How long have you been doing this?
I began freelancing as an entertainer-cum-caricaturist 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 a 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 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 "Bachelor & Spinster Ball" at Armoury House whilst 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 - that said sketching a whole bunch in one go means I can work really fast. If, 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 since you never know when you've run out). One end tapers and bends like an artist's paintbrush, and on the other end you have a fine-liner, meaning that with the one pen you can get many expressive line variations.
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 here 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 (in some ways at least - she made the heads smaller) to what I do now.
I'm on the frayed edge of a long string of wayward artistic eccentrics. My cousin Max is a highly regarded post-bohemian restorer of sometimes esoteric Renaissance masters, and my big sister Clémentine 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! My subjects enjoy the luxury of being superbly offended absolutely free.
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 do more gentle 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.
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 - Will Self once amusingly re-titled it Dullston, but it's actually quite fun & "happening". 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. I'm all over the place!
How do we go about booking you?
Click/tap the screen here for my fees and more booking info. Experience is the one thing money can't buy, so feel free (since it is) to pick - what's left of - my brains for my last twenty professional years of it. 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!"
Contact Alfie (or "Mr Sketchum"!)
~ For a prompt quote please use the enquiry form ~
(*if emailing, try to include the details requested below)
"Ticket inspectors. You’ve got to hand it to them…"
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)