Friday, October 22, 2010

From the Vault - Haircut 2003

Back in 2003 I was still working a nine to five job (well, eight to four) five days a week while I tried to get my freelance art career back off the ground. Doing my own comic books, doing work for local clients, and doing stuff for friends just wasn't paying the bills.

In August of 2002 a friend of mine, Rob Kelly, was finding success on a website called the ISpot. He'd been on it since early 2001 but, since it cost money to join, I hadn't jumped on the bandwagon. In 2002 it seemed like Rob's career was taking off so I looked into joining again.

I had pretty much given up on a career in art at that time. I figured I'd work a regular job like most folks and do art for myself and try to just be happy doing that. But, one day, luckily, the boss I had at my day job did something piss me off just enough to make me take action. I called in "sick" the next day, got a portfolio of art together, and joined the ISpot.

This was in August of 2002.

The first jobs I got contacted for were pretty nickle and dime stuff with people saying my prices were too high and other artists they talked to said they could do it cheaper. These days, with people like that, I simply tell them if money is that big an issue you'd be better off hiring the cheap guys. You get what you pay for. But, back then I worried if I could even make it in the art business again.

In November I got a call from Cincinnati Magazine about doing a full illustration for them as well as a few spot illustrations. They were all full color, and, thinking in terms of comic book pricing, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could get a couple hundred bucks for the whole job. When the editor asked how much I charged I asked him how much his budget was. He said, "I'm really sorry but all we have for all three pieces is (well, I don't want to say, but it was a lot more than a couple hundred bucks.)" I did my best not to drop the phone as, calmly as I could, said "um....that's fine."

Of course, when I got off the phone I jumped up and down a bit and did a dance around my apartment.

Finally, I could see myself making an actual living doing what I loved.

The next few months were pretty dry but I ended up picking up one more magazine illustration job in January.

Then the advertising agencies found me.

The first job I did in advertising were some quick penciled storyboards for two commercials. I think I did them over a weekend but it felt like I did them quick. Little did I know what "quick" really was. Less than a week later, I got a call from them saying they needed two fully colored illustrations for Johnsons & Johnsons done by the next day.

Now, remember, I was still at a regular day job and this was the middle of the week. I'd have to do the illustration work in the few hours I had between going home at night and showing up to work the next day. I remember panicking a bit. When faced with jobs like this my mind tends to race. I wanted to do a great job because, if things worked out well, this client said they had a ton more of work to give me.

And that phrase alone made me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, I took some quick photo reference of a woman who I worked with and a photo of one of my friend's kids. I pieced them together and went home to work.

Looking back now I'm amazed I got this piece, plus another, done in one night. I was still finding my way with the computer so I was still painting a lot like I used to airbrush. I scanned in the pencils I had done and simply painted over them in Photoshop. I think, if given the same job today, the color might be a lot flatter and animated looking. But, back then, you can tell I was trying to impress and this piece really came out a lot better than it should have given only the few hours I had to do it.

But, I got it done and more work started steadily flowing my way.

For six months I worked both the day job while doing freelance art work at night. How I didn't kill myself by working so much I'll never know. I guess I was a man on a mission.

By September of 2003 I left the full time day job and, for the second time, started my freelance art career. It's been a bumpy road at times but I've loved the ride. And I wouldn't trade those crazy six months I had working all the time for anything.


rob! said...

Glad I could be of help along the way... :)

Sean Tiffany said...

You're always an inspiration, Robbo!