Just returned from a quick trip to Red Deer (only a 2.5 hour drive) to see my folks and deliver a painting of their dog, Bailey. I’ve been wanting to paint this for two years and finally forced myself to make the time. Since I don’t think I could have done as good a job of it then as I’m able to do now, I’m glad I waited. This was for my Mom’s birthday in July, but just like most mothers, she forgave me that it was late. Thanks, Mom!
Both her and my Dad loved it, and it’s hanging in a prominent place where they can show it off and brag about their kid that draws and colours pictures for a living. Funny, how it’s OK now, but it wasn’t when I was drawing during high school chemistry. Sounds pretty hypocritical to me.
A heart-stopping moment when I revealed the painting, though. I set it down on the ottoman to take it out of the plastic, and Bailey proceeded to jump on it, sliding and scratching with her claws, right in the middle of the canvas. Fortunately, the plastic protected it and there was no damage. But for a moment, I thought I was going to have to reprint it. Still can’t decide if that was her way of critiquing my work or not. Maybe it’s because she just had a haircut and the painting doesn’t reflect that. Everybody’s a critic.
When you’re a freelance artist, you end up with a unique ability to create gifts that most people can’t. The downside is that you’ll often get friends and family asking you to paint or draw something for them that you really don’t have time to do. You have to develop a thick skin when it comes to these requests. In a perfect world, I’d be happy spending my days creating paintings for loved ones, but then I’d be homeless.
The same thing applies to giving discounts. There is a big difference between your Aunt Edna who owns a pet food store giving you bags of dog food at cost, and your Uncle Joe who is a mechanic working on your car for free. Edna doesn’t lose money on the deal, whereas Joe does, because what he is selling is his skill and his time. The same thing goes for being a freelancer. When you’re not working, you’re losing money.
So while there are favors that I will do when I can, it’s taken me a number of years to develop the most important skill of all, and that’s the ability to say No. That doesn’t mean you never do the freebie jobs for people, it just means that you are very selective about them. When the Bow Valley SPCA calls for artwork, I try to do whatever I can, because I believe in the work they’re doing. If I can offer a discount to friends or family on commissioned work, I will try to do so as well, but not often.
Freelance is a tough gig, and you need to be ready for those that don’t understand that. I’ve been called selfish more than a few times because I didn’t put a ‘friend’s’ free cartoon ahead of a paying gig. Most of the time, the request is for something they feel will be ‘a quick job’ but will actually take me three of four hours. And of course, they needed it yesterday. If you don’t value your own work, nobody else will, either.
So when I do make the time to paint something personal, especially if it’s for a gift, it means a lot to me because it’s a rare thing. This painting of Bailey is one of my favorite pieces, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on it, because she is a wonderful dog with a great personality and she makes my parents really happy.
It was a real joy to see my folks stealing looks at it all evening on Tuesday, telling me how much they loved it. More than anything, I hope it reminds them on a daily basis that I wouldn’t be doing what I love for a living if it wasn’t for all they’ve done for me.
As for the dog, she didn’t give it a second glance.