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 analogy...it'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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Connie said...

Enjoy your blog, love this entry in particular. Very funny--and accurate.

Freelancer said...

Thanks, Connie. I appreciate your feedback!