Okay, so… if you ask me to illustrate your children’s book or draw your comic book I’m probably going to turn you down. Despite that I had an insane moment where I agreed to illustrate someone’s books a few years ago after they literally begged me in more than one email. I doubt I’ll ever do that again.
Always before it’s been a time matter. And a sickly matter. 1. I work a lot and don’t have the time for a new project. 2. I’m sickly a lot that keeps me from having the time for a new project. Or really any project. I’ve only been working as much as I have been in the past couple of years because our family didn’t have a choice but for me to literally fall asleep at the desk and never have time for myself much less anybody else. We’ve been living empty hand to starving mouth for a while.
Then there’s the golden #3. Back when I thought I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, many moons ago, I soon learned that authors are the worst control freaks that ever walked the face of the earth next to professional chefs. One client actually suggested I drive an hour and half to his home every day and sit at his kitchen table and draw there so he could tell me if I’m getting it right. Brrr.
So when the client with the children’s books offered me a larger sum than before to work more full time, I said sure. This of course meant I was going to have to give up one of my jobs, but I was okay with that. I’ve been wanting a life change for a while now. I’m restless. And I was obligated to her first. Seriously it was taking me like a year to illustrate 29 little pages. Crazy, huh. I don’t think I need to reiterate the sickness, which had me in the emergency room more than once over the past couple of years as well as walking angrily out of the doctor’s office when they refused to take my problem seriously. And here I will magnificently avoid the accompanying rant about how stupid army doctors are that think “drink water” is the magic cure for everything. And I won’t start talking about the solution my husband finally found a few months ago: apple cider and grapefruit seed extract. I will mention it, however, as it is important to this post.
I couldn’t just drop everything and run to her books full time. I was clear about that. She was offering less than what I normally make in a month. I had to plot carefully. Part of my plot? To literally give my ebook cover and formatting business away to someone else. I had three people in my life who all said they wanted it.
Mkay. The first wouldn’t get her life in order and literally made me wait months to pass her portion on to her. The second, who complains daily about how badly she gets treated at McDonald’s, still can’t get her ass out of the clouds and get to work. She honestly thinks she can only work on Saturdays and that would be enough. She genuinely can’t seem to grasp this is a real job. And the last one? She wasn’t available before but she has stepped up now. The problem? She can only work part-time at the most. Honest to the gods, I’ve come close to simply shutting everything down and disappearing more than once. I’m not sure why I hang in there, to be honest. I guess because this thing I’ve built is a real career, and it’s hard to just close something like that down. You’d rather see it live in someone else’s arms.
Still. The client asked for full time and this meant getting rid of my business. There’s only so many hours in the day. And I picked up the pace on the art.
Enter her children’s book publisher, located somewhere around the Wisconsin area. Near my tribe anyway. Old guy, used to be a CEO of another publishing company, claims to know everything about publishing books as well as writing computer programs. His first reaction to me as the artist? Kick me out, he told the client. I didn’t have an art degree and knew nothing about what I was doing. His reaction when meeting me and seeing my daughter’s art? To belittle me in front of my daughter in a Skype call because I didn’t have an art degree and thus knew nothing about what I was doing. The way he has reacted over the past two years? To make it difficult for me, use me, and work in the background to cut me.
For examples: 1. He had me draw an entire series of illustrations for a music book. When I told him I could do the guitar tabs in layers so the art could be done faster, he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about (even though he supposedly knew more about art than I did) and got testy about it. To this day I have not been paid for all 50+ images. 2. His ftp system decided to stop letting people log in to deliver artwork. I asked him for help on numerous occasions to which he told me it was my fault not his. Meanwhile the client was telling me she couldn’t get in either. I suggested I ask my older brother, who does things for a living, for help and he got irate. It was weeks before I finally could sign in to deliver anything. 3. I asked him on numerous times could I please have a password I could remember. I never got an answer, so it was weeks… etc. 4. He apparently was pushing the client to get rid of me all this time. She came to me more than once boasting about how she was sticking by me. 5. Told my daughter point blank she didn’t need to be working with me. She needed to be working with an “experienced team who knew what they were doing”. Etc.
Oh yes, I bet those children’s books he puts out are just full of love and sunshine.
And my client? She was patient, which I thought was wonderful. My husband and I found some answers on how to change our diet when living in a region filled with nothing but disgusting Monsanto food and I started to get better. We discovered the apple cider vinegar and grapefruit seed extract solution and I got even better. For the first time in years I was starting to feel like my old self again, and this meant I was producing more sketches for the client even past having to take on extra commissions because of that whole mess with the electric company charging us 3 times our normal electric rate for several months straight. I was working long hours, but she was seeing stuff done.
She had been so reasonable over the years, however, and she had said often “my illustration notes are just guidelines. You can draw what you feel and I know you’ll do what’s good for the story.” Which is what I was doing all along for three books now, even through the ones where my daughter drew (what I told her to cuz she was always stumped) and I colored them. For this last book I presented a storyboard – a new concept to her – with pages of thumbnails I had taken time carefully considering to think up for the look of her book. My goal? To make this next book even MORE professional looking, more bright, more engaging for the kids, etc. I was giving away my business and going full time like she had asked me to, and by the gods this book was going to have my 200% effort.
My mistake, I think, was expecting her to trust me to know my job. But, please refer to reason #3…
Here’s where it gets kind of stupid. I mean there I am with $400 plus light bills, having to skip car payments, going in circles, and still no end in sight on finding someone serious enough to take up my job and yet I’m still producing artwork at a faster pace. Two months into the project, when I had just about all the pages sketched and ready to be sent for approval, she sends me this angry email wondering where her art was because I apparently wasn’t working at all. It was uncharacteristic of her, so I sent her what I had and brushed it off. I had not thought to send her the pictures one by one to get approved because they already had been approved in the storyboard. The next step was for her to get the batch, go over them, and make changes then. The publisher had made himself completely inaccessible at this point so it was just me and her, the way it was before he had come along, so okay. Here’s your art lady.
She approved them every one.
This is great because I work very linearly. In order for me to feel comfortable finalizing, say, illustration #2 I have to have illustration #1 passed. This is because the story works like a movie in my head, and if you change anything in #1 that might affect #2 and so on. Best to go linear. It’s less work that way. Off I went on a coloring spree. And sketches for the rest spree.
I set myself a goal. Because I was being forced to abandon house and home due to the ridiculous utility prices I wanted to get her all of her colored artwork by my moving date. I sent her colors and told her of my deadline, which was only a week away.
She rejected them all based on the fact that illustration #5 didn’t match page #5 and things like that. This is because they’re numbered according to the storyboard I told her. To which she responded she didn’t like them at all. There were some she liked, but most she didn’t… and all the ones she rejected were ones she had approved before.
This put me back to square one because I clearly had a client who didn’t know how to read her own book, look at a picture, and go “I see, the cat is jumping. And in my story on page four the cat is jumping… they must go together.” I mean, even if she couldn’t handle the storyboard there was that. She started a real argument with me, too, and it didn’t matter how many times I said okay this is just a misunderstanding she was hot on my case. So I told her fine, we’ll go back to square one. This means I won’t make my deadline, but there’s no way to help it. I did what I could and on the fateful day, I moved with an unfinished project packed in the car.
It took me four months to get that far. And on the way back home I lost some of the project, which set me even further back. But with hardly any furniture, most of my office still in Louisiana, and a computer with a dead video card I carried forward in the name of her books. Two months later I was looking at redrawn sketches and once again being close to completion. I was putting out stuff in record time. Two months! I know folks out there might think that’s slow, but let’s see YOU crank out an entire book overnight while working on commissions, moving, unpacking, dealing with crap around the house, and yes… falling very very very ill because you came home to a very very nasty unkept house.
A few days ago I sent her some more artwork. Four pieces to be exact. I was excited when I sent them. I was thinking… if I could keep my groove up maybe I could be done by the end of the month. Now that I was home and my business was being sent to the others, I was finding myself with more and more time; the kind of time illustrations could get done in. I was even starting to rearrange my finances to compensate for the cut in pay.
I got an email back firing me. “This isn’t working,” she said. I go too slow.
Yeah I got angry.. I wasn’t shaking mad, but I also didn’t feel comfortable not standing up for myself. I set aside my professionalism (not as easy as it sounds) and told her directly what for. Seriously enough is enough. You give up your entire company and rework your entire lifestyle for someone and when you finally have it set to go and you’re going at a good clip, they dump you? Yeah, hell no. If she was going to dump me she needed to do it sooner when it really WASN’T working. Or better yet, hire another artist like she had asked to do more than one occasion and I had suggested. I even sent people her way that wanted work.
The professional thing to do would have been to let me finish this book while she hired out for someone else. It also would not have resulted in me taking the rights to my artwork, flipping her a bird, and putting her back on square one just to let her know how it felt. She was forcing me to ignore the storyboard and do clip-art amateur type stuff anyway. It was going to be an ugly book.
The resulting three emails are kind of a blur, to be honest. I didn’t study her responses because I didn’t feel the need to respect any excuses and bullshit she might have to offer. The highlights I noticed were:
- She was sorry I was angry but I was just too slow and the books had to be done.
- She didn’t ask me to give up my company.
- She asked me to work full time because she “assumed the artwork would go faster”.
- She went back through and read all of our emails and somehow she was sure this put her in the right.
- She didn’t reject all of the illustrations. Just five of them. #1 was the first… #2… etc. One was rejected (in the sketch phase) because I drew the dog at the front door (not the patio, never-mind I’ve seen patio doors that look like front doors my whole life) and the door was open. Didn’t I know that if the door was left open the dog would have run away never to be found omfg the horror?
Seriously, what can you say to stupid shit like that except… what are you fucking stupid? Maybe I’m getting a little harsh here, but it takes some kind of stupid to argue with such flimsy shit as that. Here is why.
- Don’t care that she was sorry. If I cared I wouldn’t have told her
in so many polite words that she belonged on a bicycle in the Wizard of Oz.I mean, I wouldn’t have made it clear that the only reason why her book wasn’t done was because she had rejected the artwork that had been approved of beforehand.
- How many hours does she think artists have in a day anyway? Or maybe she’s one of those idiots that thinks working at home isn’t work. If Joe Schmoe is asked to take a full time job with the Medieval Masturbators of America but he already has a full time job with Jealous Jellies while moonlighting at Poles R Us, he will have to choose. And that choice would mean quitting something. It literally can be no different for me.
- The art WAS going faster. And it was speeding up the better I got things established all along. So I’m going to have to guess she somehow got sucked into a fairy time vortex where they kept her prisoner for years until finally releasing her back on Earth, and this left her confused and unable to tell time.
- Please see my statement about not moving on to finish #2 until #1 done ad infinitum. Furthermore: I leave my door open all of the time and my dog is still here. Oh what’s that? I trained him not to run off outside? Oh fucknuts, you mean dogs can be trained??
She didn’t respond to my last scathing email; the one that told her that by the way the color tan? That color she literally yelled at me over? (I chose a tan color based on a photo of her dog. She wanted TAN because the book said TAN didn’t I know what TAN was?? And attached an illustration.) Yeah, that tan. NEWSFLASH! THERE ARE A THOUSAND DIFFERENT FUCKING SHADES OF TAN!!!
I did use 100% less curse words than this post, I might add.
And by the way, I wrapped up with, she didn’t and doesn’t have permission to use my artwork. So she could ask how to pay me all she wanted. I didn’t want her money. Maybe money is the center of her universe like it is with so many people in this country, but it’s not for me. And because of that fundamental difference, when they offer me money it never ever mollifies me. If my bills are paid I’m good. If you’re not paying my bills and are dicking me over, if you leave I’m good.
And that, dear friends, is another nail in the “fuck being an illustrator” coffin. Thank you, but no. Just no. I’ve given it a go more than once, and fate has different things in store for me.
And to be honest I put the woman from my mind. You see, Louisiana had a new scandal for our little family. Our tax payment bounced with the bank (we’re not sure why when there was 3 times the needed amount in there), so Pestilence called them a few weeks ago. They told him to wait for it to be presented again. So we’ve been waiting.
We finally got a letter telling us we had never bothered to pay, so here was a new amount we owed them complete with fines that made the price bigger. Pestilence called and they told him they’d tried to present the check a 2nd time on the 6th and it bounced. So we called the bank. The bank was like, they’re dumb. So Pestilence called back. And the story changed. Suddenly they claimed they never told us to wait, never told us they were going to present a second time, and did NOT present the check a second time (mysterious date fact what??) and we had to pay them a fine AND it needed to be over the internet.
Let’s couple this with the IRS, who took our tax payment last year as well as sent us paperwork and things acknowledging receipt of our tax forms, claiming we never sent them jack and wanting us to send it again.
And then looking at how we were treated before I left Louisiana.
And yeah. Coincidence? Probably not. It probably became public knowledge that I don’t agree with current government policy on a variety of subjects. Or. I’m not White enough. Or Black enough. Take your wildest guess. I’ve seen a lot of strange shit.
I dunno. I’m not friends with Alex Jones and not special enough to get people backing me up to stop this sort of government bullying that has been a problem for thousands of families for years and has only gotten worse in the past 8 years. I honestly feel if we all stood against it and said enough is enough, kind of like with the Bundy Ranch a few months ago, there’d be a change. Instead of what clearly looks like a stack of cards against me that someone is preparing to push over… for no other crime than being self employed and alive.
The stupidest part of this that drives me crazy; the part that people don’t have to stand for but do? “We prefer debit cards and credit payments. No cash. We discourage checks. Okay yes, thank you for bleating little sheep… now we have to charge you a fee for paying us with debit or credit on top of the fee you just paid…”
I say it often and I’ll say it again now. The less you use those credit cards, the more you write checks and carry cash, the less hold corporations have over you. They’re depending on your dependency you know.