Friday, October 17, 2008

New Blog, Old Freelance Work

I thought I would start this blog by showcasing my so-far
modest career as an illustrator. I have learned a lot since my senior year at Kendall College of Art and Design, yet every job I get I still feel inadequately prepared to be a freelance artist. I look to the artists I admire most, or the ones I would like to model myself after, and I feel both discouraged and inspired. This has caused me to slowly progress, in my opinion. It’s time I started acting like a professional and pushing myself to learn more about drawing, more about media, and more about the business of being an illustrator. I treasure my sense of versatility, yet find myself cursed without a strong, recognizable focus.

I desire a more actively artistic habitat. Grand Rapids is trying to support the arts, and I have participated in plenty of programs / events. But it seems most of the artists here don’t share my interest in thinking big. There is a lot of folk art, some exhibit work, murals are popping up here and there, and there’s a ton of little design firms that I have little interest in working for (and they don’t seem to be interested in hiring freelance illustrators for their unique talent). But not all hope is lost in this city, and the surrounding areas. I just dream of getting good enough to start a real illustration studio to rival the big cities.

Anyhow, a look at some work I’ve done for clients over the last year:

This was a lesson in copyright issues. I originally made a contract which copied a standard format for freelance illustrators. Something in there the clients (who were very nice and met me personally at my home) decided they didn’t want. I think it was in the area of rights and ownership....they simply wanted to buy an image from me. Considering the deal carefully, and the concept of the illustration itself, I decided that was fine. They liked doing business with me so they later asked me to make an editorial cartoon with a very specific direction. I don’t know if that ever got published or not.

Occasionally people will see that you have the ability to draw very well from photographs. This makes illustration a profitable business around gift-giving holidays. This was commissioned by an old school friend.

This was my first attempt at this sort of illustration and technique.

I got an email response from Joanne at On-the-Town magazine (circ. 30,000+) after she received a post card of mine. Apparently my style matched her idea for the July cover, so I was in! These jobs gave me some great hands-on experience, and to further understand what it is to be a freelance illustrator. The jobs themselves were very specific, so I didn’t have any room to do my own interpretation. But I knew if I used some edgy, splashy style things would go over fine with the editors. I also had to learn the lesson I’m sure every illustrator learns--that some jobs will be pro-bono.

This was my first professional attempt at using
scratchboard. It is incredibly difficult, and time
consuming, but very rewarding of course. This was my first real paid gig, which I got when I sent postcards to about 20 Michigan microbreweries, including this one. No word yet on them doing bottle distribution, but we had talked about doing the label illustration and design together. They do distribute at least one bottle, their Raspberry Eisbock, which you can find at Siciliano’s. It’s an exceptional ale, and rated among the highest on

The next images are the final products for Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.  Two-sided collectible coasters, and a logo re-do.

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