When you freelance for a living you sometimes get some really odd projects to work on… not odd in the sense that you cannot understand why anyone would want something like that but in the sense that it’s not really something you have ever done before and it’s new territory for you. Most of those types of jobs are kind of exciting, as it’s outside your comfort zone and really makes you think about how to accomplish the project. Here are a few examples of some different jobs I’ve done in that vein, with some links to the backstory (if any):
- Titling animations and images for a movie
- 3D animated character designs
- Giant comic book-style panels for a museum display
- Caricatures of famous comedians for decor for a comedy club chain
- Images for CD-Rom Games
- Label illustrations for a line of frozen fish
- Designing a puppet
- Candy packaging labels
There are other examples, but these come to mind right away.
Some of those jobs are less exciting, like when someone asks you to copy or work in a similar style of another artist. When I get those kinds of requests I usually either say “sorry, I won’t do that”or try to convince them I can accomplish what they are looking for still working in my own style. In some cases that argument won’t work, like:
Many years ago when I first starting freelancing one of my first big jobs was for a company called Business and Legal Reports, who were producing some comic book style booklets aimed at young kids about the evils of drugs, smoking, drinking, etc. They had their first booklet, a 16 pager called “Don’t Huff that Stuff” about the dangers of sniffing chemicals, something that was big in the early 90’s, was about 60% complete in various stages of pencils and inks by another illustrator. This illustrator had apparently become impossible to work with and the project was badly past deadline. They asked me to finish the comic but keep the same style of characters and such. I sort of winced at that but it was more damage control than anything, so I went ahead and did it. It was very different from my usual style but very easy to mimic. I finished the book and went on to do I think 4 other books in my own style for them.
A more recent one was this illustration, an homage/parody of the famous Rick Meyerowitz “Animal House” movie poster, for an L.A. movie/sound production house. That was a situation where the style of art was part of the gag, and in very MAD-like fashion getting that look and feel was important. That job was a nightmare, but for different reasons.
The image at the top of this post is a recent job where I was initially asked to ape the work of other caricaturists. The art director contacted me and showed me three caricatures of Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Salvador Dali he found on the internet. The Einstein he liked was mine, which is what led him to me. The other two were the work of other caricaturists, and he wanted me to “get close” to them.
This is not that unusual, especially if you are working with an art director for the first time. They might show you several illustrations from different artists to try and get you to understand the look and feel they want. They don’t expect you to copy those pieces, it’s just a visual aid to describe aspects of the desired piece. This was a little different though. He really wanted me to base my caricatures on the work of others. This I refused to do, and assured him I could capture what he wanted within my own style. The only concession I really bent for was in giving Dali huge, googly eyes… he wanted that very cartoonish element, and I acquiesced. Of course, Dali had huge, googly eyes, so it was not much of a stretch. I think the end result is 100% my style, and the client was happy.
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