Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Don't Do It!

Why Speculation Hurts
A couple of things from the last few days created a convergence that I felt I couldn't ignore. I'd recently discovered one of those fabulous internet time-wasters, a place called The Drawing Board.

I've been enjoying the artwork and comments posted there, but was shocked (in a bad way) to discover in their classified section, this ad.

That same day, while flipping through my new collection of 1952/53 AD&SN magazines, I came across the article at left. Whattaya know, even half a century ago, when illustration was a much more respected profession than it is today, there were "clients" of the sort who had so little regard for artists, they expected us to work for free.

I was going to go on a tirade about this, but I found this fantastic article on the subject by a writer I greatly respect, Mark Evanier, thanks to one of the posters at The Drawing Board - thanks Cedric.

Everyone who makes their living with their creativity, whether illustrator, designer, art director, -whatever - whether new to the field or seasoned vet, should read this well-written article and take it to heart.



  1. I'd definetly remember Sergio Aragones' words on that bastard, i mean c'mon its original art dumdum!!

  2. This is a challenging and vexing topic, Leif. My favorite essay on the subject is a tough minded but funny essay by Dan Pelavin, who writes that only the people who truly love and need to create should ever get involved with this crazy field:

    Illustration as a career is most successfully pursued by those to whom no other option is acceptable. It takes that kind of motivation to overcome the inevitable and constant stream of obstacles. Some frankness about the nature of the illustration market and the people an illustrator will have to work for would go a long way in discouraging all but the most foolhardy and desperate from pursuing this glamorous and enviable career. Every illustration student should know that even the most brilliant art director, say one who can dial an entire phone number including area code without having to look it up again, actually believes he could do your job if he wasn't so busy.

    For the full essay, check out www.pelavin.com/edill.html

  3. Thanks for that link, David... I seem to remember reading it some time ago, but it deserves rereading ... and rereading and rereading until we have all memorized it.

    As for the topic of doing spec work, I don't find it challenging or vexing. I find it quite straightforward if one considers it in terms of an analogy like this:

    Go to the supermarket. Load up about a hundred dollars worth of groceries. At the checkout, tell them you'd like to take all this food home for free and eat it, and if you enjoy it, you might come back and pay for the next batch. See how far you get.

    See? Neither challenging nor vexing!

  4. Bingo, my friend. Thanks for this post! You got me all riled up and I posted on it too!

  5. ps: that's PRECISELY the analogy I always use!

  6. What I find amazing, is that some illustrators would rather spend their "valuable" time spent on some person's free job instead of using that "creative time" spent on their own personal projects, which at the end will pay longer in fringe benefits! Let's face it: in 28 years of illustrations, I have never heard of a "client's job" being more interesting than anything, any of us can come up with given a choice!

  7. Leif, I agree there is nothing challenging or vexing about diagnosing the problem. The challenging and vexing part is coming up with the right prescription to cure it! I sincerely hope every illustrator out there takes you at your word.

    In addition, illustrators can join and support the Illustrators Partnership of America-- a lot of good people doing good work in this area.

    I did not have to face this problem as an illustrator, but as a lawyer I spent many years on the board of an organization that provided free legal services to artists struggling with this quandary, and my law firm also donated its time to help start the IPA, so I have looked this problem in the teeth. Illustrators have to position themselves so they are not arguing against human nature and technology-- two formidable and heartless opponents.

  8. Ah, I see what you mean, David. Yes indeed, that is a problem we have all wrestled with. Its not exclusively the domain of the young, inexperienced illustrator either, no doubt we all have war-stories of closing our eyes and stepping off that particular cliff.

    But at least if we talk about it, share our experiences, we might move a few artists to at least consider the pitfalls of doing spec.

    As always, I appreciate your knowledgable input! :-)

  9. great post and discussion.

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