Who are you?
I'm Alfie - the last name's Deliss, but sometimes I say Delish just for fun. "Mr Sketchum" is the stage name 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 attend parties, corporate events, weddings and private functions, providing entertainment with free on-the-spot caricatures. I'm the guy at the party with a clipboard, but not the one supervising the taxi queue.
How long have you been doing this?
I started freelancing as an entertainer 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 the steel rule the pupils had clubbed together to get him for a Christmas present.
I took my first booking at a bachelors & spinsters ball while studying at Chelsea way back in 1991. I did six years of art study in all so have lots of scrappy qualifications up to a BA in illustration, then did a year of "2D" animation training...then I saw the light and started having fun doing this full-time in 1999.
How long does each portrait take?
Five minutes is about average - if an enthusiastic group insists I draw everyone, to expedite and comply (give them exactly what they want), I do smaller more rudimentary sketches that are instantly recognisable and that people find hilarious because they're so pared down.
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 fashion designer who had a dress shop in Chelsea in the sixties and early seventies. She would loosely sketch designs with a black (Tempo) felt-tip on sheet after sheet of paper, which is what I do now (but she made the heads smaller).
I'm on the frayed edge of a long tangled string of wayward artistic eccentrics. My cousin Max Deliss is a highly regarded restorer of esoteric Renaissance masters, and my sister Clémentine Deliss is an 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 (sorry); if guests are relaxed, chatting and having fun they're more likely to reveal positive and often uniquely quirky aspects of their natural selves.
Do you charge for the drawings?
No chance! Sketching portraits of people you've never met before is hard enough without having to get money out of them too!
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 personalities of guests.
What are your influences?
Phil May, André Franquin, Bruce Stark, Paula Rego, Stephen Collins, 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 drawn a . There was me thinking it was impossible to draw a blank!
Do we get to keep the drawings?
Yes of course! What would I do with them?! Guests receive free gifts which are "more them than they are" - to use as dartboards.
Where are you based?
Dalston ("Dullston" according to Will Self) in east London. Mine is a traveling job - bookings take my Thermos™ all across the country, and on the odd occasion further.
So how do we go about booking you?
Do you enjoy your work?
Yes, because the guests do, and surviving more or less just by sketching is something of a miracle. As my mother once said of me ~ "He's alright when he's drawing."