Sunday Mailbag

July 17th, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: How has technology changed how you work?

A: It has revolutionized every aspect of it, from how I get work to how I communicate with clients during the process to how I deliver the art.

I became a professional illustrator in 1990, right as the personal computer was starting to take hold in the world of publication and print. “Desktop publishing” was just starting to get serious, having been mainly a curiosity in the late 80’s and not used by professional publishers. That all changed as the years went by and the software became more powerful and easier to use. Keylining, layouts, paste-up, half-toning, stat cameras and drum scanning became things of the past. The internet also became a giant game changer for other aspects of freelancing.

Getting Work- Time was when you either physically brought in or shipped your portfolio out to a client who was interested in your work. Portfolios are things of the past now, replaced by websites which contain unlimited images and are instantly accessible 24/7. Marketing yourself has swung to using a strong web presence/virtual portfolio as a base, driving client traffic to it via a combination of the old method (direct mail, illustration sourcebooks, etc) and web-based methods (internet search engines and online “sourcebooks” like the iSpot). The versatility, unlimited volume and instantaneous/anytime access to your online portfolio makes a website the perfect showcase for an illustrator’s work.

Doing the Work- Communicating with clients during the job is faster and more efficient than ever before. Only the advent of the consumer fax machine had a bigger impact on this aspect of freelance illustration than when the internet came around. Imagine, before the fax machine, the simple step of sending the client sketches for review and direction took days of shipping back and forth, unless you lived in the same area. The fax and then the internet made it possible to live in Timbuktu, LA and be able to do a job as efficiently and timely for a client in New York City as an illustrator in Brooklyn could do. E-mailing scans, getting direction back, emailing revised sketches, etc., has become a process measure in hours no matter the distance apart. A huge difference.

You would think doing the work digitally wold be the biggest revolution that the advances in technology have afforded, but that is probably the least important. Yes, it’s easier to do certain things digitally than in traditional media, but art is still art and artists make tools conform to their demands not the other way around. There has been no increase in the skill or talent of illustrators because many use a stylus and digital tablet instead of a paintbrush and canvas. The biggest revolution here is that the end results can be revised and reworked much more easily, and if it is already in digital format even the simple process of having it scanned is eliminated.

Delivering the Work– Digital delivery of artwork has replaced the old method of delivering/shipping physical artwork that then needed to be color separated before being stripped into the final print. That saves days of time at the back end, extends deadlines and makes corrections easy and nearly instantaneous. I not upload a CMYK TIFF file of my artwork to some FTP site and the clients retrieves it, plops it into their layout in Quark or InDesign, and it’s off to the races.

More than anything, at least for me, the advances in technology means I can live here in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN and do work for clients on either coast or anywhere in the world without compromise.

Thanks to Adam Nu?¬±ez for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. This was amazing insight to the business. Thanks. It is really helpful. I use both methods but have given up inking traditionally because of speed.


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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