Walking along the Charles Bridge in Prague the other day, I was amazed at the sheer number of street portrait artists that sit either side of the bridge touting for business.
They all seemed to offer the same service, sitting there with their easels and astonishing claims of ‘your portrait in 15 minutes’. As I ambled along the bridge admiring their work I found myself feeling quite despondent. I will never be able to draw like they can, and what’s more, I will never be able to draw like they can in 15 minutes, and what’s even more, I will never be able to draw like they can in 15 minutes on demand.
I wonder where these people come from. Do they go do a street portrait artist course to qualify? Or do they produce great works of art at home that they know they can’t make a living from and just use street art as a way of making money? Do they get bored of churning out unique identical portraits of tourists? Or, do they enjoy it? The work they produced was of a high standard in terms of technical ability yet I could not tell one artist’s style from the next. Why do they all have such a similar style? Perhaps they conspire together to produce the same style and quality of artwork. I could have picked any of them to draw me and the result would have been almost identical. Do the artists in London produce the same style portraits as those in Prague, Berlin, Nairobi, Muscat? I suspect they do. This fact cheered me up, at least I have my own style and I can indulge at my leisure without worrying too much about money (being able to earn an income with online editorial project management rather than really bad attempts at portrait art).
Still, I feel sorry for these artists who aren’t able to earn a solid income as well as draw. I just hope they are happy, leaving a tiny bit of themselves in the homes, possibly framed, of some of the millions of visitors to Prague (and London, Paris, New York, Kabul, Rome).