The Illustration Iceberg: Part 15

Hello, welcome back to the next snippet of my book about life as a freelance illustrator. Work has started to come in, which is all good, right?


16 August
Maybe I spoke too hastily? Two cards arrived from the Post Office informing me two unpaid packages were waiting to be picked up. This did not make me happy. I went. I paid. I picked them up. Both packages were copies of Worms Below (my children’s book) returned from two different publishers. Both were in the addressed envelopes I’d enclosed complete with stamps… that were now somehow missing. I had to pay to read my own rejection!

17 August
There are no bounds to the amount of rejections that fly through my letterbox. Today’s one was a script for a play and as I read it I could see why, it’s just not good enough. Rejection of writing has the edge over rejection of illustration. Perhaps it’s the added personal directness and the fact that my writing often feels unfinished, though I can’t spare any more time on it. I know it suffers from not being my main activity but I don’t have the confidence to leap into it (I know, I have ‘some talent’ but…) Perhaps I need to make more effort?

20 August
An interesting request arrived. It’s from the organization Illustrators Anonymous (‘helping illustrators through the darkness’) asking if they could use some of my illustrations for their membership brochure. The email was very nice and words like favour, you will be fully credited and we’d be delighted all guarantee one thing… a low budget (correct! There was £100). I didn’t consider saying no as IA is a great organization I fully support. What they wanted was four illustrations. Two would come from my existing body of work and the others from scratch. I got to work on roughs.

21 August
Some days, coming up with a coherent witty idea just seems impossible. Today is one of those days. The cover illustration for IA was the one giving me the most trouble. Nothing remotely good would come to me. I ploughed on, as you have to when it's your job and I can’t have something as trivial as ‘no ideas whatsoever’ stop me!

My first idea ready to wow IA new recruits plopped into their email tray: They must think I’m off my rocker… Yes, they did. More ideas were requested. Again it was like getting blood from a stone but eventually I cobbled my second batch of ideas together:

1. stabilizers for beginners.

2. Guy ropes prepare for rough conditions.

3. Joining for lift off

4. Smooth landing (or possibly behind enemy lines?)

All four were rejected for the cover. Back to the drawing board.

To be continued…

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Survival… gone too far. Fuzzywork 2014

The Illustration Iceberg - part 14

Hello, welcome back to the next snippet of my book about life as a freelance illustrator.

8 August
To my amazement another job dropped through my e-mailbox and onto the invisible mac-doormat. This is a good one. It’s two illustrations over two consecutive weeks for a high profile newspaper called The Tower. Kurt the AE is quite laid back so the signs are good. Even though it’s a big newspaper the pay is pretty poor at £175 each. Each article is on the theme of family and written by a different celeb-type person. I’ve been given the copy for the first one so I can just do my thing. Can’t wait to get stuck in… But before I do, it's a lovely sunny day, I think I’ll take my latest script out for a coffee. At last, some benefits to being freelance.

10 August
I’ve sent in the first Tower commission roughs. It’s about what we inherit from our parents, from poor digestion to tastes. Here are my line roughs:

IBS (also a play on the words from a well know radio show slot)

Useless objects (like dad’s special paint stirring sticks)
Etch-a-Sketch (that goes a bit wrong when you use it)

My favourite was Inheritance Tracts, the other two need a bit of development in hindsight… Kurt however, said ‘Inheritance Tracts’ was far too obscure for their readers (which surprised me, being very familiar with their readers, i.e. me). He thought they all needed a bit of work so asked me to come up with something better based on the Etch-a-Sketch. Back to the drawing tab-ard (cross between computer tablet and drawing board)

11 August
Sent in the new Etch-a-Sketch rough and received an email from Kurt that went something like this:
Hi Fuzzywork
Due to an ongoing court case there’s a possibility that this week’s article will be delayed. We could swap articles, or can you do both for Monday? Like the new Etch-a-Sketch rough.
Thanks, Kurt.
Bearing in mind that today is Friday I can’t even be bothered to question this request because anyone who would make such a request clearly doesn’t understand what is and isn't reasonable, plus they are only obeying orders from above and their job is on the line - working for a newspaper is like being in the army, do as your told or leave. The thing is, as I’m always mentioning to art directors, the most intensive part of commission is coming up with the idea, and as I’ve already come up with the Etch-a-Sketch idea, and now have to come up with a new idea, it would be like doing two illustrations anyway. I agreed to do both illustrations. I have an hour to generate the idea.
It’s and hour later, I’ve done two roughs and sent them in. Hopefully he will okay them so I can forge ahead over the weekend. The article is about stepparents and here are my roughs:
Rough no.1  Copyright Fuzzywork 2014

Rough no.2  Copyright Fuzzywork 2014

Kurt got back that evening and told me to go ahead with number 2.

12 August
There’s a whole Ivory Coast bar of chocolate in the fridge, my fav coffee is brewing, music’s cued up (no radio Tweed today) and the cat has been fed seconds so is already snoring away on her day bed, which is also her night bed, actually it's my bed... (she’s hardly moved). I’m ready to work, and work I will have to in order to meet the Monday morning deadline. Lucky for me, I love a bit of a deadline. I enjoy the clock ticking down. Not that I produce my best work under pressure, I know I don’t. I just enjoy the simplified structure of it. See you on the other side.

14 August
Both illustrations were sent off last night and I already heard back from Kurt. He said he loved them both so that’s a relief. I celebrated with a square of chocolate (two squares) gathered up a script to work on and considered where to go for coffee. Better check emails before I go. There is one from Kurt.
Would you be alright with us using a spot from the Step Parent illustration? It would be very small.
Cheers, Kurt
Spot in this case means taking a section and using it again, effectively making two illos out of one. I know immediately I just can’t agree. I know I am supposed to say, ‘Yes, no problem, absolutely fine, yuh great….’ but I can’t. This is a national newspaper with a large circulation asking me (illustrator struggling to put food on the table) to give them extra use of my work for free not to mention the fact I’ve been working ALL weekend and half of last week for £350 (excluding tax). My answer:
Hi Kurt
I’m really happy for you to use a spot from Step Parents illustration, the fee for which will be £50.
Best wishes.
I didn’t hear back. They didn’t use a spot.

To be continued…
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The Illustration Iceberg - Part 13

Hello, welcome back to snippet 13 of my book about life as a freelance illustrator - The Illustration Iceberg.

1 August
I’m not religious, I’m not keen on hierarchical setups and can’t take seriously that ‘god’ is a man (or a woman, if anyone ever claimed that) or even definitively factual, but once when the cat failed to come home and I thought she'd been cat-kidnapped I lit a candle and the innate power of FLAME coaxed out a minor miracle. She came back, immediately! But she’d changed… around her neck was an exotic sparkly collar and she had a craving for catnip. I never found out what happened but shortly after I saw a litter tray and poop-scoop in the recycle bin two doors down.

I’m going to try the candle again, this time for a work-based miracle. I’m a bit concerned the goal will be made void due to its self gratifying request for work rather than the safety of a cat or world peace.

2 August
It bloody worked! A job came in. It’s for a leading holiday company called Climates and I will be working with a design agency called Eye 4 Illumiation. As usual it’s all a big rush. I’ve got to go in for a meeting tomorrow. Potentially it could be a big job. Fingers crossed.

3 August
I’m not good at meetings. I get nervous. Years ago I attended a briefing with my agent for an important potentially lucrative job. We went to this posh boardroom where the art team showed me beautiful library photos detailing exactly what they wanted me to illustrate. Instead of thinking, that will be nice and easy, I said… out loud ‘Why don’t you just use the photo?’ My agent almost had a coronary. I’ve made a mental note not to say anything so stupid today.

I’m back. It didn’t go well. I’m not off the job exactly, but I definitely said something stupid...
It was one of those important meetings where someone from every department attends, including Climates. The ad team leader explained to me all about Climates, such things as how long they had been going, how they had never had to do a full on ad campaign because they were so great and so loved and well known by all, a household name and all that. This went on and on and I found it hard to remain interested until finally my concentration ebbed away entirely. It was at this point I said, ‘That is amazing. I’m surprised they haven’t gone bust!’ This of course was what the last fifteen minutes had been about, plus no one in the room wanted to hear such negativity. Ms Climates look decidedly put out and I detected a flash of concern across the table between the design team . . . sense of horror and realization that I was in fact a moron.

Things improved a bit when they started telling me how much they liked the ‘quirky-ness’ and ‘weirdness’ in my work. Great I thought. They talked about the brief and I made notes in my sketchbook. I’m terrible at writing stuff down when people are (a) speaking, and (b) watching, but I’m supposed to be the person who’s going to come up with the brilliant stuff so I needed to exude confidence. I finish with a pen flourish and snapped my book shut as though I already had the best ideas forming in my head, which I didn’t. None of that last bit actually happened. I shut my book quietly and hoped no one noticed my awkward scrawlings.

The brief: Initially they want test work, which involves some line drawings about holiday destinations. There is a sum of £300 for this test work.

4 August
The first day on the Climates job and I’m determined to give them my best weirdness. Florida is the first destination so with a pot of my favourite Italian coffee I set to work on ideas. I selected 10 (probably too many?) and sent them off. Here are a few very rough roughs:

It’s the end of the day and they haven’t got back. I decided to imagine it was due the design team picking themselves up from the floor after howling with laughter at my brilliantly funny ideas, followed by a period of their careful consideration.

7 August
I received an email from Eye 4 Illumination thanking me for my ideas, rejecting all of them and telling me, ‘For now, we won’t be taking it any further.’ Well that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I obviously hadn’t hit the spot, or maybe it was my general incompetence in that meeting? I’m troubled by this, I need to work out what went wrong…

Oh! Noooo! Those ideas I sent were a load of S&M drawings. Touch the Moon… Simulate yourself… gimp Mickey Mouse outfits! 

(morose fuzzy-ramblings)
Has my talent for inappropriateness reared its head again? Or is it simply the weird corporate type meetings that bring out the worst in me? I don’t know. So often I hear, ‘We love your quirky-weird-ness!’ What they don’t realize is how difficult it is to make weirdness work, especially in mainstream advertising. 
It’s all about honing the weirdness. 
It takes time and creative face-to-face discussion to get it right, but there’s never any of that. They run a mile from my weirdness. HEY! Maybe weird quirky work comes from weird people. I can only assume they don’t trust their own judgement or they’re scared of anything going wildly wrong. News for them; most of my stuff goes wildly wrong before it goes right. Of course, on this occasion it’s not just them, perhaps if I’d listened in that meeting I might have twigged onto the fact that Climates is a pretty conservative company. I needed that job and I lost it. Only myself to blame here.

To be continued…
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It's getting busy… as well as my illustrated book The Illustration Iceberg I've finally started work on my animated film. A while ago I studied screen writing for two years. I made some films using bits and bobs, which managed to get screened on TV and at the BFI would you believe!

Ever since I've been waiting to make a new film… and now it's happened. It's the first time I've actually animated my work and so far it's a lot of drawing, with quite a lot of drawing and a bit more drawing after that. When that's all done there's a little bit more drawing to do and then it'll be complete! It's all in the script and the story, which it has to be said is weird and does involve LOVE and LITTER… ay! that might just be my title.

A new film about

Below is a still and the star of my film. If you've not read any of my Illustration Iceberg Please scroll down to read snippets...

The Illustration Iceberg Book - Part 12

Hello, welcome back to the next snippet of my book about being an freelance illustrator… so far - coming across work is very hard, even though I've been busy in the past… snails in peril in the garden… and illustration takes a back seat with my film now finished.

10 July
I screened my film in a small cinema yesterday. Apart from the trauma of having to be in the same room as those watching lots of people came and it went extremely well. For what it’s worth I’m pretty proud of that little film, the music and all, which I struggled to do myself… making it was the embodiment of Difficult.

There’s still a technical problem with the sound, which involved me having to control the projectionists sound knob by hand mid-screening (not as much fun as it sounds) so a fully usable version of the film still doesn’t exist, and there's no solution on the horizon so it could have been the first and last screening of the film.

There have been three responses from publishers regarding my children’s book Ping & Pong. They are, No, No and ‘There is a certain charm, we enjoyed your quirky approach, but…’ No.

11 July
There is no avoiding real life or gardening, though I can’t say I enjoy either very much. My thumb still hurts and continues its refusal to join in with general movement despite its elastic band hand therapy. Lawn mowing involves hacking and slicing my way through wildlife. Weeding wipes out entire cities of ants and ruins the lives of ordinary everyday worms, molluscs and insects.

I am forever stopping the mover and scanning the grass for froglets, slugs, bees and grasshoppers so the whole painful process takes twice as long. To me gardens are the homes to creatures so a ‘gardener’ naturally has this in mind but I doubt boss Quentin would agree or relate to the snail emergency I had the other day. I inadvertently damaged the poor thing’s shell. I felt bad so gathered a selection empty shells with the vain hope it might re-home into one of them (apparently not possible), and put them all in a safe place.

When I checked later the injured snail (Sheldon) was ‘eating’ the empty shells! I like to think it was recycling the old shells to repair its damaged one, which I have discovered they are able to do to good effect.

15 July
It’s been such a long time since I had a commission I’m now on desperate measures. I’ve signed up to a stock agency called Stock Sensation (SS). I’m torn. It’s probably a bad idea and I don’t feel good about it but…

Stock agencies are not good for illustration because the cheap readily available images undermine the whole process of illustration commissioning both financially and creatively.

SS emailed suggesting I provide images on these themes: Christmas, fairytales, women at work, soccer, school, horoscopes… (joint this is definitely a bad idea!) There is also a contract to be signed between SS and me. A dense five pages of teeny tiny hard to decipher small print. I’ll be honest the language is typically convoluted and very difficult for the layperson to understand but to sum up:

‘I vowel never to blame them for any mistakes while taking full responsibility for any mistakes, whilst also giving them 50% of any royalties my work generates’. 50%! That seems a little excessive don’t ya’ think?

Who’d be a stock illustrator! (I will definitely never ever respond if you answer that rhetorical question and send it in on a postcard)

To be continued…

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The Illustration Iceberg - Part 11

Welcome back to snippets of The Illustration Iceberg, my little diary / book about what it's like to a freelance illustrator. So far there have been commissions that according to the art director needed to be stronger / whoa! not so strong! My portfolio has been 'lost in the building' (there's not mine) and I've been to hospital about my dodgy thumb. Oh, and work is very thin on the ground, that's where the gardening job comes in (beware, artist in the garden)… hope you enjoy

9 June
I have a lazy thumb, and an unorthodox pencil clutch! According to the Hand Therapist at the hospital. The thumb was fitted with its own little splint and given an exercise regime using elastic bands and brightly coloured squeezy stuff. The wrist has been co-opted into the fight and asked to wear a splint at night for an indefinite period… I was actually told ‘maybe forever’ (gulp, best keep that news from the wrist). The down side was that if there’s no improvement I might need an operation, which would put a spanner in my already truly spannered works.

10 June
6:00 am. Please let it rain. Please let it rain. Please let it rain so I can cancel gardening. It didn’t rain. 

18 June
Something exciting has happened… an enquiry from an agent (I can’t believe it either). They are called Box It Agency and I’m meeting them at lunchtime today. They’re more of a photography agency wanting to branch out into illustration so I do have reservations about how experienced they are but fingers crossed (on the good hand).

22 June
My fears about Box It Agency were founded. It seemed I might have more experience of dealing with commissioning matters than them and my endless questioning about such things didn’t go down wonderfully well. As I left the meeting I realised my attitude to agents has changed. The whole agent thing can work for some people but my past experience of two agents, one of which was particularly bad, has altered my view and now I think it might never work for me. Generally an agent will get 30% of your commission fee, which can work out disproportionate if you're not getting much work (especially galling if they rely on you to do all the leg work). I've reach the point where I’m not prepared to share such hard won earnings anymore unless an agent is actively working to generate commissions and earn their 30%. 

On commissioning fees & agents: Truly accurate fee and commissioning information for freelance illustrators is hard to come by. Agents should have industry knowledge of this and use it to full effect, if they don't then they're not doing their job. For example, illustrators are often at the bottom of the 'earnings' pile even on mega commissions. Agents should always be trying to raise us up a peg or two so that one day we might reach our dream status... 'You should see how much more photographers earn!' someone once joked with me. I can't remember laughing, just thinking, 'I wonder why this is?' I’d love to see a pie chart of how earnings share out among the different recipients for an average illustration job… I wonder? 

Illustrators need to get on their own case, but it’s no good unless everyone gets together and some proper industry standards are set. Sadly, we're a million miles away from that right now and seem to be heading in the wrong direction despite some great efforts by AOI for example. 
My only remedy for today is this.. In the words of Howard Beale, lean out your window and shout, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’ Ah, Network, I love you, I'm going to run away with you!

To be continued…
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The Illustration Iceberg Book

Hello, thanks for calling by… I am about to continue where I left off posting bits of my book on the blog again. It's still a work in progress so the book will look very different with many more illustrations and of course.. the story in full. 

My aim is to self publish, which ain't easy… so please feel free to leave a comment… the whole point is to give you an enjoyable read so if it's not doing it for you and you have an inkling as to why I'm all ears.

I'd love to you to join me on Facebook, and if you like please spread the word: click here THE ILLUSTRATION ICEBERG on Facebook

This gorgeous cat is a very wild stray I've named Sid, on account of his hissing at me every dinner time (he doesn't mean it). He was virtually starving to death when he moved in to the little wooden cat shed, built by my dad for another stray (the one in the book, who now keeps my diary and runs my life including when I get up in the morning). She wasn't happy about Syd living in her patio cat studio but she tolerates him, just. He is adorable, that little down turned mouth, big eyes and pink nose… this picture captured him tap dancing.

UPDATE: Illustration Iceberg Book

UPDATE: so far I've posted ten excerpts from my book on this blog. If you scroll down you can read them. I'm still putting it all together and working on the many illustrations (with the other hand and one foot as I write this)

You can follow Illustration Iceberg on Facebook… and I'll soon be posting new bits of the book so please drop back when you've time. X

click here THE ILLUSTRATION ICEBERG on Facebook

Here's a little taster of one of the illustrations… Contracts OR Chocolate? (never ask your cat important questions)

Copyright Fuzzywork Illustration. Illustration Iceberg Book 2014.

The Illustration Iceberg Book - Part 10

Welcome back to the serialisation of The Illustration Iceberg about my experiences as a freelance illustrator… the stuff people don't really talk about. I've been posting excerpts with some illustrations on the blog so please come back for the next instalment or find fuzzywork on Facebook. Read here for more info


1 June
I reckon I must swear more than the average gardener, my thumb has given up living and just dangles there, and I can’t tell the difference between weeds and plants. I am a terrible gardener. I can cope with the hard work and in my own garden I'd get on just fine but my own garden consists of pots outside my front door, which is not as dull as it sounds, but does at least have plants I've heard of. The fact that I don’t have a garden was one I failed to mention to Quentin the boss when he interviewed me…

I probably should be drawing, even the thumb agrees.

2 June
I went to Grand Duke Publishing to pick up my portfolio. Last week when I dropped it off I was told to write on it the words ‘General Viewing’. Today it was nowhere to be found - lost in the building. Forty minutes later (thanks to the detective work of a lovely unflappable receptionist called Li) a skinny woman Cal sauntered into reception with it and said, ‘Sorry, I didn’t look at it.’ (honesty not always the best policy Cal). I asked if anyone had looked at it ‘I don’t know,’ she said. So, with honesty not always being the best policy, I Thanked Cal. Then thanked Li from the bottom of my heart.

5 June
‘Why are you hiding your work like this? And all this white space?’ raged Keith Kinder, art editor at national newspaper The Flange. I listened intently as enthusiastic Keith relayed his direct and extremely useful response to my portfolio. He said the images were too small and the work should all be in one portfolio rather than split in two (probably not a good time to mention my third collage portfolio then). 

He talked about my work as being ‘hard and soft’ which I found interesting (a conversation that wouldn’t have translated as email). He introduced me to four other art editors on the newspaper, which is just about as good as it gets when visiting someone. He even recommended I look at Scandinavian illustration as my work might go down well (I can’t see this myself). He raved about the biro illustration and enjoyed the use of words in my work. He went on and on… 
(some of my Birobiro work below)

Birobiro from Fuzzywork's portfolio

Birobiro from Fuzzywork's portfolio

Birobiro from Fuzzywork's portfolio
…he provided a grateful boost. Later it got me thinking about how much my work was split in two. Two folios, two websites, two names… maybe one is more than enough.

6 June I’ve made the changes, bigger images together in one portfolio, and it’s revealed something… there are parts of my work I don't like. I can’t decide whether it's because I think my work has become too commercial or the type of jobs it attracts just don't suit me? This is serious. Falling out of love with your work is dangerous. Maybe I need to get back to basics, but I can’t just go off experimenting or change my work just like, it could end up incoherent and I’m already pushing commissioning editors to the edge with the biro work. They want to see an accomplished, commercial portfolio. They don’t like surprises.

7 June
Earlier today, armed with my newly styled and compact portfolio, I went to see Colin Well at Reef Publishing. He was very nice but his down beat mood seeped into me. He liked my work but was unsure as to whether he could ever use it, and as it seemed he was the type unlikely to risk a new lunchtime sandwich filling, chance of a commission was slim.

Back home I looked at my new portfolio and decided the images were now too big. I know it was partly Colin Well's adverse response, it's always difficult trying to second guess why someone says they can't use your work, especially when the work they normally commission isn't too dissimilar, but I wonder if any portfolio configuration could re-endear me to my work.. it's a little like getting a vivid new hair cut only to realise, once you're home and have washed it, that it might be a slightly new fringe but it's around the same old face.

To be continued…..

The Illustration Iceberg Book - Part 9

Welcome back to the serialization of The Illustration Iceberg; my book about life (and struggle) as a freelance illustrator... to set the scene, commissions are a bit thin on the ground but I've been trying hard and taking my portfolio to see anyone who'll see it. Read past instalments and for more info go HERE


22 May
I went to see a couple of people with my portfolio. Firstly Bernice Binder at Oblong Classics (book publisher), who alongside her colleague Abi Wasabe sat down and gave my work some decent time. They seemed genuinely into it and as Oblong Classics has really well designed meeting area it was very pleasant, and one of those meetings where you feel both parties conceived a working future. After that I went to see the AE of Urge Magazine at Footpath Publishing called Arogan Blok. When I phoned a week ago he said, ‘Yeah come in today,’ (what?) I couldn’t. Arogan was still perplexed by my inability to drop everything and come galloping in so started the viewing with more questions as to why. So trying really hard to overlook this and thanking him (immense donkeynut) for fitting in with me, we moved on. He made sharp intakes of breath as he flicked through the work as though this ambiguous affectation was the only possible way of expressing himself. Finally he said he liked the flat colour but thought the biro stuff 'a bit poetic', another ambiguous comment, which I took as an insult. I was unsure as to whether he’d liked my work or not, with the emphasis on not.

Once again I took the opportunity and asked the very helpful receptionist to call an art director on another magazine to see if he could spare a moment to see me. He could. Ed Flan, from Mash Magazine, came down, flicked thought the work and commissioned me there and then. Great! The job was not the sort of thing I normally, or ever usually get. The brief was a really tight idea, which he even drew for me (how helpful). Unfortunately the more he drew the more I could see this was not my favourite type of job (or Art Direction) but I kept positive and told myself ‘I can deliver this inappropriate idea’ especially for £400. By the time I left the building I convinced myself Ed Flan’s decision to commission me was a stroke of brilliant insight.

25 May
I haven’t had a reply from Ed Flan even though I sent in roughs yesterday. I really hate this type of delay and having just spent ten minutes trying to compose a suitable email needing answers to such questions as, when is the deadline? I decided to send my job acceptance form in and hope for the best (not the greatest strategy). This is what I sent:
Job description:
1 full page colour illo
date: roughs – 24 May
date: artwork - ?

Terms of copyright licence:
One use
90 days
non exclusive 

ROUGHS: Subject is botox and 'beauty' treatments.

Ed Flan rough 1

Ed Flan rough 2

26 May
Brace yourself for a harsh truth; I am at the mercy of people who couldn’t give a monkey’s (thumb doctor helping me with my dodgy thumb is exempt). All I do is wait; I’m waiting to be paid for the Postaramakama cancellation, I’m waiting for jobs from all those who promised to commission me and my thumb is waiting to see a hand doctor (I don't mind waiting for that one).

Is it wrong if the only thing you take from religion is to pray for work? It probably is.

27 May
Ed Flan got back to me with quite a few changes, which doesn’t surprise me considering I’m still trying to stop thinking about the awful drawing he kindly did for me in reception. What he’s after is so far away from my style of work I’m starting to worry I will not be able to deliver.

29 May
It’s Monday afternoon. The artwork for Mr Flan went in this morning, the phone hasn’t rung and I’m having one of those days where I just don’t feel I can (a.) ever acquire appropriate commissions and (b.) remain an illustrator
My bad illustration.
After more waiting I rang Ed Flan. Not mincing his words he said my artwork wasn’t strong enough, and the article, which is about Botox was more ‘hard hitting’. Perhaps if he’d let me read the article I might come up with a decent idea? On the phone I could feel my suppressed creative frustration rising - this is precisely the sort of art direction that makes me want to tear my hair out and sit in the corner making small cats out of my real cat's hair... there's an idea, she does shed a lot of hair..

Once off the phone I opened the file and set about making his bad idea stronger. Two hours later I sent the stronger artwork in and waited. He still hasn’t sent my job acceptance form back. He still hasn’t emailed.

30 May 
I received a reply from Ed Flan:

Dear Fuzzywork
Sorry for my slow response, here’s the feedback from my editor:

Please make the line stronger.

Needs more colour hits: Make the pink pinker and leave green (yes, I have no idea either).

More detail on the bottle and make the needles darker as I will be using these as cut-outs.

Thanks, Ed

Great. And, 'cut-outs'… I thought I was doing one illustration and cut-outs means they intend to use bits of it all through the article. Not what was agreed, no wonder he won’t send my JAF back. The thing is I’d probably still do it for the same money. What I can’t stand is people not being straight about usage. I think my head might explode! In situations such as this there’s only one thing I can do - leave the flat.

After an hour of coffee and work on my latest script I’m back and I’ve made a start on the Flan changes.

31 May
Up early this morning. I’ve written ten pages of my script and am now working on the Flan illustration. I emailed Flan:

Hi Ed, only got your message this morning (I lied) and working on the illo now. I felt I needed to re-think the colours a bit having taken on board all your editor’s comments (lie). Hopefully finished later today.

I still haven't received the signed job acceptance form. If there's a problem with it it's best you let me know so we can sort it out.

All very best,

Full speed ahead with the changes!

It’s now late afternoon. At 1 pm I sent the final artwork but I made a fatal error – I sent in two! I should not have done this! Why? Because this is what happened:

Ed Flan’s email reply:


Great illustrations… but too strong now.

We can live with it, apart from…

(Then a long list of twiddly changes detailing bits from each illustration, which he directed me to shove together to make one final and completely shit illustration. Noooooooooo! Oh yes.)

I wanted to shout, ‘Please can I read this article myself so I can interpret it in my own visual language; a visual language I have been developing for years that fits with my sensibility, palette etc etc!’ but I didn’t. I listened to Ed go on about colour and meaning that I’m sure meant something in the world of magazines but it didn’t resonate with me. As he spoke I felt as though I was probably a very shit illustrator doomed forever to listen to faux arty stuff I disagreed with. Ho-diddly-hum.

This is me.
I talked him out of asking me to do any more work and he said he’d get back to me in half an hour. He didn’t. I put my invoice in and hoped that was the end of it. I felt my illustration was so bad I hope they wouldn’t use it. (I did get paid).

To be continued...

The Illustration Iceberg Book - Part 8

Welcome back to the serialization of The Illustration Iceberg; my book about life (and struggle) as a freelance illustrator... to set the scene, the new 'job'  has begun much to the annoyance of my thumb and I'm still being pro-active... read past instalments and for more info go HERE


7 May
There’s been quite a big change. Yesterday I mowed a foot high lawn, weeded a patio path and border then filled a silted pond. I also managed to break the lawn mower, jam a hedge cutter and develop a new found loathing for hose pipes.

This morning I worked in another garden. On the patio were a couple of beehives and as the morning warmed up (to almost boiling) the bees became frantically active. I stopped the mower many times to save them from being chopped up. Getting them to cling on to a stalk I relocated them to safety. Wonderful creatures, I thought.

Angry Bee. The Illustration Iceberg Book Copyright 2013

It wasn’t long before I was running, screaming like you shouldn’t, as bees chased and stung me.

Swearing (quite a lot) I mowed around two bluebells in the front garden with a mower the size of a small hatchback. After more sweaty weeding that was by now damaging my thumb beyond repair I finished and sat on the bench to change into my flip-flops. My first breakage of the day – the bench snapped in two (a real lot of swearing). I pieced it together cursing these people for their stupid pretend bench. It looked okay. All I needed to do was lock the back door and I’d be out of there. But the key would only turn two millimetres and wouldn’t lock. Again I cursed their shoddy door lock. By now I was considering amputating the thumb it was so painful. I looked around for some door oil but couldn’t find any. Everyone has door oil! (apart from my next door neighbour, but that’s another story). I rang the gardening boss Quentin and explained. No answer, I left a message. Frustration rising I noticed some special vintage olive oil. I poured it into the lock. It would not budge. I poured in more oil and put my whole body force into it. Nothing! Meanwhile the boss rang back and told me to try lifting the handle up. I did and it locked easily (who knows this stuff?) Carefully I repositioned the olive oil.

I don’t know how the thumb is going to cope as I’m back in again tomorrow, and something weird has happened to my vision because every time I shut my eyes I see weeds.

Weeds Get Everywhere. The Illustration Iceberg Book Copyright 2013

12 May
Sometimes people really want to help you out, their intentions are good but a butterfly in the Southern Hemisphere bats its wings and everything goes to pot. The head art buyer Shane Lane from Husslebrands said, ‘I’ve got loads of designers here that will definitely be interested in seeing your work next week. I’ll get them all along so bring two portfolios.’ Sounds great. Enthused I quickly prepared another portfolio (it only took two days!) and this morning I went along.

Shane Lane and one other colleague met me in their cafĂ© cum brainstorming area. None of the designers turned up. However, we ploughed on... Shane was attentive and even interested enough to look at a sketchbook. He’s mate showed interest in my films and asked to see a showreel, ‘Of course,’ I said.... What showreel? I don’t have one! I never think of myself as a filmmaker so this threw me somewhat. Shane requested he hang on to one folio for a week to show around, to all those who didn't turn up I presume. Fine. Great. Super!

Carrying my remaining portfolio I went to the next appointment at Pecking Bombard, a large advertising agency. A nice man called Drew Salt looked at my work and said he’d definitely commission me for the right job. He also showed interest in my films and asked to see a showreel (what is going on!) I said I’d send it in (once I’d made it).

Still at Pecking Bombard I was introduced to young designer Anthea. She was new and really really young, reminding me, with all her enthusiastic questions, of former students I've been fortunate enough to teach. She was also quite nervous but we had a nice chat, which was really, really, really long as I didn’t like to hurry her. I should have because eventually she let slip that her mentor Drew Salt had advised her to see illustrators now and then... whenever she was stuck for ideas! So basically,  get people in under the pretense of a potential commission, have a good look at their ideas, pick their brains... feed them a few lines about 'getting in touch when the right job comes along' wave them goodbye and return to you work refreshed, fed and inspired... (frown)

I left Pecking Bombard worrying about plagiarism… but after a few minutes I thought, what can I do? Anyone can see my work and rip it off. Crafty (and not so crafty) people get away with plagiarism all the time, such is the easy access era we live in. The whole world of advertising works by using 'influences' and other peoples’ ideas that are in the public domain. It's very sad and a bit worrying when you're really struggling but Pecking Bombard’s blatancy was a little hard to stomach. On the way home I bought a lottery ticket.

To be continued...

The Illustration Iceberg Book - Part 7

Welcome back to the serialization of The Illustration Iceberg; my book about the ups and downs of freelance illustration... to set the scene, commissions are still on the sparse side and I'm still trying to be pro-active...  read past instalments and for more info go HERE

30 April
There’s a heaviness pressing down on my eyes. I’m in a classroom full of my old tutors and fellow students. At the front of the room there’s an old fashioned black board and it’s my job to remove it from the room through the tinniest door you’ve ever seen. Just as the board is about to get stuck I find myself transported to a dark cave where a cat resides. The cat gives me a terrible look of scorn…
Is this an anxiety dream... Copyright Fuzzywork 2013

I awake with a start to find the cat was a few inches from my face her paw outstretched ready to pat my eyes open.

What’s new? Lack of funds means I’ve had to close the fuzzywork website so I need to create a new way of keeping my internet profile up, which was zero so shouldn’t be too difficult.

I posted the ‘Ping & Pong’ book to Towering Publishers Ltd. As it dropped into the depths of the post box I said a small selfish prayer to the god of commissioning ‘Please let this be commissioned’. At this precise moment, and with horror, I realised I should have taken more time over the story! Prayer caveat: ‘Please also let them see beyond the story and marvel at the book’s sheer potential’. That should do it.

On a darker note, green plastic netting on the scaffolding has created a gloomy dungeon like atmosphere in the flat, adding to my rising anxiety. The only remedy is work. I’ve got a wind-up head torch somewhere.

Cat Aid. Copyright Fuzzywork 2013


4 May 
Cold calling is my least favourite activity. There are several unpleasant stages.

1. Pick up phone and dial (hardest part of all)

2. Babble your rehearsed line to receptionist.

3. Listen to some weird beeps.

4. Panic when someone you don’t want to speak to answers.

5. Cut yourself off.

6. Redial.

7. Hold your nerve as receptionist immediately puts you on hold. More beeps… drift off a little.. momentarily losing will to live.

8. Hold your nerve as receptionist begrudgingly listens to repeat rehearsed gibberish and puts you through.

9. Panic when it’s finally answered.

10. Prattle through your attempt to explain who you are and why you're bothering them (keep going even though you can feel them willing you to shut up).

11. Realise you’ve been talking to the cleaner.

12. More silence… nothing… a   v o i d.

13. Give up

14. Or try again.

15. But what’s the bloody point.

I’ve made over 30 calls today. I managed to speak to five actual people and made two appointments. This is a good day! Since January I have visited around twenty art directors and editors, many said they would commission me but most don’t. Do they mean what they say? Does it just trip off the tongue? Do they simply forget me the minute I leave the room? I suspect it’s a combination of all three, especially the last one.

To be continued...