Tuesday 16 November 2010

Report card on freelancing

Okay, so at the beginning of October, I left my job of 10 years to give freelance illustration and fine art a try. The Strong and Free(lance) series is my attempt to document what I can for myself and others wanting to do the same.

Here's a report card.

I have been painting and sketching a lot, and still have a healthy list of self-driven projects to work on.  No boredom in the creative arena. Many days, I start painting, either with oils or ArtRage, lose track of time and forget to eat lunch. I tried setting a timer on my iPod, but I just turn it off and think "20 minutes more" and lose the afternoon.

 A number of people have asked about a Trilobite Boy comic or graphic novel. 
Anyone else want to see that? If there's interest in a story, it could be worth a try. 

Months back, I raised the idea of a book of my art with one-page or short science fiction stories by various writers. A couple of readers and peeps expressed interest in writing for it.  I'm not sure how to get it off the ground: pay two of you to write stories I can shop around? 
B+  Good ideas and quality. Needs to work on routine and output speed.
- - -

New business cards.  New calendar for sale, as well as lots of new prints. New baby onesie.  I'm grateful for each one of these items sold, but I don't make a lot of money off of each print.  I keep it going because I really love when someone has my art on their wall.

Launched a couple of items on Etsy. I'll add more and announce.

Freelancing is a slow process.  I'm still sending out portfolios, and I've had a few nibbles, but nothing is past the contract stage.

Some of the artwork I created the last several weeks has generated more interest than many of my pieces have in the past, so that's really heartening.  I think if I was attempting to try freelance without the benefit of feedback on my blog and satellite social media, I would have folded up into a ball and given up by now.

So the biz side: I'm broke, but it's going as well as I should expect, I guess - there's not a lot of money in the science community or in publishing for new artists.  So I won't be able to afford to do this full-time.
Grade: D  Running and running to stay in place.  Is science-art marketable at a living wage?

- - -
It's been a big year of changes. My wife, a school teacher, switched schools. I earned my B.F.A.  We moved into a new apartment. I left my job.  We're expecting a healthy baby next month (who looks like Jack Skellington in the latest ultrasound photo).  Our nephew continues his awesomeness.
Grade: B  Needs to financially support family to get top marks.

- - -
Optimistic and excited by upcoming ideas, both in art and blog.
Financially, sometimes I wonder if I'd be better off painting half-naked amazon women.  Holding trilobites. 

I have plenty of moments of self-doubt and cursing myself for stupidity. A huge portion of the public has no idea what a trilobite is. Things have changed enough that most people expect to see cool images for free, all day long. The business model I have been hoping to see develop, is to put enough quality work on this blog, aimed at a scientifically literate audience, and maybe an institution or publisher will start to pay for new images.  It hasn't happened so far, which gets me down...

...and then I have a coffee, and remember that I can't understate how grateful I am for my fans and supporters. And I feel optimistic again.
Grade: C
- - -
Needs to work on
-Finding a new job.
-Decide whether I keep going as I am right now, doing a bit of everything to cast a wide net in the job market (scientific illustration, comic-style stuff, more concept art, fine art) or settle into just one field which could reap greater commercial rewards. Lately, I've been thinking the latter.  I can't do it all: there's literally not enough hours in the day. I'm leaning toward book illustration and maybe a Trilobite Boy story of some kind.
Final Grade: C+

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


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Jives said...

I'd love to write a trilobyte boy comic book! We met at scio10 last year. I'll be at scio11 this year too. cya there!

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks for the offer Jeff!

For the stories, I was thinking more about stories from other random paintings. I've been thinking of Trilobite Boy as kind of a vanity project on my part, but hmm, now you have me thinking...

See you in January!

smartz said...

I'm retired these days but this blog post reminded me so much of when I quit my job in aerospace and started a small publishing company (fiction and poetry no less). Eventually it worked but it was hard and scary. Other than raising two sons, it was the most worthwhile thing I've ever done. So, I said all this to say, try to work it out. Make those hard choices and figure out how to use your creativity (which is amazing) to make a living even if it means making some compromises. If it doesn't work out, you'll know that you tried. If you don't try...

Good luck.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thank you smartz, for so much of what you said.

Trying to work it out. Even if I have to go back to work, I'll still refer to myself as an illustrator at barbecues.

Emily said...

Glendon, it's nice to hear an update about how things are going freelance-wise; I've been wondering. I think it's great that you are getting so into your morning paintings that you lose track of time. Ditch the timer!

Glendon Mellow said...

Ooo, Emily, you're like a devil on my shoulder.

Okay. I'll ditch the timer.

Kevin Zelnio said...

Great job Glendon! Keep it up, perseverance is what separates start-ups from flop-outs.

I am interested in the short fiction melded with your art idea. I also want to write children's stories, not sure if your art could lend itself to this, but I need an illustrator to pull it off. What a series of (mis)adventures of a young Darwin as he learns about the world around and makes connections?

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Kevin! It's not going to be easy, and I'll be returning to some part-time work to make ends meet, but full-time illustration is still the goal.

The original idea behind that book is similar to Mindfields by artist Jacek Yerka and writer Harlan Ellison. Ellison created a series of short stores to match Yerka's paintings.

I was thinking of something along the same lines, short stories, but by a variety of writers. I think at this point, yourself, Sean Craven, Blake Stacey and Brian Switek have all expressed interest.

As for a children's book, I think you're the 4th person to ask recently: I'd love to do a children's book!

A young Darwin book would be fun...would history be thrown out altogether? A young Wallace sidekick? :-)

Kevin Zelnio said...

Sure why not, the purpose is making connections among observations in nature leading toward the conclusion of evolution.

With guest appearances by hooker, huxley, haeckel, mendel, and everyone else too!

I was also thinking in terms of events in his life as characterized in his biographies. Making it very accessible and fun to children.

Sean Craven said...

Hey, Glendon!

I'm watching you with great interest. While we're doing very different things, here's my basic plan. I'm going to focus on one big project at a time, sent it out into the world, and work on the next. Once I've got the three big projects that are in a state of near-completion done, I'll take stock.

In art, that would be taking the best of the art that I've done for Swill, and presenting it as a portfolio to galleries and agents, including submitting this year's work to both Spectrum and the SF MOMA.

I don't know if this is out of line, but it seems as if right now your production is a little scattered. I would suggest that working on one solid project at a time, and making sure that that project has more than one possible way of making money, might be something to consider. Simplify your choices in the short run, increase your options in the long.



Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Sean, that's a good point. Possibly I am too scattered. My to-do list hanging above my desk has a bunch of different projects I'd like to tackle on it, yet more and more I find I'm excited about 2 things. The collaborative fiction book about random paintings I've done, and a Trilobite Boy story.

(And the siren call of illustrating children's books can be heard in the distance.)

Hm. I'll have to give this more thought.

Sarah Snell-Pym said...

As a not very successful scientific artist/artistic scientist I probably should not give you any advice - but things I found work well is selling my models in independent craft shops - they charge me like £10 a month for shelf space there are other more expensive ones I haven't dared try yet. The independent comic book shop in town here is also happy to sell peoples paintings and things.

Apart from that what about museum shops? I have found they are often looking for things to put in them and struggle for ideas! This was how I ended up making the fimo dinosaurs!

My main issue is time and confidence to actually contact people! Children illustration has been slow going and I had the issue of someone not paying and me not having understood the importance of contracts too - which sucked big time!

The only other thing I do is I have my blog network and ad rev from that but that has plummeted over the last year and ads on sites in general doesn't make anywhere near what it did.

My main issue has been that I do fall between the cracks - the arties don't get me and the scientists look at me oddly :/ It's taken me about 4 yrs to get like a little core group of fans who come to my readings.

I did find people where far happier to buy my wiggly pets once they were in a physical shop even though I was charging more for them - which I find strange - you might find the same!

I love the idea of a trilobite boy comic :) I would personally offer writers a sort of royalty deal so you aren't shelling out lots of money.

hope that's been vaguelly helpful


Philly Art Girl said...

Commission work is hard!! Even when I do it get it, for some reason it always happens when I have some great idea for personal work but then I HAVE to do the commission work for the client. I like it, but I have the bakery job as a money cushion (it doesn't pay that much, but it's something I love doing); if you have to get a job on the side, make sure it's something you like!

Glendon Mellow said...

[Kevin, we'll talk.]
- - -
Sarah, I really appreciate your perspective. That's not a bad idea, to try consignment - if I did that, I could also try to have a gallery show as well. The West Queen West gallery scene is lively here in Toronto.

I think I may lean toward Sean's advice, and when not working on a specific illustration contract or part-time job, try to just narrow my focus with time limits of a few weeks per project.

You may also fall between fewer cracks. From my perspective, the science community is more receptive now than in the past 10 years top artists speaking to them.
- - -
T-texy, totally!!!! That always happens. Or my big burst of artistic energy comes when I'm cleaning the kitchen.

I was working and managing at an art supply store for 10 years until recently. Good people. Now, I'm not sure where I'd jump to.

Merryweather said...

Great post Glendon, and congrats on the family situation! While reading this I was thinking....I don't believe you need to concentrate on a 'scientifically literate' audience. They may well love your work and be part of who you try to reach, but I think your work has a much broader appeal and people can appreciate your art without being particularly scientifically literate. Don't let that idea stifle you. You go boy!

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Merryweather! :-)

Today I've been wrestling with the same thing. It's like you're in my head.
The siren call of the Spectrumcompetition lures me once more.

I haven't submitted to it in a few years, but I think this year I'll try again.

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