Another Workbook Project

Instructional Fair


I had another large book project for my local children’s book publishing client this month. This one consisted of about 140 illustrations, all in black and white, in various sizes and shapes (like most of these projects were). I’ve included a sampling of illustrations from this project here. This one had a number of ‘activity pages’ which weren’t quite so fun to draw, including maps, flags of the world, clocks with different times indicated, and all were rather time consuming and involved a lot more ‘grunt work’ than actual creativity.

But there were plenty of chances to have fun throughout, including a section on musical animals (aardvark on an alto sax, gorilla on a guitar, cat/clarinet, dog/drums, etc etc), and there was a section on the moon and solar system in which I stretched a bit as far as ‘black and white technique’, using some spatter airbrush tools to get some interesting ‘moon effects’.

Even though the company was going through some major corporate shake-ups, layoffs, restructuring, mergers etc, I was still able at this time to work with my favorite designer down at this company, who was always very supportive of my work, and gave me a big boost each time I brought sketches and finals in for approval, by laughing a great deal at my cartoons. My son was about 11 at this time, and would frequently accompany me down to meetings with this client in the summer months, and got to be good friends with the designer.



A Rarity

Seaside Publishing



I’ve been lucky in the past 20 years to have had very rare bad experiences with clients. Most have been courteous, professional, reliable and aboveboard in every way imaginable. The only time I’ve had trouble with a client has been this particular project for a small southern book publisher in October of 2000. I was contracted to do three separate projects for this client, one of them a trio of ‘fat jewish lady’ cartoons for a cookbook (which I haven’t bothered to include here). A series of ‘seafood cartoons’ (of which I’ve included many of them here in this posting) for another cookbook, and finally a color cover illustration for a florida guidebook.


Well, the ‘jewish fat lady’ illustrations came first, they were fairly easy, and went swiftly from sketch to finish without a hitch, and were billed out to the client’s approval. The ‘seafood cartoons’ project was next, and the client seemed to love them all, and they went smoothly through the sketch and finish phase, with only minor corrections on a few of them, and these were approved and billed out. So far so good. I was really pleased with how they turned out, and had a lot of fun with the project, and even now, looking back at them from 7 years on, I still get a kick out of them.



Then came the color ‘guidebook cover’ illustration. I was worried about this one, because the client was particularly vague about what they wanted, so I very carefully went through several sketch phases, including color mockups and approvals on each separate element before putting the finish together. The hand lettering on the ‘florida’ was particularly time consuming, and didn’t want there to be any mix-ups about what I was doing. Well, the sketches were all approved and I was told to ‘go to finish’, but when the final illustration was presented, the client suddenly ‘didn’t like it all’ and wanted to go back to the drawing board and start over with a completely new concept. I explained that since the sketches were all approved, that going ‘back to square one’ would incur additional charges.


There was a disagreement with the client at this point, and the client refused to pay me for ANY of the work, including the two projects that were already in her hands, and presumably on their way to the printer. I did not wish to get involved in small claims court over this, especially over state lines, so I took advantage of my only perk with regards to being self employed, I took a loss on the project and walked away.

I’ve been extremely fortunate that this sort of client has been a true rarity in my experience (even with working for several clients on the far side of the globe), and on the plus side, I still have the drawings. Perhaps I can sell the reprints and have the final laugh in this sorry episode.


BW Scratchboards

AHMM, America, ChronicleHE, WSJ


The usual mess of black and white scratchboard illustrations this month for my national newspaper client, plus a few assignments from other sources. The ‘mudslide’ illustration above was for a piece on California real estate, and the ‘snail’ to the left was for a story about the slow progress being made in hooking up the country to ‘high speed digital access’.

The illustration to the right was one of those that I barely remember doing, and couldn’t tell you why there is a broken computer in the desert with an odd looking bird peeking into it’s smashed screen (or why there is a bird skull in the sand).


For the same client, I had another ‘stock ticker’ image, with the democratic donkey and republican elephant looking on. Presumably about the upcoming elections.

Below is a computer illustration for the same client, something to do with online books, I’m guessing.

Below that is another fiction piece for my long time ‘mystery digest’ client. This one had something to do with rival archaologists, or curators, or something. Or maybe it was a murder done with a paleolithic tool, I forget.


I had an unusual assignment this month from a new client, where I was asked to do a scratchboard portrait for some in house advertising, based off of a photo provided to me.

The illustration below, was for an educational publication in October, and had something to do with network data streams. One of the few times where incorporating text into the illustration actually ‘works’.

And finally, an illustration below that for a jesuit magazine regarding the hard time the Catholic church is having lately filling ‘priest positions’ with new recruits.