Thursday, February 15, 2007

Freelance Genuises; Blog, blog, blog

There's a neat cartoonist blog that links to a very interesting documentary on cartoon genuis, John Callahan. Callahan was a big influence on me (as seen in my own cartoons). But I'm especially excited because I just finalized getting a snowman cartoon of his into my book.

I just came back from The Saul Steinberg show at the Morgan Library. Steinberg was also a big influence on me not just for his style but the fact he was a multitasker (writer, poet, painter). Above this post is one of my tribute/parodies to the artist, a holiday card I made for my circle of friends one year. The magnificent Steinberg show closes March 4th. Actually, I found out about the show from David Byrne’s very good and informative blog, yes, the same David Byrne of the Talking Heads. He’s also a great multitasker, a renaissance man and someone I admire a lot as an artist and writer (and fan of his solo albums). Byrne’s journal goes into a great art discussion inspired by his trip to the Miami Basel Art Fair this past Christmas. It included an enjoyable slide show of the fair’s highlights where I looked for my Belgian friend’s work. My friend Manu was there showing his photography. Manu Geerinck, came to NYC with his wife Marianne Garnier, both to be freelance illustrators. But like so many other extremely talented artists, the cloudy climate of freelance illustration forced them to pursue other avenues and, of course, in the case of Manu, it proved to be a wise career move. Manu's art can be enjoyed here. I was always careful as to how encouraging or helpful I was with their illustration aspirations being aware of how long and difficult it would take to create a footing in the field. Again, these who say follow your dream are either rich or financed by someone else.

To go off on a tangent again, other artists who are a big influence on me include those who romanticize history; Caravaggio, Church, etc. Thomas Dolby (whose blog inspired me to start mine) and transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard (the world’s second funniest guy today, behind Cohen) are two quirky examples. Another artist who changed my career is an ex-classmate of mine who, back then, hated my guts. I ran into Tamar Stone, a book artist, twelve years later at a funeral and she’s had a major influence on my career ever since (and I’m not saying that because I also have a terrible crush on her today).

But back to Steinberg. It’s impossible to come away from his show not mumbling “….pure genius…” and inspired to find a blank canvas to work on but conversely think, what’s the point, I’m not worthy. With each piece in the show there was so much to learn. I mock my own style but I’m actually adhering to rules Steinberg sets forth in his work – economical lines, distortion of perspective to increase interest, etc. (there are many other laws). I’m not in any way comparing us as artists but one virtue we share is I try to constantly change my style and try different things (while keeping that quality of it being done by the same hand as to not commit freelance suicide – art directors will not hire you if they have no idea what to expect. No freelancer ever gets hired because they’re brilliantly unpredictable.). What does that add up to me personally? If I’m anything I’m consistently inconsistent.

The other reason I was at the Morgan Library was 1) to see the find the first picture ever of a snowman being made by man, an illustration from a children’s book published in 1802. An appointment at their new reading room requires much paperwork, a letter of recommendation and washing my hands in front of their staff. Two proctors watched over me as I examined the antique book in an immense room where only one visitor is allowed at a time. The beautiful engraving is currently being photographed for inclusion to my book.

And 2) to speak to the curator about having an exhibit of my snowman collection after learning a few days earlier that the New York Public Library decided to cancel my show in 2010. The reason given me was budget cuts. Months of work and my curator’s fee down the drain.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Online Grill: Meet Larry Roibal, Professional Freelancer

Copyrigh 2007© Larry Roibal "South of France"

It's time now for our winner of the Cartoon Caption Contest to indulge in his prize and participate in his online interview. Larry Riobal is a successful illustrator, who from his illustration above and his previous doodles on this very site demostrates his talent and range.

Freelancer's Lament: How has winning the Erectile Dysfunction Cartoon Caption Contest changed your life?

Larry Roibal: Well, after twenty five years of hard work and dedication to my craft, now when you Google my name, up comes these erectile dysfunction drawings that I spent thirty seconds on.

FL: How would you describe your job?

It's like juggling, but instead of balls you have to keep up your
drawing and painting skills, technology, trends, accounting, professionalism, finding work, meeting deadlines, upgrading your equipment, buying props, making props, gathering reference, directing models, dealing with different personalities, keeping yourself viable, and making marketable art. If you can keep them all in the air all at the same time, then you're freelancing.

FL: Why, on God’s earth, did you decide to become a freelancer assuming it it was devoid of any benefits whatsoever?

LR: I had a high school art teacher who said I was really good and could make a living drawing pictures. That reminds me, I really need to get in touch with him and tell him what a mess he made of my life. No, really, he did encourage me, and I'm not sure how many kids, or adults for that matter, ever hear anyone say they are good at anything. It had a profound impact on me. That's all I needed to start me down this path, then before I knew it, I was too far along to turn back and not qualified to do anything else.

FL: What is the most miserable part about being a freelancer?

LR: Going back to the juggling's taken for granted that a juggler can do his job, hence, a juggler never gets kudos for keeping the balls in the air, they wind up being judged by how many hit the ground.

Friends or relatives will call during the day and ask you to do a favor. They always feel bad for inconveniencing you, but there isn't another option. "I'd ask so and so, but they're working." Ouch.

Also researching and gathering reference in a post 9/11 world is much more difficult than I imagine it was for Rockwell. When I show up with a camera and ask if I could take some photos for an illustration assignment I'm working on, people are very skeptical. Sometimes you hear, "Well, we need to clear this with corporate, or approve the content, or taking pictures of this building is a security risk." Decide not to ask, and all hell could break loose. I was taking pictures of a hospital once and two cars skid up to me from opposite directions, four guys pop out and surround me. I have visions of Rodney King playing in my head. "Don't shoot, I'm just an illustrator!"

FL: What is the biggest misconception to being a freelancer?

LR: You here "You get to set your own hours" a lot...but being a freelance illustrator is no different than being a restaurateur or any small business owner (minus the help). If you don't have the discipline to get up early, work late, work on weekends, and to put in the as many hours as it takes to get it right, without regards to pay, then you're not going to last.

FL: How much money do you spend, on average, playing lotto?

LR: My philosophy has always been that being a freelance illustrator is all the gambling that I needed in my life. I don't play the lottery or go to casinos.

FL: What advice would you give to those still insistent on becoming a freelancer?

LR: There are way too many people who can draw and paint well, but fortunately, most people don't want to work hard. So, work hard, read at least one news paper every day...and oh yeah, marry well.

FL: What vocation do you wish you pursued instead?

LR: Since graduating from college I've been fortunate enough to keep busy and I haven't had to seek any other line of work other than being a freelance illustrator. Sometimes it's mentally exhausting keeping the balls in the air and I long for a day of manual labor to release my pent up energy and frustrations. The key words being "a day," seeing the effects that a lifetime of hard work had on my dad is enough to bring me back to reality. Then I dream about being a tenured teacher so I could work 180 days a year, have a secured retirement, paid health care benefits and I wouldn't have to work when I was sick. But the grass is always greener...I'm content with the decisions I've made.

FL: What are the perks, if any, of being a freelancer?

LR: The commute is great. occasionally there's some congestion getting in and out of the bathroom, but once I reach the stairwell it's clear sailing down to the coffee pot and up to my studio.

Also, because I'm home, I could work a sixteen hour day and still see my family over breakfast and dinner.

FL: How do you keep such a bright outlook to freelancing?

LR: Work hard and wear rose colored contact lenses.

FL: Who are your favorite artists?

LR: Sargent, Velazquez, Eakins, Bouguereau, Waterhouse

FL: Boxes or briefs?

LR: Each has there own virtues... I wear a hybrid.

FL: Larry, thanks for sharing your experiences as a freelancer!

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What's Love Got to Do, Got to Do With It?

Don't know what to get your freelancing Valentine? Well, candy and cards don’t boost sales, honey. Here are the perfect gifts for the aspiring bestseller in your life;

Kiss My Ass. Customized back cover book reviews by New York Times bestselling authors are now available at Not a cheap gift (at $399), but if this doesn’t close the (book) deal nothing will.

A Weekend of Indolence and Artsy Fartsy Talk at a Writing Spa. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs in New Mexico offers classes like Yoga of Writing who those suffering from writer’s block.
I've been thinking of a new direction
But I have to say,
I've been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel that way
What's love got to do with it
What's love but a sweet old fashioned notion
What's love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs aheart when a heart can be broken

Well, who among us hasn't been there? You said it Double T.
Happy Valentine's Day. (and thanks to my good friend Chris for the Valentine!)

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Monday, February 12, 2007

My Breakfast

I was thinking of doing a piece about guerrilla advertising in light of the Boston Bomb scare. One idea was to have the Feed the Children people commission Pancake Cottages across the country to serve breakfast dishes that look like that guy from the commercial they run 80 times a day and guilt people into giving. The other pancake I won't post – it was a kid with flies (raisins) buzzing around his head.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

A New Way to Flush Your Pets Down the Toilet

Sometimes all you need is a goal, an object of luxury to work for that would symbolize having made it. For me that would be the Fish 'N Flush toilet. The ultimate in excessiveness, it is also ideal for apartment dwellers like me who have limited space. Of course, the bowl can double as the dog's water bowl. Interesting how it also consolidates the home's two most difficult spots to keep clean – the toilet and the fish tank (and I'm guessing things can get pretty scary quickly in that corner of the house with just a trace of neglect).

I've actually seen a demostration and when you flush the toilet the fish clearly jump and are skittish as the water in a separate, adjacent container drains past them, unsure if their luck has run out. To fully enjoy your aquarium it's best to use it facing the other way, which I've learned takes some geting used to.

Speaking of toilets, another surprising website (which I don't want to link) is The Balloon Destroyer, a site for those who enjoy the fetish of watching women sit on balloons. I came across this disturbing corner of the information highway while googling for images to draw my idea of moderating runway model's weight by making them take (sitting on) balloon tests. I learned the Balloon Destroyer is actually a housewife of 4 who profits from the weakness in men by selling DVDs of herself bursting balloons with her excessive weight.

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Friday, February 9, 2007

The Write Stuff

What does it take to be a successful writer? In a recent interview in MediaBistro a well-known editor was asked what advise he would give to writers. His blunt, truthful insight to this business; “Be famous.” It’s worked for most bestsellers. What do O.J. Simpson, the Unabomber and First Daughter Jenna Bush all have in common? They’re famous, they’ve all had a small brush with the law and they’re all shopping around books (How Jenna Got Wild, Got Booked, and Got a Six-Figure Book Deal cartoon).

(By the way, that editor actually was my editor when I first jotted down this post a couple of days ago. I wrote jokingly after that "I should expect a new editor any day now." It's a few days and sure enough he's no longer my editor and I just met my fourth editor.)

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Monday, February 5, 2007

And the winner is...

For all of those you missed the Super Bowl, the winner of the Cartoon Caption Contest was Larry Roibal, with his winning caption of;

"It looks like they're going to stop the clock for a measurement, Al." "That's right John, this official time out is brought to you by the good folks of Pfizer, who want to remind you that the next time you come up six inches short, sustain that drive with a little blue pill."

Not the most concise punchline but the funniest (and the only one received that was not totally offensive). Actually, complaints outnumbered legitimate entries and with that the cartoon in question has been altered for this (and future) posts. To avoid future complaints let me clarify that, yes, Mr. Roibal was the artist of the cartoon but there was a loophole in the rules which clearly stated that all of Larry Roibal's relatives would be ineligible but it said nothing about Larry himself. Thanks to everyone who submited entries but, again, Larry was funniest.

Aside from his no expenses paid trip to Miami, Mr. Roibal will be interviewed here in the near future about his life as a freelancer.

Hall of Famer Coach Lombardi at the first Super Bowl surrounded by two freelance cartoonists.

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