Hello, welcome back to snippet 13 of my book about life as a freelance illustrator - The Illustration Iceberg. Cont...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
LOVE & LITTER
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...
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.
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.
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 mower 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.
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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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: 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
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
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.
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.
‘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…
…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.
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.