This spring I will be celebrating my 25th year as a freelance illustrator. Perhaps I should say that I’ve ‘survived’ 25 years. Looking back, the first two years were a struggle, and the next 8 were, for the most part, smooth sailing, the 2nd decade was the best, and the past five have gone back to being a struggle. I plan on keeping at this career for the foreseeable future, so here’s hoping that 2014 keeps offering me challenges and hurdles to overcome, and I can continue to keep improving my craft and not spend too much time looking back at ‘the good old days’.
Personally, this has been a bittersweet year. My son spent his first full year ‘on his own’, trying to make his way in the world, with less and less help from ‘mom and dad’. He continues to work and live in Chicago, playing in a jazz band (a highlight of the year was driving out to see his band ‘on tour’ in Colorado this past summer). My father’s health (and mental state) continued deteriorating throughout the year, and he moved from my sister’s home in Lansing, to a ‘senior living’ apartment a mile from her house, then more setbacks in August, where he had an extended stay in a Rehab facility here in Grand Rapids, then moved for a short spell to my other sister’s home in Cleveland, and is currently in a Nursing Home near her home in Cleveland, and as of Dec 31 is barely holding on, and it may be doubtful if he sees much, if any of 2014. Despite the sadness and heartache of this past year, I have stored away a lot of good memories of the times I got to spend with my Dad in the spring and summer, taking him on his last ‘golf outings’ and ‘bike rides’.
My band has had another good year, recording and releasing our 2nd CD, which just got nominated for 3 ‘Jammie’ awards from our local independent radio station, one of which, surprisingly, was for ‘Production/Engineering’ (normally a nomination that goes to the ‘big recording studios’ in town, and not to people like me, ‘a guy on his computer using garageband’ – so I was pretty tickled with that). My wife continues to work at a local travel agency as a Graphic Artist, and in her spare time, volunteers for our local volunteer radio station as a programmer (every other Monday night “Riley on the Radio” on WYCE).
And that leaves the ‘illustration biz’ for the year. Some new clients, some returning old clients, and still managing to hang on to several of my ‘bread and butter’ clients, but the year felt very tenuous nevertheless. I seem to be doing a lot more ‘publishing’ work, which involves longer deadlines, less pay (per illustration), and a lot more stress. So in other words, it feels like I’m working harder than ever, but making a lot less money. And thanks to contractual obligations with several of these clients I was unable to share approximately 300-350 illustrations this year on my blog (I may catch up with some of them later this year, once I review the fine print on my contracts, and some of these projects ‘go to print’). I was not looking forward to posting my ‘best of the year’ samples this year because I couldn’t remember doing anything particularly memorable in 2013, but I was happily surprised when I took a look back, to see several samples that I had forgotten about. So here it is, what I feel are my best pieces of the past calendar year:
ADDENDUM: Dad passed away on New Year’s Day. 1938-2014.
The illustration tally continues, I did approximately 428 illustrations (and an animated music video) in 2013 bringing the grand total up to 13,389 illustrations since 1989.