Friday, February 28, 2020

My Journey: Illustrating for Free (The Reasons I Do Pro Bono Work)

I recently finished this illustration and design for the Cabot Community Theaters production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. All my time and work was donated to the theater to help them. This included the above design and a black and white version for t-shirts.

I believe that as an artist, I should get paid for the work I do. Generally, when someone asks if I can do free work, my response is no. I also believe in giving to others. There are many organizations out there that just don’t have the finances to hire a good designer or illustrator, but they can benefit from the work we do. 

The pro bono work that I do is mostly for not-for-profit organizations that are doing something that I can support. To date this has been largely for children’s theaters. They are trying to do so much good for so many with so little. These organizations need all the help they can get. 

One friend of mine said that doing pro bono work for not for profits was what lead him to start his own design business. The not-for-profit organizations all had board members that worked for other for profit companies. When they needed work, they were already familiar with what he did. He was then hired and paid and continued to get repeat customers.

Although this would be a nice benefit to my donating my work, it is not the reason why I do pro bono work.

There are a few times I have needed to make sure I am not taken advantage. In these situations, I have found that reminding people how much the work would be if I was not donating my time and skills to them would be has been effective. 

I value the opportunity to do pro bono work for the following reasons. 
• I know they are in need.
• I get to work on really fun projects with little art direction.
• When I am not busy with other paid work, it gives me a deadline to do something more for my portfolio. 
• I have a higher level of creative freedom.
• It gives me an opportunity to explore process, medium and style.
• I like to help others out.
• I love the organizations I help (I really love theater).
• Did I mention it is fun.

Friday, February 21, 2020

My Journey: Dealing with Discouragement

My Probllama

I hit another low point this week. Monday was great. I was focused and got things moving along. When Wednesday hit it was quite a different story. I had the day planned out like I usually do, but then it all fell apart. Instead of working on illustration and marketing like I planned, I spent the day driving around for various appointments. I got more and more frustrated as the day progressed.

The most common thoughts that ran through my head was “why do I even try? What is the point of all of this?” Other things seem to constantly demand my time making it impossible for me to do what I want to do and what I need to do in order to get my illustration business going stronger. With these thoughts running through my head, I spiraled down to “I have been working on this for so long with no one wanting to hire me for illustration work.“ I began to question if I was any good at what I was doing. Again, the thought keep coming, “What is the point? I should just give up and do something else.” I was demoralized, discouraged and angry. I felt like everyone, my job, my family, everyone was intent on holding me back from my dream. 

This is a common feeling for me. It is something that crops up on a semi regular basis. Sometimes it last for days, other times it is just a few moments of self-doubt. As I questioned my attempts to get more illustration work this week, one message was also consistent. It was a still small voice that kept recurring to me. “Keep on the track you are going on. Just keep going.” As I held on to this other thoughts started to come.

First, “adjust your expectations.” Part of the frustration I am having is that I keep thinking that I should be where I want to be now. This is a deadline I have imposed on myself based on what others are doing and what I think should be happening. I have to remind myself that there is no set or specific tie as to when everything will work out. 

Second, (I have said this before and I say it often to my students.) Be patient. The difference between those that are successful in the visual arts and those that are not comes down to sticking with it and not giving up. One needs grit, diligence, and determination.  

Third, I needed to recognize that what I was doing on Wednesday was far more important that what I had planned. I needed to put things in the proper priority. I was helping my children, my family, and I was helping other people. This coupled with adjusting my expectations helps me to realize that sending out a number of portfolios to potential clients can wait a day or two. 

Fourth, help someone else. At the end of the day, I had the opportunity to be of service to others. Although I was still frustrated with my lack of time when I started helping, by the end I was in a better mindset. I was able to get out of my focus on myself and focus on others. This further helped me put things into perspective. I was able to think more clearly and move forward in a more positive manner. 

I also pray a lot for help.

I am doing better.

Now I am just continuing to move in the direction I have been going, even though it is so much slower than I expected.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

New Poster Design

I had a wonderful time designing this poster for a monthly Game Night at my church. It was thrilling to push my design sensibilities.

Friday, February 7, 2020

My Journey: Directory of Illustration

You can now see my work in the Directory of Illustration!

 One of the challenges of being an independent artist is finding people to buy your work or to hire you to do work for them. Any artist should have a website. I have received a number of jobs from clients finding me on social media as well. But this is not enough. Similar to my comments about diversifying what you offer to build a solid table you need to diversify how you get seen by potential clients. 

Last year I took a big leap and purchased ad space in the Directory of Illustration. To date nothing has come from it. Despite the lack of work, I do not see this as a negative thing. This is a learning process; I cannot expect that clients will be knocking down my door immediately. I have been impressed with the sales reps at DI. They have been very good at giving me pointers and helping me refine my web portfolio through them. 

Regularly, I tell my students that they cannot expect to get work immediately upon graduation. The difference between those that are successful in the visual arts and those that are not, comes down to sticking with it and not giving up. One needs grit, diligence, determination, and patience. There will be more on patience in future posts I am sure.  

I have had many moments of discouragement, but I keep reminding myself, like I remind my students that it takes time to build a business. It takes time to find clients. 

You can see my Directory of Illustration page here. You can also see many more talented illustrators at the site.