Thursday, June 14, 2012

When Bad Assignments Happen To Good Illustrators

Hey illustrators! Ever get an assignment that pays but is not your idea of a great project?

We're not told as illustrators that some projects are not going to creatively rock our worlds. Sad reality but many projects are going to seem boring, tedious and often frustrating. 

We look around and see great work everywhere in magazines, coffee shops, online and at the mall. Many illustrators shine and showcase their style in many great assignments. It looks easy. It looks fun! Some assignments looks like our idea of  what a dream job is or what a dream client would be.

Sometimes we must do many projects that pay but do not spotlight our best abilities. Sadly, it's part of the process of being a freelancer. 

So what can go wrong-what often makes a project lose its lustre: 

  • too art directed.
  • too many demands.
  • not able to push our natural style.
  • no freedom to be creative at all.
  • too many revisions.
  • cannot please the client no matter what we try. 
  • it's a ridiculous theme or concept.
  • it's a ridiculous deadline to complete.

Here is the ultimate creative buzz kill -being asked to illustrate in a style that is not your own. Yes, that moment when your heart sinks after being asked to illustrate differently. What could make this epically worse? Being asked to imitate another illustrators style! 


We have two choices: we can do the project or we can decline. 

What makes many illustrators complete the tedious task? Money! We need to survive. There is no free is freelance as they say. We have bills like everyone else. Some of us live alone, some of us have student loans to pay back, and some of us have kids.  

Best advice, work on projects that you can actually complete. If they are asking you to imitate   another illustrators style-this is not ethically cool. Unless you can come to some agreement with your client that you cannot imitate, then this assignment is not going to work out.  

If you are taking the plunge then try this little trick I created for myself that works - work on more than one project at the same time. In other words, create a illustration distraction in order to get the tedious project done.

Here's how:
1. Accept that this project will get done. 
2. Rebel against the project! That's right, have fun while multi-tasking on other enjoyable things.
3. Create a self-project you have been putting off or something you would really enjoy working on along with the undesirable one.
4. Enjoy the process of this fun project- post pictures of the progress you are making on the happy project. Post it to your FB page or your blog. Great feedback will motivate you to work.
5. If the undesirable project is really studio hell,  try creating the version you wish to illustrate. One for the client and the other project you would actually put in your portfolio. A little good vs. bad illustration face-off!
6. Create the right atmosphere in your studio. Have the right tunes, a good cup of coffee,  good things to nibble on and always go for comfort. Get up often, go outside, take some breaks or go for a walk. 
7. Get it done-move on to something better! 

I think creative distractions if done well can help you get through many of the illustration ups and downs that can happen. We cannot all get to illustrate for Starbucks or The New Yorker. However, creating a secondary project allows you to do something you love along with work that gets you paid. The frustration can often be cancelled out once you've created something you are truly happy to promote. Before you know it, it's time to move on to another paid assignment hopefully that truly rocks your illustration world. 

Happy creating! 

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