Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Working for free has it's benefits.

 Most students that have freshly graduated from art school are so ambitious and over eager to get something in print they tend to make bad decisions;  add on they're inexperience to this and you have an equation of some poor sap being shafted. In other words, they end up agreeing to work for free. I was no exception. 
 The first thing I told my daughter when she finished school was, never work for free or on speculation of being paid,  "Samantha", I said, " Listen to me, if they truly believe in their project they can come up with a little bit of cash for you as a good will gesture." Do I take my own advise? No, of course not, I still do work on spec. (another word for free).  People like to cloak the term free by calling it spec. but, working on the speculation that when they hit it big so will you, has yet to send a paycheck in my direction. Don't get me wrong, nobody ever twisted my arm to get me to accept one of these jobs, but I actually believed when I was younger that one of these was gonna pay off eventually. I'm still optimistic in that sense, you know, hoping one of those jobs from the past will someday throw some green my way, but I'm not holding my breath. 

 My biggest problem or the reason I end up working for nothing is that I love to draw and I love to be challenged. When a possible client approaches me with a project the first thing I react to is wether or not it's gonna be fun to draw and is it gonna be challenging for me, then I start thinking about the monetary obligations of the client. I probably should think in the opposite, but I know I would not get the opportunity to work on some of them if I did.

 I've found that one of the reasons I take on some of these jobs besides the reasons I've already stated is to help people out a little bit.  I think of them as pro bono publico projects, it makes it easier if you're doing them for a good cause.  I find that a lot of artists who are not being paid tend to bail on these jobs quite often and it is usually near the dead lines, leaving people in quite a bind. Shame on you artists who are doing this, this creates very uncomfortable working situations (unrealistic dead line for example) for the next artist. listen, if you take a job then finish it, wether you like it or not. I will say though, one of the benefits of working on spec. or for very little money or for free is that most of the time you get a lot more creative freedom and/or input. People tend to be more responsive when your are working for diddly squat. This allows you to put a little more you in said projects.  

 Fortunately my really art job allows me the financial ability to take some of these project on but still it would be nice to get something back occasionally. I tend to make the best out of every job I get, I know that growing as an artist is a life times achievement and unless you are working and being challenged you will not grow. I guess I'll still be working for nothing when I'm 80 if the project excites me. I'm living a rich life, experiencing the great things that life has to offer and that's something money can't always buy but can help you to pass by.   

This is Thomas the Thundering Toucan, it was a freelance book illustration job that never paid but the lady that was my client was the nicest woman you could ever meet, Lenora Baldwin, private investigator. Honestly, part of the reason this didn't work out was from my own inexperience and inabilities. 
One of the habits that I still carry with me is the extreme caution and fear for my children when I'm near bodies of water. Growing up in Florida is quite an experience. I wonder how many times I've jumped into dark water where one of these fellas was sitting. Probably more than I care to think about. Now I'm in California, no gators here just great white sharks. This drawing is for my wife, she has a real phobia about this, and heights.
This was not a freelance job, I was experimenting with a new technique.
This was a character design I did for another book illustration job. I think I lost out on this to a fellow art student. The client didn't like my take on Billy the Bi-Plane, really, what's not to like?
This is an unfinished illustration, I'm still experimenting with that technique.


  1. "Shadrack" ChadSeptember 13, 2009 at 5:43 AM

    I also find that there is some benefit in every pro bono job I take on. Sometimes, it is finding a level of collaboration that doesn't exist in the corporate world (where politics plays more of a driver than the project goals). Sometimes it is being able to take a project to the next level or beyond which is outside of the expertise or ability of the current team. Sometimes it is to better refine my processes and skills.

    It does help to be appreciated and that is usually enough of a driver for me. I was recently volunteering at an organization and they insisted that I be compensated with an introduction to all of their big name corporate sponsors. I was blown away by the generous offer which made me take on even more volunteer tasks for them! Perhaps I was just the victim of a clever strategy, but I like to think that it was genuine appreciation - something that takes almost no resources and is incredibly lacking in our world today.

  2. Hey I really like what you did with the color stuff. I think you have past your fear of color.
    Keep on drawing you are a great storyteller.