GET A TOON UP
Quick Draw Photo Booth brings performance and portraiture together
Haven’t you always wanted to be a cartoon? It might be easier than you think.
This year, visual/performance artist Aron Taylor unleashed a new style of captured moments on the unsuspecting public. It’s easy to tell by the looks on his subjects’ faces that they’ve scarcely felt more animated.
“When I tell my friends what I do,” Taylor says, “encompassing drawing and performance and being completely absurd, they have to laugh. They say it seems like the perfect thing for me to be doing.”
“It got me thinking, ‘It entices the imagination, this thing does.’”
Born and raised in Hawaii and educated at UT, Taylor joined theater company Rude Mechanicals in 2004. He spent a period as a working artist in New York City and took a turn at graduate school in Minneapolis before returning to Austin for keeps in 2009.
Rude Mechs tapped Taylor to assemble some booths for a western-themed carnival display that September. It was here, amid the transmedia shindig of I’ve Never Been So Happy, that Quick Draw Photo Booth was born.
The booth generated tips at the carnival installation, and not just in the form of folding money. “It was interesting how many children gave me feedback about the booth,” says Taylor. “It got me thinking, ‘It entices the imagination, this thing does.’”
Here’s Quick Draw in its nascent glory, at the show’s encore performance in 2011:
Quick Draw is a pop-up photo booth in the truest sense, rising out of the event grounds and ready for action in three minutes or less. Taylor learned his rapid assembly method from his work with the Theater Action Project, where he tours as part of interactive anti-bullying show The Courage to Stand.
Once it’s put together, the booth never quiets down. Its list of personalities has expanded since the western carnival, although the original cowboy still takes a go-round now and again. Depending on the event, Quick Draw might contain a psychic medium, a French artist or a humanities-educated robot with a chip on its shoulder.
One perk of working the booth, Taylor says, is that it gives him a chance to really use what he learned in graduate school: “The robot makes reference to research papers about cyborgs and post-post-feminism, and the friendly Texan throws around highbrow art-speak. The aim is to poke fun and know how to not go too far.”
Taylor has been doing most of his recent events as art show installations, collecting tips and delighting patrons around the grounds of such happenings as Fusebox Festival 2012 and the West Austin Studio Tour. Soon enough, though, the Quick Draw experience will be available for all manner of public and private events.
A grand opening for QDPB is in the works, announcing the booth as officially for hire. Taylor and his fellow booth performers are gathering donations to build a second one, to accommodate the demand they’ve seen at larger events.
“Comedy in this way is both nurturing and antagonizing, and the balance between that is what makes it more than something that’s just kind of cute.”
“When there’s something like 50,000 people around, the line for one booth can get up to an hour long,” Taylor says. “We don’t want people to have to wait around forever.”
After you do sit for your Quick Draw portraits, they take three minutes to develop and slide out of a slot in the side of the booth. An identical set goes up online, paired side-by-side with the digital snaps that inspired the illustrations.
These side-by-sides help show the honest brilliance of QDPB artists. Not only are the sketches some of the most sure-fire smile bait in the business, but the digital photos alongside them make you look cool.
It’s that aspect of general photo booth artistry that has fueled its popularity over the last several years: a good photographer will bring out your best face. Quick Draw Photo Booth does this, and then makes gentle fun of your best face in a way that leaves you laughing and feeling prettier on the inside.
“It’s challenging,” Taylor says. “Comedy in this way is both nurturing and antagonizing, and the balance between that is what makes it more than something that’s just kind of cute.”
No date is yet announced for the booth’s official debut, but keep an eye out. In the meantime, click here for an almost-work-safe glimpse of how much fun it is to get your picture made by hand.
Learn more about Quick Draw Photo Booth through Facebook or its home on the Web. Aron Taylor continues to tour withThe Courage to Standand is currently contributing visuals to poetry, music and illustration project "Not Every Mountain…"