Picking Up Steam

AHMM, ChronicleHE, Green Prints, OC Weekly, WSJ

The workload started picking up a little steam around my birthday on Friday. I had two assignments for the WSJ (one pictured above that I did on Friday afternoon, and a two part spot that I finished up this morning is pictured below), a new client from the West Coast, and the possibility of a few more books coming soon. Had a rather busy weekend, trying to make sure I wouldn’t be too swamped on Monday, and it paid off, so that I might actually be able to get a little ahead of the game this week.

The illustration for the new client was a cover image about a pastor who ministers to the punk community, which I spent a great deal of time on Sunday, in fact getting 30% finished with another version, before getting frustrated and starting all over again with a different approach.

Prior to the weekend, I finished up a series of bw spots for GreenPrints and they are pictured below.

And finally, a fiction piece for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine which I just finished up moments ago.

25 Years, and away we go…

Barrons, Penguin

And here we go, our first assignment of 2014, after all the dust has settled from the funeral, and the ‘artic vortex’ blizzard. While I have not exactly been ‘idle’ these first two weeks of January, most of the work has consisted of rough sketches for an upcoming book assignment, revisions on illustrations for another book, both of which I’m contractually unable to share on the blog. This illustration above was one for Barrons that I finished up this morning. And, since I’ve received my contributor copies of one of the books I worked on last year, and I see it is available on Amazon, I’m going to share a sampling of the approximately 85 illustrations I did for this book. This was a biography (one in a series of ‘famous people biographies’ by this publisher) of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and below are three small samples from this project, which I was working on last spring and summer. I did all the interior illustrations, and the cover image was done by another illustrator.

2013 Year in Review

Year In Review

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.