Well, that year went pretty damn fast!
I’ll be honest, I tiptoed into 2010, since there were warning signs that the economy was going to hit me pretty hard. Thankfully, I came through relatively unscathed, even though I suffered some bumps, bruises, and frayed nerves. In the end, however, it was a better year than the one before, which is saying a lot, since 2009 was pretty good.
I went back and skimmed some of the blog entries from this past year, and I’m pretty pleased with the way the year unfolded.
When 2010 began, there had been some pretty big shakeups in the industry. I lost a bunch of newspapers in January when Sun Media told all of its editors to ditch their freelance cartoonists. It seemed every week in January and February, I’d get another phone call or email from an angry editor (not angry at me) telling me my services were no longer required. Some of those editors I’d worked with for years.
Canwest News Service was in severe financial trouble as well, and it was a very scary time for anyone working in the newspaper industry. I seriously thought that this might have been the beginning of the end for the editorial cartoon portion of my freelance career, but as the year went on, I recovered those losses and then some, and it really didn’t hurt me. If anything, it was the wake-up call that I needed to start planning for a future that likely won’t include editorial cartoons.
A few of my colleagues didn’t fare so well, and in the ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ category, I’m very thankful that I never did get that daily newspaper job that I wanted so badly when I was still new at this ten years ago. Turns out there was a lot more stability in freelancing.
While you never know which cards newspaper budgets will deal in 2011, I’m a lot less nervous about it than I was last year at this time. The big lesson is the same one nature herself has been teaching throughout history; those who adapt, survive. In this economy, that’s true for every profession.
I was more selective about work that I accepted this year. Clients that I like working with who pay their bills took precedence over the ones who began a conversation telling me they wanted it cheap and fast. When I was just starting out, I took whatever came through the door, as most of us have to, but I’ve learned from most of my mistakes, and can now recognize which jobs will advance my career, make best use of my skills, foster relationships with long term clients, and in a perfect world, will be enjoyable to work on.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t make mistakes this year, because I had a couple of big ones. One of them could have cost me a fortune had I not recognized it for what it was before I’d invested too much of my time and money into it. So, I did need to relearn a couple of lessons in 2010.
Get EVERYTHING in writing, and if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Those Animal Paintings
In January, I posted my third painting in the animal series, the Bull Elk, and in that blog entry, I said, “Hoping to get at least 15 of these done before April.”
I laughed out loud when I read that again this morning. 15 by April?! Sure, if I had NOTHING else to do, that might have been feasible. Not sure where the line is between optimistic and delusional, but at least you can’t say I didn’t aim high.
At year’s end, I have seven of them finished, with two more in the final stages. While I still would like to have fifteen done by April (hey, I didn’t say which YEAR in that blog entry), I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t happen.
When the year began, I was just starting to look into getting prints done, and talking to galleries. As the year closes, I’m regularly doing painting demos in Banff and Canmore, the paintings are selling well in both locations, I’m now getting queries for commission work, and I’m making long term plans for many more Totem paintings in the years to come. It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it leads, because I can’t remember ever enjoying my work as much as I do when I’m painting these animals.
The challenge is, of course, finding more time to do it.
I was asked to illustrate a 1970 Mach 1 Mustang in a somewhat realistic but still cartoon style by a friend for their annual car club auction. This friend handles all of my computer work, builds my custom computers every couple of years when I upgrade, and is only a phone call away when I need help, so I agreed to do him this favour.
This was very difficult and I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. I didn’t have much fun while working on it and wished I’d said No. In the end, however, I was quite pleased with how it turned out, and I’d like to try something like this again in the future. I’ve had some nibbles from other car enthusiasts who’ve seen it and while no real bites yet, it was a nice piece to add to my portfolio. And I’m sure I can do better on the next one.
Another surprise was that I bought an iPad, and I’m really not a ‘gadget guy.’ I spent weeks going back and forth on whether it was just a toy or legitimately worth it for my business. When I finally decided to buy one, I kept waiting for the buyer’s remorse to kick in, but honestly, I love the thing (and not just for Angry Birds). It’s a great portfolio display device, an enjoyable magazine and book reader, and an incredible portable sketch pad. Who knew that I would love finger painting so much?
Las Vegas was easily the highlight of the year for me. I had known before going to Photoshop World, that I’d been nominated for two Guru Awards from the three images I’d submitted, and while I wanted to win, I went into the event expecting to lose, especially for Best in Show. The number of talented people that attend that event means you can’t take anything for granted, so as cliche as it sounds, it really was an honour just being nominated.
I could play humble and say that awards don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but I’d be lying if I said that these particular ones didn’t mean anything to me. I was very pleased. The icing on the cake was the Wacom Cintiq tablet that came with the Best in Show Award. While I still use my Intuos4 every day for cartooning, that Cintiq is a joy to paint with.
While I plan on returning to Photoshop World again in 2011, it is very unlikely that I will enter the Guru Awards. The work that I would submit would probably just be another in the Totem series, so while it would be new animals, the style wouldn’t be anything they haven’t seen. It would also be very difficult to top the experience I’ve already had.
I’ve met some wonderful new people this year through my work, formed new relationships, built on old ones, and for the most part, I’ve kept moving forward, even though I ground the gears a few times while shifting. It hasn’t always been the smoothest of rides. Despite a few errors on my part, I wouldn’t have done anything differently in 2010, because I’m happy with where I’m at right now. I will, however, be starting 2011 with some course corrections.
But that’s a blog entry for next week. Happy New Year.