I have been commissioned to illustrate a story in an upcoming semi-pro anthology. I won’t give any details at the moment, since I haven’t signed a contract yet, but I’m already through the concept art stage, have refined my line art, and any minute now should be starting on my shading.
As I said, it’s semi-pro, which means I’m not getting paid much (if you’re at all familiar with artist’s rates you know semi-pro pay is pretty much the equivalent of writer’s token pay), but I’m cool with that. Because what I’m really getting out of this is work experience. I get to see what it’s like to work with an art director, and learn to blend several visions (mine, the writer’s, and the director’s) into one. I also have to push myself to make the deadline– I had about 11 days starting when I got the assignment (really 13, but I’d rather finish before my father comes to visit), which means I’ve got, hmm, just over a week to get the finished product in.
Unlike with writing, I knew I wanted to start at the semi-pro level with my art. The rule with writing is always top-down. It’s not as simple with illustrations.
I’ve only submitted samples at the semi-pro level because I want to make sure I can work up to professional standards before applying for pro work. Unlike with writing, in which you send in your finished product before you are considered, with illustrations the work doesn’t even begin until you get an acceptance.
With shorts we often get to set out own deadlines. Even when we have anthology deadlines to fill we’ve usually got a couple of months to come up with something. Not so with art. I’ve heard of ridiculous turn-around times, down to only a couple of days from job offer to completed product.
I’ve got to dog paddle before I do the butterfly stroke.
Now, some people might protest and say, “Well, couldn’t you learn the same things while getting paid a professional rate?”
To that I say, “Sure! But what if I fail?”
As writers we can send any number of bad stories to an editor, and they won’t remember. They read so much mediocre-to-horrible stuff it all blurs together. As a critter and a reader I know this to be true. So, I can send out bad product after bad product and not fear that my subsequently good products will suffer for it.
Not so with art. When an editor looks at your samples he can throw them out the window and not remember you the next time you send better samples, sure. But what happens when you get the job based on samples that took months each to create, and are then given two weeks to come through with your commissioned illustrations? Maybe it turns out well… but what if it doesn’t? You think that magazine/anthology/webzine will hire you again if you turn in a bad illustration? No way. You’ve burned a bridge.
I don’t have enough bridges to lose one to a blaze, thank you.
So, that’s why I started with semi-pro. I feel confident I can do the work, but I want the real life experience to prove it. I want to finish this illustration in a week, hand it in, and finally see it in print and be proud. I want to be happy with the work and happy with myself, knowing I can meet the demands of the industry. That’s worth way more than money on the art side right now.
I’ll let you all know when the anthology comes out. Looking forward to it!
P.S. What do you think? Is there some experience you think valuable enough to your career that you’d be willing to accept lower fiscal compensation for your work to get it?