STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.

Ken Fallin: Starting Each Day With A Blank Page

September 16, 2021 Lisa Hopkins, Wide Open Stages Season 4 Episode 15
STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.
Ken Fallin: Starting Each Day With A Blank Page
Show Notes Transcript

Lisa chats with renowned caricature artist Ken Fallin about his gift, his process, imposter syndrome, his association with Al  Hirschfeld and his unique propensity to look forward to the unknown and and presume the best.

"You  never know what's gonna happen next!"

Kenneth Fallin is a caricature artist whose pen and ink celebrity portraits have been published internationally by such diverse and distinguished publications as The Wall Street Journal, In Style Magazine, The New Yorker Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and Barron’s Magazine.  He received an Emmy Award nomination for his animated commercial for CNBC’s “Squawk Box” show and has several posters in the permanent poster collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. His drawings are also on the walls of The Players Club. A permanent collection of original drawings and prints is on display at New World Stages in New York City. Private collectors of Ken’s work include Angela Lansbury, Kelli O’Hara, Stephen Schwartz, Warren Buffett, Barbra Streisand,, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bernadette Peters, Sarah Paulson, Bradley Cooper, Sir Patrick Stewart, Harold Prince, and Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

https://www.kenfallinart.com/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8Nyh4UlHf4&t=3s


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Lisa Hopkins:

This is the stop time podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Hopkins, and I'm here to engage you in thought provoking motivational conversations around practicing the art of living in the moment. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm excited to dig deep and offer insights into embracing who we are and where we are at. I'm so excited to introduce you to my next guest, Kenneth Fallin is a caricature artist whose pen and ink celebrity portraits have been published internationally by such diverse and distinguished publications as the Wall Street Journal instyle magazine, The New Yorker, The Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times The Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and Barron's magazine. He received an Emmy Award nomination for his animated commercial for CNBC Squawk Box show, and has several posters in the permanent poster collection of London's Victoria and Albert Museum. His drawings are also on the walls of the players club. A permanent collection of original drawings and prints is on display at New World stages in New York City. So check it out if you're in the neighborhood. private collectors of Ken's work include Angela Lansbury, Kelly O'Hara, Stephen Schwartz, Warren Buffett, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bernadette Peters, Sarah Paulson, Bradley Cooper, Sir Patrick Stewart, Harold Prince and sir Cameron Mackintosh. Welcome to the stop time podcast can so great to have you.

Kenneth Fallin:

Thank you.

Lisa Hopkins:

you have such a unique gift. Your ability to capture the essence of a person is remarkable and kind of what brought us together here today.Can you tell me a little bit about that? Do you see it as a gift? First of all?

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, I guess it really is. It's something that I started doing when I was very young. Because of Mad Magazine. And cartoons. I started drawing cartoons. And then when I discovered caricature, I tried doing it and it was crude at first, but I people would recognize my drawing. So I think it is a gift. I think it's like people that are good with music, or math or languages. I think there's just something in there. The wiring, somehow, it comes out. And I'm amazed by it. I'm sometimes very frustrated when it doesn't come out. Right. But it's also when it comes out. Right. I sometimes don't know, that. It's it's always a mystery, which keeps it exciting.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, no, I mean, I think as, as an artist, I'm so curious to know, I PS, you know, I'm a visual artist, but with I use my body.You know, I'm a dancer, right? So I cannot pen and paper, no way pen and paper if I'm writing a story, absolutely. So I just, you know, I am in reverence of you. And those like you, who can express yourself in that way, it's remarkable to me and I'm so curious, like, you know, as a dancer, I feel it from the inside out. Mostly. So it's sort of the feeling comes, you know, and, and, and then I express myself, I feel like there's an aspect of what you do, where you're interpreting something, I mean, we interpret the music probably in the same way that you interpret your subjects. Talk to me a little bit about the inner outer aspect of your work.

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, it starts with the image, um, I look at a person, I usually work from photographs, and I look at a photograph. And hopefully right away I see something, some personality or something it can be in the eyes, can be in the mouth can be in all of those things. And I really just start, I guess the way a composer does it with a blank piece of paper, and I just start drawing. And somehow that all comes together. Not always, but usually,if the gods are smiling on me right away, I get something and I don't really think of it as exaggerating. I just sort of like what you were talking about dancing. It's just sort of expressing a line or something and trying to get that personality in it. experimentation. Sir is my friend. You. You do things and it's always done in pencil first before I ink it in?

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, that's interesting. So do you like when you're making changes in the process? Do you just erase or do you actually scrap the paper and start again?

Kenneth Fallin:

Oh, no, I'm, I have such a thing about throwing paper away. I did a drawing once were, I had done a pencil drawing and I did a completely new drawing on the on the surface of that board and someone bought the original and then they called me up and they were very Excited, they said, we're seeing another drawing coming through. And I was very embarrassed because I have this phobia about wasting paper. But no, I erase whatever section or eye or nose nostril, whatever is not working for me. So it's strictly erasing.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. So what does it feel like? Like? I'm sure I mean, my understanding of you and tell me, you know, in the way you work is, you're a freelancer. Yes. Right. Like most of us, and that, that you get asked, you get a gig to do a drawing, right? And it must be very different for you. Because it's like, I guess what I'm getting at is, you know, someone says, you know, draw me for instance, what if you're not? What if you're not feeling it? Like, what, you know what I mean? How do you get to that place?

Kenneth Fallin:

Sometimes, if it's not working, I will just stop and go away for an hour, sometimes longer and come back and try again, usually the second time that it works, but I think sometimes for whatever reason, it's it, I'm just not getting it. And I think about this a lot. A lot of times when I'm drawing, my mind is like, blank. It's just the drawing, I'm drawing, and it's not automatic, but I'm not really concentrating that much. And sometimes when I try to concentrate, it just doesn't come out. Right. So when I concentrate is when I'm inking and trying to make the drawing look as sharp and so forth as possible. But I don't know it's it's really I, like I said before, it's it's sort of a mystery to me. How it how it transpires?

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, very cool. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, it sounds like you're describing flow.Yeah, if I'm hearing you correctly, when you ink it, that's when it becomes a little bit more technical, you've already really created the art, but now you're delivering it in a way that is your style, and that that sort of is expected and that you know how to do but it's it's not really, it's a different part of the brain almost, isn't it?

Kenneth Fallin:

Really, and, you know, every time I started drawing, I'm nervous, because I'm always thinking that it's not going to come back again. And I've done 1000s of drawings. And I've had success,

Lisa Hopkins:

and yeah, absolutely. imposter syndrome is huge.

Kenneth Fallin:

Oh, there you go.

Lisa Hopkins:

It's huge among artists.

Kenneth Fallin:

Yeah, interesting. Yeah, they're gonna find us out.

Lisa Hopkins:

Well, that's it right. And it's sort of like when you're in it, I think part of it is because when when you're in it, you're just doing it innately. It's instinctive, it's intuition, you're totally tapped in. So that, you know, cognitively when you're when you've done it, and when something is done, and you know, it's it's paid or up on the stage or in a magazine or whatever, right, then you kind of look at it, you know, from a different perspective and go Hmm, did I do, that? And then someone asked me to do it again, you're like, Oh,

Kenneth Fallin:

I know. That's why I'm, I'm not a fast startup, I could never do boardwalk caricatures. A few years ago, Microsoft was introducing a new computer that you drew on. And they hired all of Time Square, they took all of the electronic billboards in Times Square, and they put all of these stations around Time Square with a with the computer on it. And they hired a dozen different artists that worked in different styles, and had them draw on these computer screen. And when that when you were doing that, and I was one of these artists, they would flash it up on all of the signs at once. It was like this amazing situation, unfortunately. I mean, I did it. But that's not how I work. So they would have you know, you just have a stranger walk by and you'd say, Excuse me, would you like to have your caricature drawn? would come over and face me and I'm doing it, but I want to erase you know, I went against everything that I that I do, but I managed to do it. And they paid me well, so it worked out. But that's not how I work.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, how interesting.

Kenneth Fallin:

I was in front of all those people. And then my work was on all these giant signs, so I couldn't hide.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. And wow. So first of all, how courageous of you?

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, I'm one of those people, it was exciting, you know, too bad. And yeah, I don't know if it was courage or just mixed with insanity. And I really don't know,

Lisa Hopkins:

what do you what were your takeaways? What did you learn about yourself from doing it? Do you think?

Kenneth Fallin:

What did I learn about myself...

Lisa Hopkins:

from doing that?

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, that I would dive right in it. It pleased me because I even though I knew that I didn't work that way. I was going to try it Anyway, I've, I've had some pretty big advertising jobs in my life. And I'm always fascinated that I'm not nervous when I go to do one of those drawings. And this is a lot of a lot of exposure, and I'm working with advertising agents and the client and so forth. I just don't worry about it. I do the drawing. And sometimes they make little changes and so forth. But I've been very lucky I've most of my advertising work has sailed right through. And I'm happy about that, because I wouldn't want to be a nervous wreck every time that I got a big job. But I big jobs, little jobs. It's all it's always the same. Yeah, in my mind when I go to do the actual drawing.

Lisa Hopkins:

Absolutely. I mean, yeah, yeah. It would be difficult to not do what you do no matter what the gig, right? I mean,

Kenneth Fallin:

Exactly. I did a newspaper ad for Squawk Box. And it was a drawing of I think there were eight business leaders at that time. And it was like Martha Stewart and Donald Trump was one of them. It was a whole bunch of big time people. And when they called me when my agent called me and told me, I had the job and told me how much I was being paid. I was really excited. And then he said, Well, all of the people you're drawing, get to approve their drawing. And I thought, Oh, boy, such a task. And it actually turned out, Warren Buffett wanted to be smiling. And someone else I think they wanted their tie changed. And it was so small what I had to do, it went right through and then they animated it. And I like, Emmy nomination, which was very bizarre.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. Congratulations. Were any of those done in person? Or were those also done off the photographs that they chose? or How did you select the images,

Kenneth Fallin:

I actually had to look up the images of most of the clients do that now because they know the access to Google Images and so forth, that you can find anything that they could send you just about. So it's always photographs. I've done some private sittings. And sometimes when I do a private commission, I throw that in. I will come to your place. And you can sit for me, but I really I do a quick sketch, I probably don't even use that sketch. When I get back home. I take. I use photographs, because it's a frozen image and you can study it. And usually when you're doing a livepose, it's very hard for people to keep up pose very long. I don't I really don't know how the portrait artists do it. They do it but they use photographs to like working for the Wall Street Journal. A lot of people think oh, what a glamorous job I say yes. But I don't get to travel anywhere. I work from photographs. And I don't get to meet the people. Sometimes I've met people later on, but

Lisa Hopkins:

Hmm, yeah. So your connection to hirshfeld? obvious, right? I mean, tell me a little bit about that. And how that sort of affects help hinders?

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, we go way back because I think right after Mad Magazine, I saw an ad a article and an article in Life magazine. And it was about Hirschfeld, and they showed several with his drawings. I didn't know who he was. I didn't know who any of the people were that he drew. I was probably about 12, or whatever. But I love the style. I started trying to draw that way. And I would draw neighbors and friends and people that went to church and so forth. And or some of them were chasing me with a hammer, or I did their caricature. But it fascinated me. And then a few years later, I grew up in Florida, by the way, and we didn't have a lot of theater there. But the librarian in my high school would save the arts and leisure section for me every week and give it to me. And they were, of course first shelves, drawings were on there. And that really excited me being able to see those. And I didn't really study caricature, I went to art school, but they don't really, you know, teach you style and so forth. And I was actually trying to do other things because when I knew your illustrator, you're trying to develop different styles and so forth. But in 1983, there was a show that opened Off Broadway called forbidden Broadway. And if you're familiar with the show, they spoof Broadway musicals and so on and so forth. So they decided after they had been running for about nine months, they wanted an ad that spoofed Hirschfeld and I got the job.The amazing thing is that really put me on the map. I suddenly was getting all this work. But they wanted in that style, which was a blessing. But also I started taking that style and making it my own, you know, changing certain things. And I was just inspired by his work, but I wanted it to be unique to myself. And that's what I've tried to do, since I actually started getting, you know, big jobs and so forth. One time, I got a big job from American Express. And I was hired I was I replaced him because I don't know they had a disagreement about something he and his agents. So that was a blessing for me. And I actually got this job, but I, I'm proud. I mean, I'm very pleased when people compare me to Hirschfeld, because I think he's so brilliant. I met him a few times.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yes, yeah. I was gonna ask, did you ever get the opportunity to talk shop with him or

Kenneth Fallin:

I met him about three or four times. And one time I was in Boston at Harvard, they were honoring Hirschfeld, there was a big exhibit there. And I was invited. And the night that I went, I took friends of mine with me, and I dropped them off at Harvard Yard. And then I'm trying to find a parking space. I don't know if you're familiar with that area, but it's impossible. I was cursing and screaming and I'm driving around the car. I'm thinking, this is just, you know, I'm supposed to be in. I'm trying to park the car. So I finally found a parking space. And I get out and I go to the entrance to Harvard Yard and a cab pulls up and who gets out. Hirschfeld and his wife ran over and greeted them and I think they thought I was part of the Harvard committee or something. And I walked them over to the place where the exhibit was being held and we're talking and so forth. And it was so funny because I walked in with Hirschfeld on one side of me and Dolly Haas on the other. The audience, they've all these people are applauding, I think they thought that I was you know, somebody did that. Carver but that was one of those timing things that Yeah, but I've since after he passed away, a friend of mine knew the Hirschfeld and he introduced me to Louise Hirschfeld, his widow. And she was so nice to me and very encouraging and told me that she really liked my work. And she invited me one day over to the townhouse where she was still living where Hirschfeld has a studio. And it's funny when he passed away I thought I'll never get to see his studio. And that was I always wanted to do so this afternoon that I went she's showing me the house and she would go up to the top floor and she's standing in front of the door she says now I have changed nothing you're going to walk in and it's exactly left the way it was store and it was like a religious experience. I mean, I was floating on air and then she said to me Ken, would you like to sit in the barber chair behind his desk? And of course I did and I had pictures of it and I was just floating It was really an amazing experience something I never thought that I would do. So the Hirschfeld association has been very good for me and I'm friends with the people that run the Hirschfeld foundation and it's it's just been very good, much more positive than negative.

Lisa Hopkins:

That's amazing. Well and you strike me as very positive person too. So chances are you are interpreting it in a very positive light.

Kenneth Fallin:

That's very kind Thank you Lisa.

Lisa Hopkins:

No, it's your energy is beautiful. Sounds like from your point of view it's really helped and and certainly been a positive and I'm just I'm just curious just as a as an artist.Do you ever feel like dammit, I'm just going to do something else that that isn't even remotely in the style of of Hirschfeld, like what do you do you live in this?

Kenneth Fallin:

Yes, as a matter of fact, um, whenever I first started sending portfolios, and so forth to the New Yorker, they kept saying, well, we really like your work, but it's like Hirschfeld and we've, you know, we published him and so forth. And then I did a drawing of Patti lupone I don't know if I told you that I do theater drawings for I did them for playbill, and now I'm with Broadway world calm, and I did this drawing and it's completely different sent that to them, and that landed me a job. They went for that style. So I do occasionally do that. It's It's It's really out of my comfort zone. But it's also challenging and very exciting. If I get it right.

Lisa Hopkins:

People like to put people in silos because we're hardwired to do that. Our brain has so much information that we like to go okay. He's the guy that that draws like this. And she's a girl. But tell me something that I don't know about you.

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, I just started writing plays about five years ago. I love it. It's another creative outlet. But it's completely different from the illustration.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, no, absolutely. It is so much. So much has shifted in the world over the past, well, I guess 16 months or so. And, oh, yes. I'm curious to know what what discoveries you've made about yourself that maybe you you might not have otherwise discovered.

Kenneth Fallin:

I was, I was actually pleased with the way I dealt with all of this. I live right across from Riverside Park. And I have a wonderful dog that, that I walk several times a day, and we go into the park. And when we're when you were in the park, you didn't really feel like there was the some pandemic going on. It was very, very nice and beautiful and relaxing. And I would sit by the river. And that helped me a great deal. But I, I felt like I was really trying to adjust and not just get depressed about it. And it was very difficult. But that's really the thing that I did. And my dog helps me a great deal to having that. I discovered that I guess I'm a survivor, in a way is also lucky, Lisa, in that my work did not stop during that period, I was actually what the Wall Street Journal was going strong. So I still had that. And I got a lot of private commissions. And I even got a really big job with a hotel chain. So financially, it was not a bad period, which I I can imagine was really a big help. Most people did not have that. So

Lisa Hopkins:

yeah, no, absolutely. And you being very much ensconced in the Broadway community with with the work that you do.

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, that's true. I actually went to my first Broadway show last night,

Lisa Hopkins:

you did?

Kenneth Fallin:

I went to see Passover.

Lisa Hopkins:

Did it feel different? The energy of the room? I mean, was it a little bit trepidatious? Or

Kenneth Fallin:

no, that's the surprising thing. The audience was just, there was so much energy, and at the end, the curtain calls were just you know, it's like a football game, I think they should have they were very happy to be there. And they felt relieved, and they enjoyed the performance.

Unknown:

yeah,

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, what do you know be true about you, no matter what happens. So no matter what you did, if you never drew again, if if what do you know, you know, no one can take from you.

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, I still have a sense of,and you'll never know what's going to happen next. I started saying that back when I was in high school, but every day I'd get out of bed and just think, well, you never know what's gonna happen next, which is so true. And it could be good and be terrible, but it, it sort of keeps you alert. And my life has really been, I guess, like a lot of people. But it has been an adventure. And a lot of things fell out of the sky. And I never imagined some of the things that happened to me. I mean, I've been all over the world, places that I would never even thought about going to the turned out to be great and just lecturing on this thing that I love.

Lisa Hopkins:

You wake up in the morning, ready to receive right?!

Kenneth Fallin:

Always,Always,

Lisa Hopkins:

how do you want to be remembered?

Kenneth Fallin:

I think is a nice person. I think that's the most important thing, I guess we all want to be liked and loved. But I try to be friendly and interested in people. And that's really the most important thing to me, just to have other people think that I was a good person or a nice person. I'm not really sure what the things are changing so fast, like with print and so forth. I don't know how long the work will be around. It changed drastically during my career. And so I don't really think too much about that. I'm always happy when people buy my work. I think that maybe their great grandchildren will get it eventually. But it's that's not really the most important thing.

Lisa Hopkins:

What is What is your definition of living in the moment,

Kenneth Fallin:

just enjoying it, and not really thinking about tomorrow or yesterday? I'm,I'm getting up there. I'm as old as my dog. Now. Let's see. That changes you that really changes your when you're -I think my generation the baby boomers, I don't think we were ever really gave that much thought to getting older. And so when we when it started happening, it's it really changes your perspective. And, you know, older people when we're growing up, they tell you these things and I don't know it goes right out. You don't really grasp it, because I don't think it's it's conceivable at that time. I have a lot of much younger friends but especially in the theater And I tell them things like, you know, enjoy this and really grab hold of it and just savor it. Because, you know, it's a short time and and later on in life, you'll think well, gee, why didn't I stop and just really enjoy that moment instead of thinking about all the things that were going wrong

Lisa Hopkins:

or? Yeah, or what's next. Right?

Kenneth Fallin:

Right. Absolutely. So,

Lisa Hopkins:

yeah, no, it's the I mean, literally, that the human race, racing towards the same one, we all have the same finish line.

Kenneth Fallin:

That's right. And I think this thing that we all just went through, really let us know that everybody can be affected by the same thing all over the world.

Lisa Hopkins:

No, I agree. And I think there's a gift in that. I mean, as you know, destructive as it has been, and disruptive as it has been the massive gift of this collective trauma is that it really leveled for a minute the playing field of it happening to all of us.

Kenneth Fallin:

That's correct, that we are all vulnerable to the same things at the end of the day.

Lisa Hopkins:

Can you finish this phrase? Most people think, Kenneth Fallin is dot, dot, dot. But the truth is....

Kenneth Fallin:

Gee -Well, most people probably think that I have a really glamorous life. It is glamorous, but I don't think it's as glamorous as they think, wouldn't change it. I mean, I know a lot of famous people. I've been social with them, and I've loved every minute of it. But I'm much plainer than that.

Lisa Hopkins:

I love it. So how do you feel about playing? What makes you? I'm gonna say a word. And you just say, first thing that comes to mind? Here we go. What makes you hungry?

Kenneth Fallin:

challenge I guess if it's something challenging, I'm hungry totry to do it.

Lisa Hopkins:

Love it. What makes you sad?

Kenneth Fallin:

I guess what makes me sad is when I know that some people are cruel. other humans and to animals and so forth. So cruelty is really the thing that makes me sad.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. What inspires you?

Kenneth Fallin:

Usually, people have people that have done great things, or people that are just great humans. I'm inspired by humans.

Lisa Hopkins:

And what frustrates you?

Kenneth Fallin:

sometimes not being able to accomplish something? And I'm also frustrated by politics sometimes. You know, like, what's going on right now? frustrating?

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. What makes you laugh?

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, the biggest comedian that I have is my dog. But I'm a great audience. I love to laugh. My grandmother. I think I take after her with this. She had this wonderful laugh, and go to the theater or go to a movie or something. The audit the performers love it when I say no me that I'm in the audience, because it's such a wonderful relief. I love laugh, huh?

Lisa Hopkins:

What makes you angry?

Kenneth Fallin:

Again, people that are cruel, and don't care about their fellow man.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. And finally, what makes you grateful?

Kenneth Fallin:

At the moment, my health, and I'm very grateful for the life that I've had the thing. As I said earlier, a lot of things have fallen out of the sky that I never thought would happen. And I'm just very grateful. You asked me that it's something that I think about a lot, that I'm a very fortunate person, and that I'm doing work that I love to do. I love getting out of bed in the morning, because I've had periods in my life where I did not have that. So I really appreciate that. That's what I'm,

Lisa Hopkins:

that's beautiful. What are the top three things that have happened so far today?

Kenneth Fallin:

Well, this has been very nice, very pleasant experience talking to you. Andlet me say, this is going this will seem trivial in a way but I have a UPS man who is very, very nice. And I've had a ship I sell a lot of my prints and I have to ship them out. And today my ups man could not make it. So he told the man that was taking his place specifically to take care of me that I had something that was going out and this you know, I keep thinking I live in New York and people can be indifferent or whatever, but this person not only helped me but he was very cheerful and that was just such a nice thing that happened. A very tiny but important thing.

Lisa Hopkins:

Hmm, absolutely been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me today. Really.

Kenneth Fallin:

Thank you, Lisa. It was a pleasure and I'm very happy to meet you!

Lisa Hopkins:

such a pleasure. I've been speaking today with Kenneth Fallin. I'm Lisa Hopkins. Thanks for listening everyone stay safe and healthy, and remember to live in the moment. In music stop time is that beautiful moment where the band is suspended and rhythmic unison, supporting the soloist to express their individuality. In the moment, I encourage you to take that time and create your own rhythm. Until next time, I'm Lisa Hopkins. Thanks for listening