Disneyland – Pastel Portrait Artist

Wow!  This picture was sent to me by an old friend.  Many, many moons ago I worked at Disneyland as a portrait artist on Main Street.  Any guesses what year?  I’ve also worked there as a caricature artist and silhouette artist.  In fact, I believe I’m the only person ever to have done all three.   It was a BLAST!

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22 Comments »

  1. Zach Trenholm Said:

    Mid-1960′s? As a caricaturist as well as someone with a keen interest in the history of quick-sketch caricature, i’d really enjoy reading more on your time there, what it was like, who you worked with (poss. Tom ‘Huff’ Hofstedt ? ) etc. Also if you have an example or two of your work from that time that would be terrific too…

    Thanks! Zach

    PS Love how you blocked the identity of your model—-almost as though you were engaging her in something disreputable ;-)

  2. sugarmanart Said:

    Hi Zack. Thank you for commenting on my blog. Not quite that old. I was hired right out of high school in 1976 as a portrait artist on Main street and at the end of that year we were shut down, years later to reopen in New Orleans. The following year I was hired for a 4 week caricature training session with 11 other artists and at the end of the training I was one of 2 that were kept on as sessional employees. I’ll tell you that I didn’t work for the subcontractor Rubio, I worked for Disneyland. I worked with Barry, Amy and one other guy that I can’t remember. I was mainly stationed in the Arcade in Tommorow Land. Very fun but not there any more. After they closed that stand down I had become friends with the main silhouette artist on Main Street, Harry. He trained me free, on his own time because they needed another artist. I was there until 1987 and quit to stay home as a new mommy. It was a lot of fun, and great for the ego, but the pay was terrible and the hours were worse. It gave me a good base for hiring as an entertainment caricature artist and I’ve been doing that, on and off, ever since. I hope this all makes sense as I have a tendancey to ramble. I took a look at your site. I really like your style. I’ll look more later. Sorry I didn’t know Tom. Was he your dad or something? If you want to know more about what it was like, please ask. I’m afraid I’m babbling too much, and if I start I won’t shut up but right now I need to get back to my ps file. Thanks again. Jamie ……… Bwahahaha, that model is probably 40 now.

  3. Zach Trenholm Said:

    Thanks very much for the above Jamie, appreciate you sharing a bit of your background as a caricaturist. I’ve heard of Jess Rubio but don’t know much other than that he was well-known concessionaire here on the west coast in the 70′s, 80′s….

    No—-Huf actually isn’t my dad, just something of a profile caricature legend that i know (did caricatures at the Seattle World’s Fair in ’61). He did a stint at Anaheim during the 60′s too (which is why i mentioned him), later moving to Honolulu to run a stand there for many years. He’s back in Tacoma these days, semi-retired: http://www.tomhuf.com/

    Best—Zach

  4. Hi.. I worked there as well in 1976 as a pastel portrait artist…along with Dawn Mcgill she made chalks that we used for hair…garry, Janet, val, Randy and I think phillip…we worked off of main st and had a button that we pressed for the next person in line… we worked grad nites as well …i worked directly for Disnsey and was hirered by Chuck… i was only 19 at the time and lived in anahieim… along with some other Disney people… you can contact me if you would like at mgdefran01@yahoo.com my website is michaeldefrancescostudio.com …cool…that picture sure brings back fond memories…even that pastel rat tail sharpener… wow…i think thats what we called it!

  5. Hello, Jamie, I stumbled onto your blog post about doing portraits at D-Land while I was doing a search to see if the artists were still there. I also did portraits, but in New Orleans Square. I worked for Rudio and it was probably better than being a regular employee. By 1986 when I started there the Walt Disney Company’s style of management was nothing less than intimidation, as you probably know if you left in ’87. But we definitely had it a little easier. I recognize the easel and chalk tray in your photo and it sure brought back memories. I’m planning a trip there in the fall and was hoping to stop and chat with the artists. Haven’t been there in almost 2 decades! They wouldn’t allow us to do caricatures due to too many complaints about “racist” drawings, and idiotic things like that. But when it was slow, and no “Disnoids” were around (our term for management), we’d do them anyway and it always got business to pick up. Though the job was hectic, and for little pay, I really liked the people I worked with and have remained friends with many of them. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, at how many of us went on to have successful careers as artists, and still laugh about those crazy days whenever we get together. Anyway, thanks for the post; it’s neat learning about the artists there before me. Now I definitely have to get down there soon!

  6. sugarmanart Said:

    Hi! You’re the second portrait artist to find my site. It’s nice to hear from you. It doesn’t surprise me at all that most of us became successful artists. It took a considerable amount of talent, skill, and courage to do what we did. I took a look at your site…..absolutely beautiful. Your work is lovely. Where are you located? I looks like you’re doing very well. I especially like your Sirens.
    I drew portraits only for one year in 1976. They closed us down at the end of that summer. Fortunately I was able to continue on when they opened a new caricature stand in TomorrowLand and that turned out to be a lot of fun and my jumping off point for many endeavors. Interesting they wouldn’t let you do them. I always wondered what it was like to work for Rubio. Did you know Shiela Jackson?
    Thank you for writing.

  7. Hi again, Jamie. Yes, I did work with someone named Sheila, though I can’t recall her last name. I believe she and her husband also did set dressing at one of the movie studios, if that rings any bells. Thanks for the kind words about my paintings! The sirens were originally for a book, but the prints sold like crazy in galleries in Hawaii. I looked at your web page, too, and really like what you do. I’ve always wanted to try something like that, especially the trompe l’oeil (had to look that one up!), but was always afraid I’d get into it and not know when to stop! I have a few ideas I’d really like to do on room dividers. I live 40 minutes north of the Golden Gate, so I don’t get to Southern Cal very often. I’m presently looking forward to getting there in the fall and visiting some of my old teachers at Cal State Fullerton. Visiting alumni, and all that. And while there I’m planning on seeing some friends from long ago, many of them from the portrait stand, and visiting Disneyland! I’ll probably be bored by the time I reach the castle, but who knows? It will be interesting. BTW: I’m pretty sure they must have repainted those easels and recycled them in New Orleans Square. I swear the easel and chalk tray are the same ones we were using. I’ll bet there’s a lot of history just about the portrait artists alone. Take care, and thanks for the reply. BillE

  8. Donnie Ashford Said:

    My name is donnie I had a portrait done in 1976 , I think on Main Street. The person signed looks like Vetr 76 or relr very faded would you have idea who this would be. The e seems to be up side down. Please respond

  9. sugarmanart Said:

    Hi Donnie, What a surprise that you still have your portrait from 76. The signature you discribe isn’t mine but I think I might know who it is. I can contact this other artist for you. Could you share a picture of the portrait?

  10. Susan Brown Said:

    Hi In 1983 I had a pastel portrait done while I was a student at the University of Arizona. The male visiting artist was doing a demonstratIon for my illustration class(teacher was Carl R. Heldt).The artist said he had worked as a portrait artist for Disneyland,on Main Street. He never signed the work and I sure would like to know who he was.Can anyone help? Thanks Susan

  11. sugarmanart Said:

    Hi Susan, It’s so nice to hear that you still have your portrait and seem to be still enjoying it. I only remember the names of a couple of the men that worked out there. Is it possible for you to post a picture of the portrait? About how old was he at the time? The Main Street artist’s were closed down at the end of 1976 so it may be very difficult to find who it was.

  12. Susan Brown Said:

    Hi again
    After reading your site I realized that their were many artists who worked for Disneyland with various art backgrounds. And it was a shock to realize that some worked for Jess Rubio and and not directly for Disney.Naive me!!! I now live in Southern Oregon and unfortunately do not have access to the portrait ,for it is in storage in Portland. I plan on going up there in June so I will jpeg it then. Additionally,I really enjoyed viewing your art and seeing all the different types of artwork that you have done. You a prolific and gifted artist.

  13. sugarmanart Said:

    Susan, Thank you so much for the kind compliments. I so appreciate it. Yes, DL was a great place to work, but there were many of us in different fields. We portrait artists on Main Street were Disneyland and not Rubio. I think the ones there now, in New Orleans and on the bridge in Ca Adventure, are Rubio but I could be wrong. Thank you for finding me. I look forward to a jpg of your portrait.

  14. Susan Brown Said:

    Hello again-Time sure does fly.Well I found the portrait and to my amazement ,it is signed, Willis Parker. Funny it was signed in pencil and was so softly written ,it blended in with the pastels. Do you know him?
    I finally have a site on Fineartamerica.com under Susan Brown Brookings OR Its free for now and I needed a place for gallerys to look.
    Susan

  15. Zach Said:

    Hi Susan—came across yesterday some pix on ebay of Disneyland artists at work right around the same time as your above pic—in fact they look like they’re even from the same camera (!). I can send them to you if like…..

  16. sugarmanart Said:

    hi Zach, I hope Susan gets this message. How did you find the pix? I just looked and couldn’t find them. I like your caricatures btw, nice likeness.

  17. Hi Jaime–i meant you actually, not Susan! I booked marked one of them:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-70s-PHOTO-Of-GUY-ARTIST-Drawing-Portrait-Of-WOMAN-At-Easel-/380615902473?pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item589e79c509

    Thanks for the kind words btw!

  18. sugarmanart Said:

    How fun. That artist is in New Orleans (Disneyland) and they opened that stand after we were closed down on Main Street. I never got to know any of those artists since I went the other direction into Tomorrowland and the Arcade Caricature stand. It was all a lot of fun. Thank you.

  19. Ron Said:

    Hello Jamie, my name is Ron and I’ve long considered becoming a portrait artist in DL – in fact, I consider it a “dream” of mine. I had my first portrait done on Main St. along with my dad back in 1969 and it’s one of my prized possessions! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and comments here. I’m at the point in my life where I’d love to work for Rubio Arts, even if only for a summer season (I live in Northern CA but would definitely move down to the area to live out my dream, even if only for 2-3 months). At one point, a few years back, I was even in touch with the manager. I majored in illustration and love to watch the artists whenever I’m in the park. Anyhow, enough about me. I’m curious to know how long you would spend on a portrait there. Perhaps it’s different for caricatures vs. “real life” renditions? Thanks again for your posts. I read all the responses and find it so fascinating to have an “insider’s” point of view!

  20. sugarmanart Said:

    Hi Ron! I just love that you have this dream. It was a dream of mine when I was a little girl and I’m so proud to have done it. First, I never worked for Rubio. I worked for Disneyland before Rubio took over the portrait and caricatures, but I know they run basically the same way.

    The trick is speed as you’re always paid commission. You develop tricks and shortcuts, and learn as you go. In 1976 as a portrait artist my goal was to draw 4-5 chalks an hour, maybe 35 for the day. I was paid .85 per, before taxes, commission only. Keep in mind the minimum wage back then was under $2 an hour. In 1977 I was trained as a caricature artist using pen and ink on celluloid. I was paid .50 per, again commission only, and my goal was 100 for the day. In 1985, Harry the Silhouette artist on Main street, trained me on his own time. It took a month of cutting thousands of papers to be hired as one of only 4 Silhouette artists. I would wake up in the middle of the night with cramps in my hand. I was paid .35 per, commission only but with a guarantee of minimum wage by the week. My goal was to cut close to 200 for the day. I worked one grad night (11pm-6am) and cut only 1 silhouette. Since I had made enough earlier in the week to make up for the balance, I was paid .35 for the night. Of course that would never happen now.

    One thing you need to know is that Disneyland is open every day of the year. Expect to work holidays. My last year there I worked Christmas eve, Christmas day, and the day after Christmas. That’s ultimately why I chose to leave, because I had children.

    I spoke to a gal that worked part time for Rubio’s a couple of summers ago. She said between the costuming and shuttling (you park off site) it was a 10 hour day. Rubio pays commission also but at least minimum wage, not including costuming and shuttling time. As an artist you’ll never make a lot of money. Her paychecks were $100. to $130 for two Saturdays. The training was excellent and she loved it but unless you have seniority you get the grunt shifts. She loved the experience but it just wasn’t enough for her.

    All that being said, for me it was a blast and an adventure of a lifetime, not to mention a great ego boost. It’s always good to say I worked as a Disneyland Artist. I was able to use what I learned and develop my own business drawing caricatures for entertainment, birthdays, Bar Mitzvah’s etc. for many years. Now I only do specialized gift caricatures like the ones on this blog. Much more lucrative and still a lot of fun.

    If you had your portrait done in 69, you’re not a “young” man and you sound like you understand the art world. My advice would be to go for it but have a second job lined up in case you can’t get the hours. Financially it’ll be difficult.
    Good luck and please let me know. I have a DL pass and would love to swing by and say hello to you.

  21. Ron Said:

    Thanks for the detailed response, Jamie! You’re right – I’m not a “young” man, and sadly, after hearing about the pay a few years back, I backed off from aggressively seeking out a job with the Rubio team. (Interestingly enough, another major reason I became disillusioned was hearing I would be working for a private company and not for Disney itself – your blog has helped me see it from another point of view). I work in the school system in NorCal and also just recently started driving for Uber which might prove an important factor in allowing me to move to SoCal. About a month ago I also started practicing pastel portraits on my own once again. If I restart a dialogue with Rubio’s, it would be in the hopes they might consider hiring me for the summer season only (I’m thinking that would satisfy my “dream” yet allow me to return to my regular job come September). Also, my portraits are more realistic as opposed to caricatures (which I have noticed are far more popular). It may be a dream that is never realized……..but dreams are fun to keep, to my way of thinking! At the very least, I plan on venturing out on my own, as you have done. But, if I do end up doing a summer in the park, I will surely let you know! I’ve enjoyed hearing your perspective….and I look forward to reading more comments from both you and your readers :)

  22. sugarmanart Said:

    Thanks for getting back to me. I’m glad you got a different perspective from my response although it wasn’t what you were hoping for. I hadn’t thought about the idea of not working for Disneyland directly. hummm..true. If you decide to pursue Rubio my only advice is to not tell them it’s only for 1 summer. Generally speaking they hire seasonally anyway and the investment of training is always a balancing act. Good luck whatever you decide. Thank you for the contact.


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