What does it look like to be a live events artist?

Being a live events artist is a lot more involved than showing up, drawing, and leaving.

I wanted to share the complete process of what it looks like from client inquiry to finishing a gig at a live event. Read on!

Client Inquiry:
Clients contact myself or email The Sketch Effect to ask about working together. We have conversations to talk about the event, including content, dates, their goals, etc. to make sure our services are an appropriate fit. If they are, we submit a proposal to the client.

Client confirmation:
After the client accepts the bid and signs the contract, we move forward into more detailed conversations. We find out who our point of contact is, times we need to be there, what sessions we are sketching, we provide our details for travel and accommodations, and determine colors to use. We don’t know the content ahead of time, but sometimes we are able to get the talk title and speaker headshot so we can do the board headers before the event begins.

Behind the scenes, I do a lot of personal preparation. I research the client, learning all about their business or service so I’m familiar by the time the event rolls around. I don’t want to be blindsided by industry-specific terms or content if I can learn about it early.

I practice the types of drawings that I will be doing at the event. So, if we have a restaurant client, I make sure to practice drawing waiters, buildings, food, dishes, kitchen items, etc. Practicing drawing the related images makes me more efficient when it’s time for the event- I don’t have to think about how to draw it because I will already be familiar with it. I also test all of my markers, determining the perfect color to match the client’s brand colors, and making sure I won’t run out of ink mid-board.

When it’s time to go to the event, I do a thorough packing job, making sure not to forget anything.

What I pack:

  • uniform shirts
  • jeans
  • the Sketch Effect’s signature orange converse shoes
  • sweatshirt (airplanes are always cold!)

Job Materials

  • Markers, ink refills, backups
  • Graphic recording: Easels
  • Graphic recording: blank white sticky labels for the occasional stray mark
  • Graphic recording: logo stickers to place on the foam core boards
  • Graphic recording: kneeling pad. You can be standing and kneeling for 10+ hours at these events. It’s important to take care of your body where you can so you don’t get exhausted too fast.
  • Sketchnotes sketchbook. Even if I do graphic recording, bringing my sketchbook along has proven to be a helpful visual aid when explaining my job to attendees.
  • Business cards.
  • Phone charger/battery pack. I use my cellphone to look up word spellings and reference images during the event. I love it when my drawing station is next to an outlet because I can keep my phone charged, but a battery pack is a must-have.
  • Watch with timer. While I can use my phone for timing talks, it looks more professional to look at your wrist than it does to stare at your phone.

I like to plan for things to go wrong so I’m prepared if they happen. When I have graphic recording gigs, I get a little nervous about checking my bag of easels. I always think “What if they don’t make it on the plane?” The reality is that if my bag of easels doesn’t make it, my job will be inconvenient but not impossible. My job WOULD be impossible without my markers, so I make sure to carry all essential-to-the-job materials with me on a carry-on size bag. I oftentimes just pack a backpack and the bag of easels because many of our travel gigs are only one to two days. Packing light makes travel a lot easier. Also, because I travel so often, TSA Pre-check has been an incredible time saver. I don’t have to remove my stuff from my bags or take off my shoes. It’s worth every penny, and I can’t recommend it enough if you travel often.

Pre event:
I arrive at the venue or hotel before the event to walk through my job duties with my point of contact, making sure the schedule hasn’t changed or that I am aware of any changes. I get set up and, if possible, get started on the headers of the boards or sketchnotes so they’re ready to go for the event. I make a note of where everything is- restrooms, breakout rooms, check-in area, lunch location, etc.

Event time:
I arrive at least 1 hour before attendees to set up and make sure I’m ready to go. I keep a schedule close at hand to reference throughout the day.

Event Breaks:
These breaks are for the attendees, not me! I use breaks in the schedule to catch up on work, finishing drawings and adding extra color. Many clients want to display the graphic recording boards in common areas or post pictures of the sketchnotes right after the talk, so these breaks are a perfect time to put the finishing touches on before anyone gets a closer look. While these breaks are valuable to catch up, I also need to take care of myself. It’s not professional to miss a part of a talk because I had to use the restroom when I had an opportunity over a break period.

I also consider mealtimes a break- I often go to lunch after all of the attendees have gone, and I eat quickly so I can maximize the time I have to work on boards and get set up for the next session.

Sometimes I’m able to take my time during breaks and enjoy lunch with everyone, but my main focus is on providing an incredible product for our clients, so if I have the time to spend making boards more awesome, that’s what I choose to do. If I do have unused time, sometimes it’s nice to go out in the common areas where my work is displayed to take pictures of people looking at my work and engage in conversation.

Post event:
After the event has ended, I put the finishing touches on the boards or sketchnotes and put them out for display as soon as possible. Once most attendees have left the event, I take pictures of all of the boards or scan in sketchnotes for digitization. We then send those digital images to the event organizers who like to post them online, share on social media, and email to attendees. I clean up my supplies, thank the point of contact, and wrap up any loose ends. After that, I will travel home!

That about covers it- if you’ve made it this far, you also might be interested in following me on snapchat this week. I will be traveling to Atlanta for a graphic recording gig with Delta Airlines, and will be documenting everything there. Follow me

This post originally appeared on emily.cartlton.com. Subscribe for updates.