Doors Close, Doors Open

April 28th, 2017 | Posted in Freelancing

After over 15 years and approximately 160 (mostly) monthly illustrations for a company that produces media for workplace subscription services, the illustration you see above is probably the last one. The main art director retired earlier this year, and now it’s been months since I have gotten a call from the company. I was sort of warned this might be coming by some of the people I usually worked with there… the new folks in charge want to move in a “different direction”. I’m sad to see it end because I loved working with the art department there, and it was a very long association. It doesn’t surprise me, though.

This is commonplace in the freelance world. Your work is inevitably tied to the art directors you illustrate for. When editorial or art department personnel change, the last thing they want to do is the same thing the last art department folks were doing. Everyone feels the need to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s happened to me many times. I would do a lot of work for a certain client for a few years, then art directors change and it’s over.

This is why it’s important as a freelancer to keep pursuing new work and new clients. Nothing lasts forever. Sometimes the art director who moves on calls you again to do work for where ever they landed, but often they do not because they don’t want to be any more tied to a certain look than their replacements did. You just have to keep on knocking on doors until a new one opens. I’ve found that a new door is always waiting for you… you just have to keep on trying the knobs.


  1. Jack Myhervold says:

    I am sure many of the workers at companies like this have gotten great enjoyment from these imaginative and fun illustrations. It is sad when creative departments think they are being more sophisticated and intellectual when they bring down the level of unrestricted fun imagery. I have felt disappointed for years when I have seen magazines or movie advertising phase out the fun of illustrations. It would be great to see movie posters with the great Drew Struzan’s art or someone like the late Richard Amsel, and of course the comedy movie art of Jack Davis, Jack Rickard, occasionally Mort Drucker and others. I miss the great James Bond poster campaign’s with the artwork of Robert McGinnis. Years ago Time magazine had a weekly editorial style illustration by C.F. Payne and others that was my reason for subscribing. It was too fun to last of course. I think that there will be a revival of interest one day the same way vinyl has had some renewed fascination for a new generation. It goes in cycles.

  2. Edholm says:

    I talked with that art director the other day. Sad news. Never thought it would happen. 😢

  3. Roger says:

    This has actually been bouncing around in my head for the past few months. I have a client for whom I have regularly been producing art for the last 15 years or so. I’ve become very comfortable and settled with the number commissions I receive each and every month from them, and it keeps me busy in a way a part-time job might.
    If they were to suddenly stop, it would leave a huge void in my routine and have a significant impact on my income. I definitely need to better diversify my sources of illustration income.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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