In June, I was contacted by Highlights magazine, and asked to take part in a redesign of a pair of this magazine’s long running characters, who, they felt were in need of a makeover. This was the first time I’d been contacted by this magazine, one that I have read when I was a kid, in doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms. In fact, I used to have a pair of gerbils, one black and one white, that I named after these very characters that they wanted revamped (Goofus and Gallant). I was one of many illustrators that they contacted for this purpose, and they would decide what direction they wanted to go in after seeing everyone’s samples. Needless to say, I wasn’t one of the chosen. Probably just as well. I would’ve enjoyed the steady gig, but after a while, I think I would have started to really dislike these two guys (especially that goody two shoes Gallant). Probably wouldn’t have been healthy for the young readers.
This month would mark the last major project that I would work on for Cobblestone Publishing that I had been contributing to since ’93 (although, one of the pubs, Oddysey, their science publication, I would continue to do the ‘puzzle page’ for a year or so afterwards). The pay scale for these periodicals remained stagnant for the 10 or so years that I worked for them, and I was unhappy with the contract, so when I tried to raise these issues with the management, the work promptly stopped. The map above was for one of the ‘history’ themed publications.
I had been noticing over the past few years, that the designers were subtly sneaking more and more work into the ‘single page rate’ – multiple spot illustrations per page, extra map ‘vignettes’ that could be pulled out and used elsewhere in the publication – one designer for a ‘geography’ publication under the same parent company, who used to assign me a map in nearly every issue, asked me at one point, if I couldn’t just draw one huge map of the middle east (since that would be the focus of the magazine that year), they could just pay me once, and then pull out each individual country to use when they needed it.
These spot illustrations of different Babylonian gods were for another of their publications, and since three of these spots fit on a single page, I was only compensated for 2 pages for the 6 spots, each of which was complicated enough both in research and rendering to have been a page worth of work each. (these are reduced in size here to fit, the originals were about 3×4 each)
I have to say, that I miss the work, it was frequently interesting and challenging, and the designers that I worked for were friendly and easy to work with. Some of the projects were more interesting than others though. The maps I enjoyed, though I never liked the ones like above where I was expected to collage in a few pertinent ‘scenes’. I enjoyed doing these ‘faux relief’ Babylonian artifacts, although the attention to detail was a bit daunting.
I don’t particularly miss the ‘collage’ assignments I was given, where I was asked to draw a series of overlapping scenes around a historical event. Crowds of people in period dress and architecture that all needed to be researched. I don’t miss the usage contracts, and I barely even noticed a change in income after this client left, though my working hours dropped considerably.
About a year or so previously, a company merger occurred between this client, and another of my children’s publication clients. I still continue to work occasionally for the other client, although not nearly at the same rate and volume that I worked for this one.
I continued to work on a semi-regular ‘puzzle page’ feature for Oddysey, for another year or so. Sometimes the drawings contained the puzzles themselves, and other times (like this one), I was merely to illustrate a sort of story problem.