Q&A / FAQs
Who are you?
I'm Alfie - Mr Sketchum is the stage name that I use...although I don't actually get up on stages. Born and raised surrounded by museums and sightseers in South Kensington, I did a ten-year stretch at the French Lychee...oops, pardon my French, Lycée up the street, then studied at Chelsea College of Art & Design (subsequently re-named to Chelsea School of Arts) - click/tap here for caricatures of the tutors.
What do you do?
I entertain guests at every imaginable type of function all over the country by sketching caricatures. The joke is I'm the man at the party with a clipboard, but not that guy who supervises the taxi queue.
How long have you been doing this?
I began freelancing as an entertainer sketching live caricatures in 1999, but drew cartoons long before. When I was about ten I was sent to see the headmaster and receive an "engueulade" (French for b*ll*cking) for doing a comic strip depicting our maths teacher Monsieur Tagariste ("Taga") blinding the fidgety pupils at the back of the class by throwing chalk stubs at them, and decapitating the entire front row with one swoosh of his steel rule.
I took my first 'proper-but-unofficial' booking at a chaotic bachelors & spinsters ball at while studying at Chelsea way back in 1991. I did six years of art study in all - a degree in illustration, some in-depth 2D (..) animation training...then started having fun doing this full-time.
How long does each portrait take?
Five minutes is about the average - In a relatively informal situation, an enthusiastic group insists I draw everyone, to expedite and comply (give them exactly what they want and not offend by refusal!), I do smaller rudimentary sketches that are instantly recognisable and that the guests find particularly hilarious precisely because they're so pared down.
What are those pens you use?
I use "brush pens" with black and grey water-based inks (not invisible ink - you never know when you've run out). One end tapers and bends like an artist's paintbrush, and on the other end you also have a fine-liner..
Does art run in the family?
My grandfather Leo Delitz was a Viennese I suppose what you might call "elevated society" (!) portrait painter. When the Nazis came along with their message of peace and love, the family weren't quite convinced, and so left Austria to it and came to London. My father & his brother joined the British Army and in case they were captured & shot for treason (!), adapted their name to Deliss when they volunteered for the Glider Pilot Regiment.
My Parisian mother, Michèle Deliss, was a gifted designer who had a fab boutique - Marianne Faithfull's favourite dress shop no less - in Chelsea in the sixties and early seventies. She would sketch designs in a very "fluid" style with a black (Tempo) felt-tip on sheet after sheet of typing paper, which is ostensibly similar to what I do now (but she made the heads smaller).
I'm on the frayed edge of a long string of wayward artistic eccentrics. My cousin Max Deliss is a highly regarded post-bohemian restorer of sometimes esoteric Renaissance masters, and my big sister Clémentine Deliss is an eminent academic art practice theorist, curator and publisher.
Do your subjects have to "pose"?
They can if they like, but for me encouraging them to interact works better. I work fast and fortunately people seem to find me funny so they - literally - get drawn into the situation; if guests are relaxed, chatting and having fun they're far more likely to reveal the positive and sometimes uniquely quirky aspects of their natural selves.
Do you charge for the drawings?
No chance! Sketching portraits of innocent party-goers you've never met before in nothing flat is tricky enough without having to get money out of them as well!
Have you ever really offended anyone?
Fortunately people get that it's just a bit of fun. I can sense when the mood is right for comedy sketches, and when it's more appropriate to simply do non-exaggerated thumbnail portraits. Most of the time I do a combination of both, based on the general atmosphere as well as the individual personalities of guests. If there's no atmosphere and none of the guests is having much of a good time I can just concentrate on being approachable while drawing fast and accurately.
What are your influences?
I like Phil May, André Franquin, Reiser, Wolinski, Spy, Tintoretto, Honoré Daumier, Dave the Chimp, Mr Wim/Spaghetti Man, John Tenniel, Martin Rowson, John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Shelton, John Hölmstrom, Ralph Steadman & Gerald Scarfe, Steve Ditko, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Gotlib, Tex Avery, Milt Kahl, David Low...there's many more, but my mind's suddenly gone !
Do we get to keep the drawings?
Yes of course, what would I do with them!! Guests receive something which is more them than they are, free of charge, to use as a dartboard.
Where are you based?
Dalston in east London. To a large extent mine is a traveling job - bookings for Mr Sketchum take my Thermos™ and I all across the UK, and occasionally elsewhere.
How do we go about booking you?
Click/tap the screen here for my fees and more booking info. It's an odd job, so feel free (since it is) to ask me questions & pick my brains for my last twenty years of experience - the one thing money can't buy - of doing this for professionally. For a quote I'd recommend using the enquiry form (just below), or you can email or simply pick up the phone.
Do you enjoy your work?
Yes, because the guests do, and surviving more or less just by doing drawings is something of a miracle. As my mother once said of me ~ "He's alright when he's drawing."
If you have any questions or would like a quote, please email or use the enquiry form below, and I'll come back to you by email - or of course you can simply "get on the horn".
"Ticket inspectors. You’ve got to hand it to them…"