Lichtenstein, Bounder and Cad!

Rants, Recent Commissions

Lichtenstein, Bounder and Cad!

My latest project is taking me on an exciting mission to investigate the world of Roy Lichtenstein. I’m not compelled to do it in depth, but for this commission I need to get a feel for his style and the word that he’s done. It was whilst doing this research I discovered a startling revelation, something which may have already been apparent to some of you but for me it’s news.

Roy Lichtenstein was a no good plagiarist! This is just terrible news. Not that I particularly hold any affection for the guy, although I am a huge fan of graphic novels and comic book art I’d always like the fact he’d championed their style…but wait, no he didn’t. That’s why it’s terrible news. In actual fact, what Lichtenstein did do was wholesale take art from comic books, copy them out again in with much less skill and then go on to make a mint off it whilst the original artist faded into obscurity. The high toned and fancy critics in the art world back then and to this day, continue to look down their noses at comic book art. When compelled to review comic books they usually take a long suffering stance that begrudgingly admits that this particular comic book “isn’t for kids” and is therefore almost worthy of their notice.

But I digress. Lichtenstein was popular. Critics were gushing and fawning at him over their chilled champagne and at the same time they were all still belittling comic book art. He could have said something, spoken up for them. Maybe he was too scared someone would look into it and out him as being the massive plagiarist that he was.

As far as I’m aware, nobody outed him for being a bounder and a cad until relatively recently. A bloke called David Barsalou spent something like 25 years going through old comic books one panel at a time, comparing them with Lichtenstein’s work until he managed to find all the pieces he’d ripped off. It’s a real life’s work, this guy obviously feels very strongly on the struggling comic book artists getting their credit where credit is due. Good for him. These artists could have been you or me, trying to earn a living doing what they loved, putting their heart and soul in getting the right pose, the right look and for what, for their names to be forgotten whilst Lichtenstein’s name is actually programmed into Spellcheck.

But what do you think? Has his work improved upon the originals by cleaning them up a bit? Is he in some way inspired or he just a low down rat? What’s your opinion?

Picture on left – original piece by artist Tony Abruzzo. Picture on right, one by Lichtenstein.


Top Three Ridiculous Requests Of The Week


Greetings cuddle muffins! Alrighty then, so I’ve got a couple of offerings from the bin of hopeless adverts here for your delight, delectation or just general ambivalence. So, here are this issues top three unbelievably shocking artistic requests made towards the creative industry…

Third Place:

Looking for an illustrator / artist who can draw up 14 little cartoons (black/white) each pertaining to a description (e.g. chess, science, etc.)
To be used on a website.

It shouldn’t take long for the right person to produce what we need. Pay is $40 for the project, including any changes to be made after feedback.

Remember the translation guide I posted a few days ago? The eagle eyed amongst you will note the careful use of the phrase “shouldn’t take long for the right person”. Of course we all know what they really mean by that, not that they left you guessing there as they follow it swiftly up with “Pay is $40” (if you can’t be bothered getting out the calculator, he’s offering $2.86 per illustration) and just as you’re reeling from the sheer brass neckery of it all, they finish you off with the kicker “including any changes to be made after feedback”.
Ouch! Good luck with that…

Second Place:

I am writing a children book and would love to toss some ideas around as far as the illustrations go. Maybe see what you have to offer and go from there. At the moment NO PAY IS OFFERED. How ever if we continue and see a common vision, than I would love to make a select person the illustrator for the book and list you as such on the cover.

Again we can refer to our handy-dandy translation guide for this one boys and girls, see where she says “NO PAY IS OFFERED” that gives us some indication of what she has in mind here. However, even without this glaringly obvious factoid, we’ve also got the old ‘jam tomorrow’ tactic, the promise of future work and fame, fabulous fabulous fame as she promises to list your name on the cover no less! This of course is after you’ve trawled your creative talents giving her an unspecified number of ideas for HER book, which, if she likes them, she may decide you can then bring them to life for her – for free. If she doesn’t like them, you’re out on your ear anyway for the same amount of no money. Plus, she might just take your ideas and saunter off into the sunset with them. “Toss some ideas around” indeed!

The Winner:

I need an excellent illustrator to make a rendering of a battle scene with George Washington from the Revolutionary War. Piece should be stylized and resemble porcelain etchings and artwork with decorative elements.

Please email me for specifics, I need this ASAP. $150

This is, without a doubt, the clear winner of this post’s selection. How could anyone top this…well I suppose if they were asking for the same thing and offering less money. Yes, granted, they didn’t have the out and out bare faced cheek to not offer any pay at all, but $150 for a rendering of a BATTLE SCENE from the revolutionary war, starring George Washington resembling porcelain with decorative elements. I’m sorry, come again? You want what now? For how much?!
Then just to really take your breath away, they begin it by asking for an excellent illustrator (for $150?!) and end it by saying they need it “ASAP”. Oh right, yeah, last minute porcelain etched battle scenes, it’ll be with you by five.

Tune in next time for more shocking discoveries from the world of freelance illustrating…

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – How Not To Hire An Illustrator


 Continuing with the old hunter gatherer analogy, I have been out harvesting the fruits of the interwebs searching for succulent morsels. Whilst in this occupation, I have found a few really dodgy looking vegetables…

 Exhibit A – The Good Grief

“I have a model diagram and I need someone to design a diagram which looks like the model which Ill give to you.”

          So…are we all clear on that then?

Exhibit B – The Bad Grammar


“A illustrator and drawist needed”

This person apparently wants a ‘drawist’ to bring to life the ideas that are in his head. Apparently it “shouldn’t take long.” I suspect otherwise.

Exhibit C – The Ugly Job Offer

“I have twenty illustrations that I need done for a fantas adventure novel.

There will also be a small amount of involved, as the final output will be for an iPad e-book.

Full color.

8.5″ x 11″.

Thank you kindly.”

Ok, definitely a weird grasp of the English language which implies possible communication difficulties ahead so that’s ringing a few alarm bells. There’s going to be “a small amount of involved” which really, could be anything. Assuming the poor verbal skills doesn’t have you running for the hills, you may ask what’s your budget for these twenty full colour 8 by 11 fantasy illustrations?

“Budget: $30-$250”

Say what?! That’s a maximum of about £158 for the whole thing, less the percentage fee for using this website, that’ll leave about £140-ish which works out as £7 per illustration. SEVEN POUNDS for a whole illustration, assuming each fantasy illustration takes, what, five hours to do (sketching, inking and colouring…plus redrafts because you just know this guy is going to want redrafts)? That means he wants someone to work for £1.40 an hour, and that’s ONLY if they pay the maximum budgeted amount. And they say slavery has been abolished!

But you know what’s really, really bloody awful. Worse than the fact this guy is asking people to work for an abysmally small amount. The worst thing is, not only have 26 people actually applied for this god-awful job and agreed to work for this pittance but one of them has bid $30 and said they can complete it in 3 days. THIRTY dollars, that’s how much they’ve valued their time at.

Maybe they’re really fast, maybe they can do all twenty illustrations in, I dunno, less than 3 and a half hours per image (because that’s what it’s going to take to do 20 in 3 days). So say if it takes them 2 hours per image, that’s 40 hours of their life they’re spending on this project in total. $30, minus website fee, leaves about $27 which translates to around £15, which works out as 75p an image or if it takes them 40 hours, about 37p an hour.THIRTY SEVEN pence an hour!! Now THAT is just plain wrong. What in the heck can you buy these days for 37p? What are they trying to do to illustrators everywhere by offering to work for 37p an hour?!

*rage choke*

Union!! UNION!!

Back Away Slowly


Alright, so I’m out hunter gathering as per usual. In between being hopelessly distracted by electric guitar versions of the Skyrim theme tune. Oh so good…

But rocketing back to the job hunt thing, you ever look at an advert and think, hum, working for someone like you might be as fun as being basted in honey and dipped in a barrel of fire ants, but that’s purely conjecture. Take this advert for example:

What blind publisher did you use?

Just looking at this ad’ raises a few question marks about what working for this person might or might not be like. Whether or not these suspicions are valid, one may not know. You’d have to actually work for them to find out and by then, it could be too late.

Behold, the fact that this person is a published writer (apparently) and yet doesn’t seem to realise that the letter at the beginning of a sentence really ought to begin with a capital. And they haven’t just done it once, but every single time. Leading me to hypothesise that either they genuinely don’t understand basic grammar, or their publisher has a very patient proof reader, or perhaps their shift key has fallen off their keyboard.

Coupled of course with the fact they said there instead of their.

I’m not saying that I’m the poster child for perfect spelling and grammar, I too suffer from occasional mis-strokes, type-o’s, genuine ignorance and simple grammar issues (such as starting a sentence with an ‘and’) but I’m not claiming to be a published writer.


It may be petty and pedantic I know, but if they clearly think so little about their adverts and will happily slap dash out a mindless request for an artist without taking the time to even so much as use more than one hand (possible explanation for lack of capital letters) then we’re either dealing with an amputee, an unbelievably lazy ”writer” or a serial master-debater.

One can only imagine that working for them would be something along the lines of

Oh I don’t really know what I want you to do, just sort’ve draw…a thing..with, I dunno, a hat.

So, you do and then you’ll get.

Uh huh yeah…I like it but, I dunno, can you kind’ve change, like, everything?

And this will repeat, ad nausium, until you’re not even anywhere near the original description you were given and before you know it you’re getting requests to add trampolines and sail boats and exploding planets into the background of two ponies kissing as a pictorial representation for an elephant in a hat going on a picnic – or something.

I’m just saying. That’s the impression I get from reading this advert. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but if experience has taught me anything it’s that sometimes you’ve got to go on your gut instinct with these things before you end up sobbing over your drawing board as you redraft your sketch for the tenth time wondering why you didn’t decide to become a milk man.

Oh yeah, and plus the very last thing at the bottom of the advert…

And Another Thing…!


I’m keeping an eye out for work opportunities once again and once again I’m in awe of the lunacy of people out there. Why do people think it’s perfectly acceptable to be ridiculously demanding in their requirements – such as saying the excellence of work they require, what they want submitting artists to do, how they want them to do it etc. Whilst at the same time saying things like “there’s no upfront payment but if this book does well we’ll all make some money”.

Seriously, people, this is your book, not mine. If you want to see your work in print then work for free, it’s your prerogative, but don’t expect talented creatives to bend over backwards creating illustrations for you – for nothing! I mean come on, in this instance particularly, they’re writing a children’s book. D’you know what’s one of the most important parts of a children’s book? The pictures!! Wise up my friends, if you want a fantastic book and you don’t happen to be friends with or related to an illustrator who’s willing to do you a favour then face facts, you’re going to need to put a little of your own money into this venture. Yes, if your book bombs then you’re going to be out of pocket, but that’s the risk everyone takes when they’re trying to start their own business in this world, you can’t just go around with your hand out saying “pweeese can oo do this, and this, and this, and this, and this… for fweeeee!”

Then there’s the people with their projects and worthy causes, the project type of person is the guy (or girl – let’s not be sexist here) who says “Oh I love graphic novels and I’ve got an idea for one so how about someone illustrates it for me…just for fun.” or “I’m running a fund raiser for one legged orphaned chickens and I want some free illustrations.”

First off, illustrate an entire graphic novel…for fun? I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a little bit fun, drawing is fun, I wouldn’t do it otherwise. But to slog away, hour after hour, day after day – because make no mistake, illustrating an ENTIRE graphic novel isn’t going to take a couple of minutes here – to slog away at it in the sure and certain knowledge that you’re just doing it for schitz and giggles is going to impact on your work. Your first panel will be a Leonardo (and by that I mean the artist) but by the time you’re on the fourth or fifth panel it’ll start looking more like a Michaelangelo (and by that I mean the turtle).

Playing devil’s advocate here I can say all right, I s’pose what else are these guys (or girls) going to do? They’ve got a burning desire to see their script all fleshed out and they’re hoping there’s someone out there willing to work for free – and maybe there is, there’s no harm in asking.

Or is there?

Where does one draw the line between it being ok to get work for free if you’re a down on your luck student with a dream but not ok to get work for free if you’re a down on your luck small business with a dream, or a tight fisted corporation with a scheme. Where do you say hold on a minute, I’m working my tuchis off, for you, for free, for what?

THEN of course they sometimes come out with the whole, oh it’s an excellent addition to your portfolio, or, you’ll get your name out there and fame will rain down upon thee, or, there might be more work available in the future and next time we’ll pay you!

Ah yes, the old “jam tomorrow” argument. This isn’t Alice Through The Looking Glass, this is real life. So let’s sit down and work out what your budget is and what kind of art work you can reasonably get for the amount of investment you’re able to provide. I’m not heartless, I understand sometimes people are working on a shoe string budget and I’m always trying to do my best to help out the little guy, but I’m not a total schmuck who’s going to put my heart and soul into doing a ton of free work for someone, no matter how important their mission is to them.

And sod the one legged orphaned chickens!

What Makes Us So Special?


As a starving artist, I’m frequently to be found wandering the internet highways looking for work. Like the worldly wise tramp in the song “King of The Road”, after a while you get to know your way around and where to look for potential tit bits and scraps. So, I was at one of these proverbial soup kitchens the other morning and I was looking at the variety of freelance work they had available. Not just for illustrators either, but for pretty much every trade and professional you could care to mention. They had adverts for writers, escorts, programmers and adult movie stars, they had the lot. As I surveyed these dozens of job categories I was suddenly struck by a slight difference in the sections, the illustration section was the only one that was peppered with little symbols that signified competitions were available.

Yes, this site has recently introduced a new “exciting” concept, the competition! Not content with seeing people scrum to be the lowest priced creative talent on the market, now they want people to actually work for free. They don’t just say “work for free” though, no that would be too obvious, illustrators are too smart for that, no, instead they say “ooh, who can work for free the fastest?” to quote Tim Minchin “What, are we f***ing two!?”

Even this guy wouldn’t fall for it.

Seriously, illustrators, can’t you see what they’re doing? You’re working, for FREE! Just because they’re calling it a competition doesn’t change the fact you’re working for FREE, on the promise that maybe, just maybe, your work will get chosen by the client, thereby making you the winner and allowing you to get paid for your work (minus a cut for the site of course…)

The reality is, chances are you won’t get picked. In the mad free for all scrum of desperation, chances are someone else is going to get picked, or the client will go away from his computer and completely forget he even set up a competition in the first place. Whatever. End of the day, you’re left with a piece of work no body wants and you’re not one penny richer.

But you know the think that ired me, and prompted this rant in the first place? It’s the fact that the little “competition” symbols are all over the illustration sections, advertising, design, painting, caricature, cartoon, logo – they’re all at it. However the other sections on the site, the writing sections, the computer programming sections, hell, even the adult film star sections. They don’t have competitions, they don’t have “Who can write the most gripping novel? Winner gets paid.” and they don’t have  “Who has the most novel grip? Winner gets paid.”

I reckon she’d win…

Why are we so special, do the rest of the creative community took down on the illustrator section and just laugh? Are we, as a group, so gods damn moronic that we can fall for the painfully obvious “Let’s see who can sell themselves out the fastest!” infant school rubbish?

Yes. Yes it would seem that we are.

What a load of horse poop.

Prefer Another Style?


If I got money every time someone told me they prefered another style I could make quite a lucrative living out of it. I’ve even started ammassing a collection of emails in case that day ever comes when I’ll get paid for the backlog.

It annoys me so much every time I get it too, got one this morning if you hadn’t figured it out. Didn’t just suddenly wake up and think hey now it bugs me. No, I had a message from one of the many creative freelancing type websites I’m a member of, it was actually the potential client’s second response. Their first response yesterday was that they were rejecting my offer of work because my bid was too high, so I knocked a few quid off it in the hopes of landing the job anyway and lo…today I get a message telling me they’re rejecting my new bid because, they prefer another style.

If they had just stuck to their guns and said it was too high, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. I could have just thought, well they’re pushing it if they think I’m going to reduce my costs any lower some other schmuck can work for nothing if they want to. It wouldn’t have bothered me. But it’s the fact that they “prefer another style” that really sticks in my craw, don’t they realise that I work in a variety of styles? There’s only room on the website to attach one image to your bid to give the potential client’s a flavour of your work, out of all the images in my portfolio I have to pick something relevant to the task at hand. He was looking for someone to design a fun, friendly map so I sent him an attachment of a map I’d already done. Granted, the map I sent him was more “Treasure Island” than “Magic Kingdom” but I thought, at least he can see I’ve done maps before, obviously I can make them more or less realistic depending on the needs of the client. It’s not like you ask me to do something new and I’ll fall onto the floor twitching and frothing at the mouth or anything.

I have a range of styles for goodness sakes, a range of styles. I can do things realistically, cartoony, delicately, boldly, graphically or paintedly…my style changes to suit the needs of the client so why do they all seem to think that if I haven’t already created exactly what it is they’re looking for, it’s something I will be unable to do. Are they that narrow minded? Do they really believe I’m lacking in any brain or talent whatsoever that I can’t follow a brief?

Infuriating it really is. I know, I KNOW, I could do the project he’s asking for, I could do it really well. But because I haven’t already done it, it would seem, I’m not the style he prefers.

*long drawn out sigh*

Back to the drawing board.

The Sin of Wrath

Rage On!

The Goldilocks Zone – Is it out there?


Trawling from freelance site to freelance site looking for illustration commissions puts me in mind of the film “Tootsie” oddly enough, Dustin Hoffman’s character, Michael Dorsey, is schlepping from audition to audition trying to find work as an actor in New York. Every time they tell him he’s too old, he’s too young, too tall, too short…or just not right in some way. He quite rightly points out that he’s an actor, he can change himself to suit their needs but, they don’t care.

It’s a lot like that as an illustrator, but I guess it’s a creative industry standard. You’re doing way more legwork than you ever get back in terms of actual work, you’re swimming upstream with thousands of other equally talented artistic salmon and there’s a tiny handful of jobs out there. This of course leads to one of my personal bug bears, the dutch auction website.

For those of you who perhaps have been blissfully unaware of a dutch auction, or websites containing them, I shall briefly explain. Imagine if you will, an auction, although instead of the price rising in increments with the highest bidder succeeding, in a dutch auction, the price goes down and it’s usually the lowest bidder who wins. This is unbelievable douche baggery of the worst kind, instead of buying something, as you would do in a regular auction, all the creatives bidding on these sites are selling something – namely, themselves. And ridiculously cheaply. I have seen shocking bids, absolutely shocking. Say for example a client has gone on to one of these websites and posted up a job looking for an illustrator, say he wants 100 images and he says his budget maximum is going to be fifty bucks or pounds. Yeah, that’d be 0.50 cents or pence per image, doesn’t that just make you want to vomit? That’s how it makes me feel, and then to basically see the squiggling mass of desperate, desperate illustrators clawing over each other to debase themselves for this tight fisted nobodies amusement. I’ll do it for 25p, I’ll do it for nothing, I’ll pay you to let me do it!! Alright, the last two never happen, but that’s probably only because the websites don’t have that function.

It’s just not fair and it’s not right, and whilst I’m not guilty of ever doing it to that extent, I do more often than not, grossly undersell myself, and it kills me. I can’t stand seeing a piece of art with a mind bogglingly over blown price tag, particularly if it’s rubbish – (everyone’s a critic right?) But still, there’s got to be a line somewhere between underselling yourself, overselling yourself and just right. I need to find the Goldilocks band somewhere in all this madness. That sweet spot where dignity and self worth can sit in harmony with customer satisfaction and value for money.

I doubt I’m the only artist out there who’s plagued with feelings of angst over how much one should charge or accept in payment for your work. It’s art after all, it may have taken you hours or days, you may have put your heart and soul into it, how can you accurately put a price on that?

It’s tricky, very, very tricky. Client’s ought to know this, they ought to know that whilst they’re well within their rights to turn down massively over priced art where the artist has clearly priced it with their heart rather than their head, but at the same time, surely they’ve got to think “Here I am, offering someone ten dollars for a couple of days work, that seems fair…wait, maybe…just maybe it’s not fair…maybe it’s actually tantamount to slavery? Who can tell?!”

Meh, that’s just something that bugs me is all. There it is.

Give Me Back My Breakfast!!


Why is modern breakfast cereal so soulless? When I was a child, not only was cereal a delightfully sweet sensation that brightened the early morning of yet another day of school based drudgery, but you also had the wonderment of finding a little packet of toy within the box. Perhaps it was a small car, or a felt tip pen, or a code ring…or whatever. It didn’t matter what it was per se, but it was the fact that somewhere within the cereal was a prize and there were several to collect. It made it even more exciting. Plus you were faced with the moral dilemma, do you root through the cereal straight away and find the toy, or did you wait for the exciting moment when you were pouring out your breakfast only to have the toy land in your bowl?

Some pretty strange toys at times…

Well that joy is dead! Unless you happen to live in America, where they still have a glorious array of brightly coloured and delicious breakfast cereal, with toys. In this country we’re forced kicking and screaming into the beige Cromwellian monotony of “healthy” breakfasts. Shackled to the empty mastications of bland bran and mindless muesi. Because it’s GOOD for us, because that’s what we’re told we must eat. No toys! Toys are far too frivolous and fun, no, what you want is a money off voucher for a long distance run, or perhaps some kind of buy one get one free triathlon coupon? Text this number, log on to this website, there’s nothing for YOU inside this box.

These poor sorrowful children, waking up in the pre dawn gloom of another school day are faced with a hideous fibre soaked bowl of despair with nothing but the promise of money off EXERCISE if their parents follow a website link and are willing to pay for an adult ticket. What? What kind of sick, cruel joke is this?!

Perhaps it’s to get children accustomed to the nanny state over the top corporate hammering of “eat your five a day, don’t smoke, drink responsibly, exercise, love the friendly bacteria, plan for your future, go for a run every day” type of world that we’re living in now. A world where instead of Thundercats and He-Man, we’ve got people like Sporticus, who wields nothing more impressive than a damn apple (or “sports candy” as they call it – seriously) and wants to jog all day long. You want fruit based superheroes? We’ve already got Bananaman, what the hell is wrong with Bananaman you souless, souless people?

This isn’t Bananaman, but I bet it would be a fun show too.

Bring back Lucky Charms, bring back my little plastic toy and focus your bran fuelled energy at adult cereals, let the adults have their cardboard flakes of misery, they don’t have any taste buds left anyway.