Archive for October, 2011

Clown Faces

Monday, October 24th, 2011

I was at an event on Saturday when two kids said they planned to be clowns for Halloween and they asked to have their faces painted to look like a clown. My friend, who is a clown, was painting faces that day and she offered to make them into her own “Mini Me”. When she was done, they looked great!

Whiteface and Auguste Clown Makeup

There is one face that I will always take extra time painting to make sure it really looks good, and that is a clown face. Being a clown, I want people to like what they see whenever they see a clown. But, I have seen other examples where friends who are not clowns have painted kids to look like a clown. Unfortunately, they demonstrate that they do not understand the key aspects of a good clown face.

The other week, I was at an event where another face painter was telling about her one and only time dressing as a clown for an event. I understand why she used face paints instead of clown makeup, but the description of her face, complete with hearts and swirls got me thinking. All face painters should learn about clown makeup. I have recommended to several new clowns that they get a copy of “Strutter’s Complete Guide to Clown Makeup” which is available from

I know when I was first designing my own clown face, the two points of reference were Ronald McDonald and Bozo. Both have very large red mouths. For most clowns, a much smaller mouth looks better. Actually, the best mouth is rarely larger than your own mouth. And, most clowns only paint their lower lip red. Otherwise, you get a big red, O, when the clown opens their mouth.

The clown makeup is designed to highlight the natural features of the face. In the circus, it helps people see the expressions they make from a distance. As such, the usual features are the eyes (and eyebrows), nose, and mouth. A clown doesn’t usually have stars or hearts on their faces because those are not part of their natural features.

Protecting Yourself from Website Scams

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I run my own websites and help several friends and groups with their websites. Some of them, I manage and host and some have their own registration and accounts. Every few months, someone will contact me and ask a question about a message or piece of mail they got concerning their website. Most of the time, I tell them to ignore/throw away the message.

If you have a website, it is important that you take some ownership in the website and know where your domain names are registered and who is hosting your website. With this information, you can avoid most scams.

Today, I found a piece of mail in my mailbox that looks like a bill and lists the domain names of two of my websites (including this one). The letter tells me that my domain name registration is due to expire in the next few months and that I must renew them to retain exclusive rights to them on the web.

The letter reads:

As a courtesy to domain holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registrations that are due to expire in the next few months. When you switch today to [name deleted], you can take advantage of our best savings. Your domain name registrations will expire on March 1, 2012. Act today!

You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer and renew your names from your current Registrar to the [name deleted]. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it diffucult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web.

Privatation of Domain Registrations and Renewals now allows the consumer the choice of Registrars when initially registering and also when renewing a domain name. Domain name holders are not obligated to renew their domain name with their current Registrar or with the [name deleted]. Review our prices and decide for yourself. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated below, unless you accept this offer. This notice is not a bill, it is rather an easy means of payment should you decide to switch your domain name registration to the [name deleted].

I was somewhat surprised, it was not as hard of a sell as I would have expected. They do say it is not a bill, even though it has a payment stub like a real bill. I can see how someone could see the bottom portion and just pay it without reading the attached letter. I didn’t read the fine print to see what they offer, but their prices seem to be 3 times as much as I currently pay.

I still consider it a SCAM. I have no business with this company and they are hoping that I am not smart enough to realize that. They are trying to get me to pay them instead of the companies I really did choose to do business with (Go Daddy and Host Gator).

A few of my friends did respond to such a request by paying the bill. Fortunately, most of the better domain registration companies will not transfer your website registration without your approval. I am not sure if my friends were able to get their money back, but they did NOT loose their websites.

It is OK to get help from a friend who offers to build your website or to pay someone to build it for you, but do NOT pay bills without first checking with them to make sure they are legit.

Know your capacity

Monday, October 17th, 2011

When I got started doing balloons and face painting, I was at several events where the kids had to wait in very long lines before it was their turn. As a professional, it made me work to get faster, but it also made me realize that it is important to know your capacity.

There have been several times where I have been invited to an event where the planners expected hundreds of kids. I have learned to ask how many kids they expect and will NOT hesitate to recommend bringing in additional support. I am not doing this to help my friends get paying gigs, I am doing this to help myself get future gigs. I have learned that people are much happier when they don’t have to wait in line for an hour. The tips are bigger and more people stop to ask for my business card.

My current estimate is that a face painter can paint a child’s face in 3-5 minutes. I know several face painters who can do it faster, but that is a good starting point. Kids can slow the line down by not knowing what they want or by not wanting to hop out of the chair when they are done. Based on 3-5 minutes per child, a face painter can paint between 12 and 20 faces in one hour. I usually say 15 faces is a good average. This means that a three hour event with about 100 kids would require at least two if not three face painters to meet the demand. (Not all kids will want to have their faces painted.) I try not to get too involved with cheek art. For the most part, I don’t think it is any faster unless it is just a simple rainbow. Since cheek art is smaller, it is often more detailed.

I usually consider balloons a little easier. I can do 25-30 one or two balloon creations in an hour. When doing fancier designs or larger balloon sculptures the numbers drop. But, I will still try to bring in the support needed to meet the expected demand.

If for some reason, I am unable to bring in additional help for a large event, I look for ways to decrease the demand for balloons or face painting. Just about everyone will get in line when things are free. If the kids need to use tickets to go on rides or play games, I can decrease the demand by suggesting that the kids also need to use tickets to get their face painted or to get a balloon. Now, the kid needs to decide between another ride or a balloon.

At a recent event, we had four balloon twisters. The previous year, there were only two balloon twisters at the event and people waited in line for 45 minutes to an hour. Having the two additional balloon twisters was a great help. People still waited 15-20 minutes in line, but we were able to take a little more time interacting with each kid and gave them the balloon they wanted. Yes, it cost the event organizers more money, but in the end, people were much happier.

Balloons By Mike

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I started learning how to twist balloon in 2008 when I attended Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp or Moose Camp. I bought my first bag or two of balloons before going to camp and watched a few videos on YouTube, but I had no idea what I was doing. When I got started, I didn’t like balloons and had so many things I wanted to learn that it wasn’t a priority.

It took me 18 months to get to a point where I felt comfortable doing balloons and felt that I knew enough balloons to be able to offer it as a service. OK, I didn’t put much effort into balloon the first year… I was taking magic and unicycle lessons and going to face painting jams. Suddenly, something shifted and I began to focus on balloons and stopped working on magic and the Unicycle. I still wanted to learn face painting, but realized it was so much easier to practice balloons (I don’t have kids to practice face painting on).

In March 2010, Balloons By Mike was created. I had been advertising balloons on my clown website, Sir Toony Van Dukes but realized I didn’t have to be dressed as a clown to do balloons. Now, 18 months later, I am booked more for balloons than for clown or face painting. I have friends who are much better at balloons, but I think I am catching up.

Balloons By Mike