on a day to day basis to make money and survive in my chosen industry, and my chosen city. But I'm so proud of this one that I really want to share it with the world. This is the show that I built over Christmas weekend, and also the show that got me out into the world during the transit strike.

The show is a musical adapted from the William Stieg book "Brave Irene." Those of you familiar with the book will know the story of a small girl who faces danger and adventure in a snow covered world while running an errand for her sick mother. Now, aside from the fact that I'd call child protective services on this mother, (I mean really, would you send YOUR 12 year old out in a blizzard to deliver a dress to a Duchess?) the show is very sweet and charming. The songs are catchy, and poor little Irene exhibits some admirable pluck in getting out and doing what needed to be done.

Most importantly I had an enormous amount of fun working on this show, and coming up with ways to portray trees, (stylized ones at least) and snow and a myriad of both indoor and outdoor locations, sometimes simultaneously. If any of my NYC readers have children and are looking for something fun to do on a weekend, I heartily recommend this show, (and this theatre in general).

Subway Sketches Part LXXXV


Well, I'm a few steps closer to getting this taken care of. Like most communities New York has a health care center based on income and need. The William H. Ryan Health Center has several locations throughout town, and once you become a member of their network your visits are subsidized by their foundation. X-rays and other basic tests are included in the cost of your visit, and prescriptions are a maximum patient input of $5. The basic visit price is based on your income, as determined by last year's tax returns. I have an appointment with them next week. A HUGE thank you to Aaron for pointing this out to me, and suggesting that I look into it.

Of course now that I have an appointment the pain has subsided a bit, or perhaps I was just putting less strain on myself yesterday. I managed to get through most of the day without much difficulty. Though I was still "aware" of my knee, in a way that I wasn't aware of... say... my left elbow. Of course I went out of my way to transfer trains more, and walk less. (I typically would prefer to walk 5 or 10 extra blocks than to wait for a transfer between subways.) And I walked just a touch over a mile by my estimation, as opposed to my typical 3 miles a day. I love walking in the city, and can't stand the thought of lessening that though.

I hate being "sick."

Financial Challenges

Today makes it official. One full week after my Olympian hike... I'm still in pain. I've taken more Advil, and worn more Therma-Care heat wraps, than I ever have before. I've also completed more consecutive days wearing my brace than ever before.

I've come to the conclusion that I may have seriously damaged myself, and that it's time to do something about it.

Here is where the life of a freelancer gets tricky. I have no insurance, and despite having one of the better years of my life artistically my bank account isn't exactly overflowing. The last time I had my knee examined I had to have multiple x-rays and several follow up visits. Of course the last time I had insurance, because I was in grad school. That visit was ultimately fruitless because the doctor essentially said that whatever was wrong wasn't advanced enough to diagnose. The pain subsided, and became just an occasional nuisance, so I never followed up on it. My self prescribed and drug store purchased brace has gotten me through the worst of it.

That is until now. Now I'm faced with the eternal freelancer's challenge: finding healthcare, but not paying for it. At least not paying much. I'll be researching this more thoroughly tomorrow, there has to be something for this situation in this city. There are just too many people here in similar positions for there not to be. (New York readers, I'm open to suggestions.)

Subway Sketches Part LXXXIV

Subway Sketches Part LXXXIII

2005: By the Numbers

Unique viewers to this site.
Songs added to my iTunes.

Approximate number of comics bought, (based on a weekly average of 8 books).
Blog Posts.
Amount in dollars of the salary for my lowest paid design gig.
Amount in dollars of the rent increase between my old apartment and new.
Views of my most viewed Subway Sketch on Flickr.
Subway Sketches posted.
Percentage decrease in square footage between old bedroom and new.
Approximate number of books read.
Movies seen.

Shows designed.
Approximate number of days spent outside New York State.
Times listened to Colin Hay's "Waiting For My Real Life to Begin." (My most played iTunes song for the year.)

Weeks spent in the mountains designing summer stock.
Approximate number of miles walked during the transit strike.
Broadway shows seen.

First dates.
Family members seen.
Visits to the Museum of Natural History.

Pairs of shoes purchased.
Dwellings lived in.
Buildings stood on the roof of.
NY burroughs worked in.
Number of weeks in my longest "relationship" of the year.
Second Dates.
Plane trips taken.
Zoos visited.
Trees climbed.
Sketchbooks filled.
Weddings I officiated.
Parades I walked in.
Tattoos gotten.
Car wrecks involved in.
Deer killed.

Subway Sketches LXXXII

Subway Sketches LXXXI