CULTURE SCHLOCK — By Darren Garnick
“Every tush is beautiful — in it’s own way.”
Originally published: March 17, 2000
The Telegraph/Encore Magazine
While the scientists on the Human Genome Project aim to discover every DNA sequence in the human body, Texas artist Krandel Lee Newton isn’t concerned about probing underneath the surface. Focusing on exteriors and posteriors, he is driven by one core belief: You never forget your first Butt Sketch.
Newton is a mercenary artist, a charcoal-for-hire sent to fight boredom on treacherous trade show turf. A few weeks ago in New Orleans, I met him at a not-so-boring gathering of TV programming executives. But I just as easily could have discovered the Butt Sketch if I were a florist, a dentist or a mortgage banker.
I begin by walking over to a masking tape line on the plush carpet cushioning my feet. My back to the easel, I spread my feet about three feet apart and put my hands on my hips — my imagined “tough guy” stance.
Krandel scampers in front of me like an art critic looking for a good angle. His hands, too, are on his hips. “Is this the way you want to pose?” he asks, making direct eye contact. His voice softens. “I like what you’re doing. I really do. I just want to tweak things a bit.”
The artist gently nudges my head to my left, pats my shoulder and says, “See you in two-and-a-half minutes.”
I don’t feel self-conscious while my butt is being sketched. Maybe that’s because my pants are kept on. Maybe it’s also because Krandel has a non-threatening, wisecracking style that instantly puts me at ease. For a brief moment, I believe I can quit my job and pose for Dockers ads.
In the end, my Butt Sketch really does look like me and the appeal is twofold. First, there’s accuracy. Nobody thinks about his or her rear end being as definitive as a thumbprint. Yet, Krandel proves that it is, capturing an individual’s personality through tushie language. Second, Krandel’s quality doesn’t suffer despite the self-imposed time limit.
Sharianne Brill, of New York City, watched me get my butt sketched. Satisfied with the results, she tells Krandel: “Wow, that’s good. I hope you do my body justice!”
Three minutes later, Brill is happy. “Oh man, I look hot! My butt says I mean business,” she says. “People always teased me about my booty for years, but if you got it baby, flaunt it!”
Krandel, 41, was an engineer for Westinghouse before becoming a full-time butt sketcher 13 years ago. Trade show paychecks are far more lucrative, multiplying his old salary “more than five times” and bringing in enough business to hire a support team of seven artists. Inspiration came from his days as a sidewalk artist, when bystanders would marvel at his drawings of parades – from the rear.
“There is no horrible looking butt. Every butt is a good butt in my eyes,” Krandel says. “That’s my company line and I’m sticking to it.”
The artist admits he has “been accused of having a flattering hand” in his drawings. Perhaps he should sell women’s bathing suits on the side. Krandel is the consummate salesman, enticing both men (40 percent of drawings) and women to play along with the gag. The co-ed clientele and his avoidance of offensive innuendos have shielded him from inevitable cries of sexism.
“The first time I saw him I was so nervous,” recalls Leslie McClure, a publicist from California. “Nobody likes their own butts, especially women.” Since sketch one, she has been immortalized five more times and even hired Krandel to sketch guests at her 50th birthday party.
For the record, all of McClure’s Butt Sketches are framed and matted. Four hang in her office and two are displayed at home. Krandel, who obviously loves repeat business, insists he doesn’t get tired of drawing the same butt twice.
“We like to call them ‘Butt Upgrades,’” he says.
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” appears every Friday in The Telegraph’s Encore magazine.