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Art of all kinds at Wichita's Art and Book Fair

Jaki McElroy can look at you and see a cartoon.

Don’t be offended. That’s a good thing.

The Wichita artist sees a face and quickly draws a caricature of it on paper.

How quickly? One minute.

“I just look at them and go,” McElroy said while taking a break Saturday from doing caricatures of visitors to the 53rd Annual Art and Book Fair at Century II Exhibition Hall.

The fair will continue Sunday, starting at 11 a.m.

McElroy’s talent was among the new features at this year’s fair, applying a craft that she first started about 11 years ago when she was a student at Wichita State University.

She started out doing realistic portraits at the farmers market in Old Town when she was approached by an entertainment company looking for a caricaturist. She began training herself.

It was a natural fit “because I’ve always loved cartoons,” she said.

Her caricatures aren’t the extreme kind that distort features but rather compliment the subject.

“More flattering, like a cartoon,” said McElroy, a mother of three who also teaches part time at CityArts and does murals for the Wichita school district. “I see everything as a cartoon anymore. When I look at people, I see contours and outlines. I can envision a photograph on paper.”

Moving vision to paper took her about 15 minutes at first. She whittled that time down to 10 minutes, then to five.

And now she can do a caricature in a minute and do 40 to 50 within an hour.

Amanda Fletcher watched in amazement at how quickly McElroy used a Sharpie to draw a caricature of her 2½-year-old daughter, Morgan, at the fair.

“It’s crazy how fast she can whip it together,” Fletcher said

Across the room, young artists were making Mother’s Day cards, drawing, coloring and doing rubbings on different textures. It’s the second year the fair has had a section for children to participate.

Two of Pam Loyle’s grandchildren, Jack and Ellie Patton, loved it. Jack, 6, and Ellie, 9, were busy making cards for their mom, Keely.

“I usually just make them in my room,” Ellie said. “I’ve already made two Mother’s Day cards at school, so this will make three. My favorite hobby is drawing and coloring.”

Small reproductions of Mary Cassatt’s famous painting “Mother and Child” – the Wichita Art Museum owns the original – were made available for the children to paste on the outside of a blank white card. They then colored in the reproduction with their own style and color scheme.

Inside the card, they were on their own.

“I like to try to make stuff,” Ellie said.

The fair, which is always held on Mother’s Day weekend, is organized by Friends of the Wichita Art Museum. It includes about 120 artists – up from 90 last year – who range from local people to artists from as far away as Florida.

“We’re trying to expand to encourage the local artists more than we have in the past,” said Scott Hampel, chairman of Friends of the Wichita Art Museum.

Also new at this year’s fair, a fundraiser for the Wichita Art Museum, are local bands and more than a dozen cars displayed on the outdoor plaza by the British Car Club of Wichita.

“That’s my dream car,” said John Johnson, 17, as he looked over a white 2000 Lamborghini Diablo. “I’ve never seen one.”

Then he turned to the owner, Lowell Nicholson, and asked, “How much does it cost?”

“A lot,” Nicholson said.

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