Tuesday, July 15, 2014

If An Illustration Falls In The Forest And Nobody Is Around To See it...

(Click for bigger.)

I used to try to get freelance illustration work. Frankly, I wasn't really cut out for the freelance hustle. Also, I never again wanted to hear the phrase "We can't pay, but this will be really good exposure for you." I haven't done any commercial illustration work for over a decade, and I haven't sought out such work for over 15 years.

Imagine my surprise, then, last Winter when, out of the blue, I was contacted by an art director for what I feel comfortable calling the world's most famous newspaper. This art director had seen my work online, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in doing an illustration for what I'll call Capital Letter Magazine, their semi-regular, ULTRA-glossy Sunday fashion and style supplement.

The article was about Hollywood movie ingenues who had matured gracefully into sometimes surprisingly unglamorous television roles. Pretty specific! I immediately thought of Piper Laurie in Twin Peaks, but the article was mostly, apparently, about Jessica Lange and... uh... actually, I forget who else. I love Jessica Lange, so I said I'd do it.

The somewhat awkward thing is that the art director had something fairly specific in mind. He/She wanted something specifically like this image of Condoleezza Rice I made in 2006 by collaging together photographs I took off my TV screen:

(Click for bigger.)

So, OK, taking photos off the TV screen of American Horror Story was definitely going to be the backbone of the image, combined with progressively younger pictures of Ms. Lange. The trouble was this: that picture of Condi makes her look like a terrifying monster! And I was pretty sure that's not what they wanted me to do with Jessica Lange, so it was a struggle to make the point without the result being cruel or grotesque. I think I got just the right shot, one of the few sympathetic views of Lange's wonderfully terrible character from American Horror Story.

I went through several arrangements and compositions before arriving at the image at the top of this post (do click it for the larger version). I had to have the magazine obtain the old publicity shots through official channels, so I had to pick specific shots and stick with them. Eh, I don't know. I think that given the assignment and the parameters, it's kind of nice. It's OK. Not really my style! I had originally done that collage of Condi because I took the shots off the TV, and they turned out so badly that I just kind of threw them together to make the best of a bad job.

There was some back and forth via email, and I eventually turned the illustration in. The art director was nice throughout the whole process. After finishing, I asked when the article was going to run, and got... no answer.

Keep in mind that most freelance illustration doesn't pay until after publication. In this case, not all that much, either (shoe money).

I figured, whatever, probably it'll run in the next month or so. It didn't. So about three months after turning in the illustration, I emailed the art director to ask if/when the article might run, or if it had been axed. And I swear I was polite! Just a simple, straightforward, polite, two sentence query. No answer. Busy person? Once he/she is done with you, he/she is done with you? Who knows!

I rechecked the emails. Had I simply been pranked? Punked by a mean-spirited spurious  "art director" out for laughs? No, all the names and email addresses were real and logical.

Anyway, it's been almost eight months now, and it still hasn't run, so I figure, fuck it, the article obviously got killed, so here's the Jessica Lange photo illustration that I did, evidently, for no reason whatsoever. Enjoy.

This is why I stopped trying to freelance! How do people deal with this stuff all the time?


Comradde PhysioProffe said...

I thought that was Peggy Fucken Noonan on the right!

Michael Strickland said...

Nice job on the tricky assignment. However, I think you should sue them in small claims court for payment using their emails as proof of a request for services, while publicizing every step of the process on this blog. Do it for freelancers like myself and a world of others, and embarrass them publicly. And it's not like you need more "exposure," since you're already the Princess of All Media.

Karl said...

I think it's a really nice illustration -- Wait! Jessica Lange got old?? When the hell did that happen??

Peteykins said...

Well, ha ha, no, I'm not going to sue. I'm not the suing type, and the kill fee I could possibly get wouldn't be worth the effort.

Wayne in CA said...

Wow, I subscribe to Famous Newspaper and regularly get Three Capital Letter magazine, which I only skim because it's just for people who are far richer and more clothes-obsessed than I. If I came across a PSP illustration in there, I would Lose My Shit. Such rich, glossy stock in 3CL mag. I would tear it our and frame it.

Alex said...

I have a number of musician friends who manage to assemble a living wage out of a hodge-podge of one-off gigs, part-time accompanist jobs, and/or freelance private lessons. The amount of hustle and networking this requires makes me exhausted just thinking about it. But then, I wouldn't want a full-time sales job either; and being a freelancer is fundamentally a full-time sales position for your own services.

And yes, these musicians all get the "I can't pay you, but think of the exposure!" thing on a regular basis, generally from people who are asking them to prepare an entire set of music they've never performed before for, like, next weekend.

samael7 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
samael7 said...

What an unfortunate series of events surrounding your clever graphic of Ms. Lange, whom I too adore. AHS wouldn't really be very much without her (and the other talented actors, certainly, but she does most of the heavy lifting).

(Reposted because I would not tolerate my typo of her name.)