Monday, July 5, 2010


The past year has been a bit of a struggle for me.
Things tapered off near the end of 2009, and then started up again with steady work in the new year. But now, other than one project that I'm revising, I really have nothing much lined up for the month of June. Typically, I'm booked about 4-6 weeks in advance, and turn down work (out of the fear of doing a shitty job if I take on too much).
But nowadays, things are different.

Editorial projects have decreased, and depending on the magazines, some of the budgets have been negatively affected, or frozen. Yuko says that the summer months are typically slower than other months (since some magazines double up on their summer issues). For me, summer over the past 3 years has meant Summer School (1-2 month residencies that happen every day) and so with that going on, I never really noticed the slow down of the pace of work too much. But now that I'm no longer participating in such programs, I'm becoming more aware of the break of summer.

If I were more business minded I could probably distance myself from what is going on right now, and realize that what we're in is part of a business cycle that trends up and down. So during those down periods, it becomes important to reevaluate one's work, and possibly find a new place for it within the market, as well as new means by which to distribute one's work.
However, to be quite honest, on a visceral level, I feel somewhat like a lost 23 year old who recently graduated from art college with a diploma in illustration, and a full time job in retail, fumbling over my supplies, creating stuff - any stuff - hoping that it will carry with it my creative voice, and also appeal to a market that is willing to receive it openly.

I remember years ago, I went to Habourfront, in Toronto, to listen to Ethan Hawke read from his book "The Hottest State. " He said that many people gave him flack because they thought he was using his Hollywood clout, and wealth to realize a book deal. Although I believe it surely helped him, he also convincingly described how even with that type of support, he still had to go through the motions of creating something close to his heart, and then throw it out there for the heavens to receive it, or for the hyenas to maul. Whether or not he would receive a positive response was unpredictable, but in the meantime he described the experience of doing so (and possibly failing) like being on a boat and vomiting over the edge in front of onlookers. Don't get me wrong, I understand that having a shit load of money places him, or anyone else in his situation at a starting block further ahead of those who have-not, or who have-less, however, my connection to his story was more on a visceral level. How does one get past the procrastination, and the demons that whisper in one's ear that s/he cannot accomplish what they're setting out to do?
It's so easy to surrender.


We all know that the surface of our industry beneath us is shifting.

It will be interesting to see who comes out of this recession intact, and thriving, and to also see the new faces of the younger illustrators who begin to appear, seduce, and then grow the industry in a new direction.
I have 2 interns right now, both of whom I am inspired by each time they enter my studio; part of the reason is that I receive from them a bright-eyed and openness to explore new things. My path since I was in school was to become an illustrator whose focus was on print.
But now, I see the limits of it.
Not many of us can control how much we get paid. Yes, history is on our side in the sense that we have established a basis for how much to charge, as well, we rely on each other, our friends and colleagues to help retain a price structure, but based on the interviews that I've read, and the comments that I've heard, the amount of money that we've gotten paid in editorial has not really changed in decades.
We're long past the days where advertisers paid loads of money to buy space in a magazine; there are so many other outlets nowadays for companies to advertise, which means that unless editorial takes a turn and all these publications morph into a multimedia format where companies begin buying ad space in the form of motion graphics/commercials within the magazine itself, I'm not sure how else our print editorial industry can expand, because advertisers are the reasons why many of these magazines function. And so, if the readership of these books, and magazines, and newspapers are diminishing, chances are that we illustrators will ultimately be on the receiving end of all of this. And even if this happens - if magazines translate themselves into an digital format, will the benefits be carried over to the illustrator? Will our prices and budgets have to be adjusted for a new editorial format? And if so, will we be getting paid more, or less, or the same?
I don't know.
These are some of the things that I've been thinking about, and as a result, I'm trying to make my work more experiential. I'm exploring projects that make me uncomfortable even if it has or doesn't have an illustrative application; I'm making tons of mistakes along the way, but each step that I take, these mistakes seem to be minimized. I've hit so many blocks and wasted money that could otherwise be spent in more productive ways. However, I keep telling myself that if I build it then it will come. Right now, I think it's anyone's game.

* The images above entitled, Machoman are for a group show that I'm in called, "T Minus 20," at the Christopher Henry Gallery, this Thursday, July 8, from 6-9pm. Location is at 127 Elizabeth Street, between Broome and Grand in Nolita.

1 comment:

Steve said...

looks awesome man