15 March 1989
Looking for Direction
I left my steady paying job in the early months of 1989. My wife got pregnant right around the same time, and while initially this was a bit of a scare ("how are we going to pay for this??"), it eventually became clear that this was actually a good idea, my being home, as I'd be able to care for the baby, while the business was still relatively green, and save on child care expenses, and my wife could go right back to work after a short maternity leave.
I was very unclear at the time what kind of 'artwork' I wanted to do, or more importantly, what would actually sell, so I could make a living at this. I initially tried gallery-type work, specializing in pastels, but this proved to be a dead end, as I was ending up spending a ton of money on frames and entry fees and promotion with very little return on the investment. I also tried the 'poster and print' market, and had a few interested parties, but these seemed to be a lot of effort for little result as well. The flamingo drawing above was one of the pieces from this period, and I eventually ended up selling this one at a school auction many many years later for barely the cost of the large frame. Around this time I was sending out advertising to various potential clients, and drawing whatever came to mind hoping to use it as either promotion or pieces for my portfolio (6 years of no drawing at all left me with a feeling that I had a lot of catching up to do).
Most of the originals from this period are gone, some given to family members (my brother in law has one hanging in his office that I haven't seen in over 15 years), and the samples that I've posted here are from photos that I took at the time for my records.
The cat pictured below is my orange tabby at the time named 'Dude', and this was a detail of a larger illustration (which I've forgotten what the rest of it looked like).
Some other early assignments that kept me hopeful and barely afloat during these early months, were:
- I sold a few gag cartoons to a few small magazines like Cat Fancy, and The Artist's Magazine, (got paid something like thirty or forty bucks apiece, but boy was I thrilled to see those cartoons in print). I found gag cartooning to be a lot of sweat and effort and postage, but with very little return on the investment. I submitted a lot of crappy cartoon ideas to the New Yorker for almost a year before eventually giving up on gag cartooning altogether (none survive, thank goodness).
I also tried greeting cards, which was another of those illustration paths that led nowhere (I had a couple cards in circulation for a couple years, and maybe netted fifty bucks at the most for my efforts). I also did a bit of freelance work for my old employer, and several local ad agencies gave me the odd assignment during these early months. I did some 'fashion drawing' for a local department store for a while. But it ended up that magazine and editorial work was the direction that finally started showing some promise. It paid well, was fairly steady work, and I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. Book publishing gave me a good start, but the work is so infrequent and the schedules are such that it is hard to really count on it for steady income.