About Toni All’s quick-portraying


How I came to be a quick-portraitist

The first portrait that I drew came up at the Mont Martre in Paris. For several years after that, I drew elaborate portraits at tourist locations, colored ones too, and produced a number of paintings, mainly with oil colors. I soon became better and faster at drawing and painting. And so it happened that I couldn’t find enough models at the holiday areas to portray. I searched for places with greater numbers of people and thus got to the funfair. My first funfair was Speyer - Bretzelfest, 1979. I started to travel as the fairground entertainers do and soon came to the largest funfairs in Germany.

Since I was the only portraitist at the fairgrounds back then, I happened to be accepted everywhere. Of course, this wasn’t always easy since many of the organizers completely failed to picture an artist at the fairground. In order to be accepted and admitted, I first had to show the people how this was supposed to work out.

The large number of people and the rush that I always experienced drove me to become ever faster and better. Over the course of time, this led me to increasingly simplify my drawing style, until it had developed into a professional technique at the end. 8.86 seconds per drawing and thus the fastest portraitist of the world, for the first time listed in the Guinness book of world records in 1995. My technique enabled me to achieve an element of fullness in the picture, not least thanks to a broader and softer pen that is easily smudged by finger or the whole hand. I also developed a special easel for myself, sturdy enough to withstand my vehemence and to accelerate the work with my customers. They now were not longer forced to first sit and stand up afterwards, as is common practice while drawing seated models. This proved to be significantly time-saving.

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About Toni All drawing quick-portraits

Each time I draw, I am surrounded by an audience that is filled with wonder and excitement. I captivate and inspire my viewers with my unrivaled portraying speed and with a humor that causes many of them to laugh. I am often told that I magically conjure my portraits, rather than just drawing them. At times, people even look at the back of my easel to see if there is something hidden that brings this skill about. With me, nobody gets bored. Even my models can talk to me and, standing in an advantageous position, watch me while I draw them, which is something that only very few portraitists provide today. My audience does not only experience the attraction of portraying and being portrayed, but each one of them also takes home a unique and unusual remembrance. It is to state at this point that one thing is certain: In all of history, nobody has ever been portrayed in this particular manner by an artist, maybe just in a similar way.

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What’s the mark of such a portrait?

Concerning the drawing itself, it is more than just the image of a person. Today, the visual appearance of a person can easily be depicted by everyone owning a camera, after all.

At this point, I’d like to quote Pablo Picasso: „When you see what is expressed through photography, you then notice how many things no longer can be the task of painting. Why should an artist continue to explore themes that the camera lens can capture so much more clearly? That would be absurd, wouldn’t it? Photography has reached a point where it frees painting from all literary and anecdotic ideas, even from the theme itself. Anyway, a particular view of the thematic content now belongs to the area of photography. Shouldn't painters now profit from their newly acquired freedom, and use it to do something else?"

Beside that, I deem it boring to depict a face that you can see every day anyway. There is more to see in my pictures. They kind of depict the „personal qualities" or the condition of the person I am portraying. These „personal qualities" and the condition not only refer to the very moment I draw someone, but to a larger time span of his life. Sometimes they refer to his whole life or even beyond. In the short time that I have someone in front of me, I recognize his condition, what his problems are, what he is interested in, his value for society, if he has good, bad, or hidden intentions, etc. And according to this, I draw him. This happens more or less automatically. That way it is possible that someone is very pleased with her picture, finds herself more beautiful than ever, and experiences a boost in self-confidence. Others, on the other hand, do not recognize themselves in the picture, and there are those who are vexed with their portrait, too. This happens both during the drawing and when the picture is finished. However, much also happens afterwards. For example, when people come home and talk to others about it, when they come into contact with art or other artists, or on other occasions. It can happen, for instance, and it has indeed happened quite often, that someone gets up one day, looks into the mirror, feels different than usual, and begins to think. Then he goes to my picture that hangs on the wall in the hallway, looks at it, and tells himself: „That’s how he drew me. I have never looked at myself that way." Once I witnessed the divorce of a married couple. One day, the husband came to me and told me his story. His wife had always been angry with him, accusing him of being a bad person. She said he should take a look at my picture that was hanging on the wall in the sleeping room. Even the painter had recognized that he was a bad person and had depicted him as evil.

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Who acts as model?

To be drawn by me is in itself a great experience for most people, and reason enough to act as a portraying model. Everybody acts as a model: children, teenagers, adults, homeless persons, and old people. I have even portrayed people that were more than 100 years of age. It doesn’t matter if someone has money or not – if he behaves properly, he always gets a picture.

Portraying and the characteristic features of a model

The procedure of depicting a person on paper is far from identical for every human being. Basically, there’s a huge difference with each individual. The most serious criterion for it is the customer himself, his character and qualities, and not his appearance. This ranges from people that I don’t want to portray at all, where I’m glad when the picture is finished, to people that I am very happy to draw, where I don’t want to stop at all. These are people who are open to everything that's good, and who are opposed to evil; people who are not narrow-minded or restrained in their behavior; people who are conscious of this life’s values.

All these and similar people gladly come to me, and I am lucky to gladly have them around me. The others are my guests not quite as often, and when they are, I have certain difficulties, even great difficulties at times. By the way, it should be noted that it doesn’t matter if people are drunk, which, of course, on a funfair is no rarity. These two categories of people always exist, no matter if they are drunk or sober.

Another problem with models is when their faces lack any characteristic features like beards, hair, jewelry, or any other kind of interesting trait. On the other hand, those models are certainly easy to portray, since I am able to draw them strictly by the book, like using a stencil, so to speak. Of course, this kind of drawing allows me to portray a lot of people, but it certainly poses no challenge for me.

Then there are „non-aesthetic" people, which, of course, is relative. Who is handsome or beautiful, and who isn’t? But let’s just say they exist, because society wants it that way. These people can be inspirational for me, in a characteristic kind of way.

Children also have something special about them. Most of the time, they are deeply inspired by my work. And I am really speaking of my work here, not of the results. Whereas adults rate my work and, above all, the results, this isn’t the case with children at all. Children are simply inspired by the doing. It is really wonderful to have them as models. Of course, not all are like this. There are children, not too many fortunately, who are totally absent or so deranged due to authoritarian reasons that I can’t make contact with them.

One could think that models that talk and constantly move around are more difficult for me to portray, that they have to keep quiet, stiff, and without motion. That’s not the case with me. Models should be like they always are. Standing stiff or not talking to me makes my work significantly harder.

Toni All
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