As summer winds down, the fall trade show season is revving up. Across the water industry, water professionals and technology providers alike are making plans for a flurry of activity in the final stretch of 2023.
With a dazzling array of technical sessions, exhibits, and networking opportunities to explore, these events are designed to not only educate and inform but also entertain. It’s not uncommon to find fun diversions in vendors’ booths: games, contests, and creative giveaways provide some welcome levity to the serious pursuit of learning.
For over 30 years, one of the most unusual and amusing attractions has been drawing crowds to the Master Meter exhibit: the Original Butt Sketch®. When you walk by the booth, you can’t help but stop in your tracks to watch and wonder what you’re witnessing. You find yourself grinning, captivated by the cheerful energy of the crowd as well as the extraordinary talent of the amiable artist, Krandel Lee Newton. Next thing you know, you’re standing in line.
Over the years, thousands of attendees have returned home with a rather unconventional trade show souvenir: a tasteful portrait of their posterior. Sure, it’s quirky and offbeat. But the whimsical nature of a “butt sketch” is exactly the point, and Krandel has spent decades honing his craft with one goal in mind: to make people smile.
As a child growing up in New York, Krandel loved to draw. He took classes in painting and soon became proficient in oils. But as he entered his teenage years, he set aside his brushes and canvases to play sports.
After graduating high school, Krandel headed to Chicago to study mechanical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1981, degree in hand, he landed a job with Westinghouse that brought him to Bloomington, Indiana, and then ultimately to Dallas, Texas.
Despite his burgeoning career as an engineer, Krandel felt his passion for art simmering. By 1985, it had intensified to a boil. Although he had continued to paint as a hobby, he could no longer ignore his calling and left Westinghouse to pursue art full time. “All I wanted to do was paint the rest of my life,” he said. “In retrospect, I was probably a little naive,” he chuckled, “but I was that excited about it.”
Inspired by the stylings of Edward Hopper, Krandel painted scenes of buildings and people in a style he described as Americana. “Being basically self-taught, I was trying all kinds of subjects and all sizes of canvas,” he said.
“When I quit my job in Dallas, I went out on the street corner with my artwork,” he recalled. “I’m living in this metroplex of 3 million people. My New York upbringing told me that if I can’t sell two or three paintings a month, something’s wrong with me,” he said.
While it wasn’t the easiest of career paths, Krandel was able to sell his work and he was happy doing what he loved. Then, after about a year and a half of being a full-time artist, something happened that would forever change Krandel’s future.
“I was on the corner working on a parade scene,” he said. “If you can imagine walking up to a crowd of people and all you see is just their backsides sort of jammed together,” he explained. “I had sketched it out on this large canvas and a man saw it as he drove by. He insisted on buying it and, since I needed the money, I sold it.”
Krandel continued to sketch posteriors as a side hustle while he worked on selling his more serious artwork. “But then, crowds were forming around me,” he recalled. “Local media grabbed a hold of it and that parlayed into the national press.” Krandel was quickly in demand. “I started traveling. I start adding other artists. And it just kept going.”
As the buzz around Krandel’s butt sketches grew, it caught the attention of Master Meter’s marketing department. “We did a few things for them over a couple of years,” Krandel said, “and then I started doing some of their trade shows.” It was a huge hit, and thirty years later, Krandel still draws long lines of eager butt “sketchees” to Master Meter’s booth.
Looking back (no pun intended) over his career, Krandel said he’s incredibly grateful for the opportunities he’s had as a result of his unique path: traveling to exotic places, bringing joy to events, and meeting so many wonderful people — including his wife. “I met her in 1994 when I was working a festival in Montreal,” he said. “She and her girlfriend were waiting in line.” You could say it was love at first sketch; they’ve been married for 26 years.
Krandel will be appearing at WaterPro 2023 in Aurora, Colorado, September 25-26. Stop by Master Meter’s booth 602 to say hello to this extraordinary artist… and perhaps take home a very special keepsake.