The musings of a fantasy illustrator. Artwork, art-talk, and randomness.
in the performance world, one may get stage fright. this can happen regardless of the type of performance; it is an anxiety born out of, in all simplicity, the fear of looking like an idiot in front of others. i wonder if perhaps there isn’t something similar for visual artists. would the same term apply?
i don’t get much stage fright in the traditional sense. i played live a few times with my band, and wasn’t particularly struck by it (despite truly looking like an idiot). as an illustrator, i generally enjoy social events like conventions and signings, and meeting folk. but i do get stage fright when i am asked to do sketches for people at these events. it’s particulary strange since i’m an artist by trade. i earn what living i have by this skill. i’ve been drawing as long as i can recall, and probably earlier still. i’m certainly a much better draftsman than bass player or singer. yet, i get stage fright when drawing for people, live.
i don’t get butterflies in the stomach really, but there is a kind of anxiety there. primarily, it’s fear of drawing something crummy, the old looking-like-a-fool problem that vexes most folk when doing performance, giving a speech, or even being asked to say grace at the dinner table, spontaneously. i’ve certainly done my share of crummy sketches, especially early on. i’ve heard anecdotes about monks who by meditating can raise their body temperature and/or stay in extremely cold environments for an extended period of time. i haven’t bothered to look deeply into the phenomenon’s veracity or mechanics but if it’s anything like me drawing in public, i’m apt to believe them. when i draw in public i feel myself getting hot, and i’m likely to start sweating at the brow from the…anxiety? concentration? i’d like to think the latter, because i’ve noticed i get warm when i’m just at home working even where no one can see me if i mess up. and this increase in temperature happens even when things are going well. and trust me, it’s not like drawing or painting is a particularly physical activity.
so, be gentle with the live sketch requests, like for instance at the upcoming essen games fair, where i’ll be present at the hasbro booth all week. at most events the past couple of years i’ve taken to charging a nominal amount to do sketches (signings are free!). reason number one is the above, and charging limits the number of people who’ll ask for a drawing, causing me to break out in yucky brow-sweat. second is simply that some people might’ve never had it in their mind to ask for a sketch, but seeing someone in front of them get a free one, they will of course ask for free stuff too. then word gets around that i’m giving away drawings and voila, i’m sunk. this has, in the past, amounted to truly ridiculous occurrences—one time someone handed me a dirty, used pizza box to draw on because i had been doing sketches for free and he had nothing else to draw on. this may have been the first time i felt insulted as an artist. at conventions it is not uncommon for people to wander table to table, they don’t know you but they walk up and ask, “do you have any free stuff?” when i answer that i don’t, they immediately turn around as if you were the least interesting thing on earth, and go to ask someone else. third, and this is worth repeating: i actually attempt to earn my living by making art. it’s rewarding but also an extremely challenging career choice, like many others. there are lots of expenses involved, no benefits as anyone at a “normal” job would recognize them, and i get taxed extra for the “privilege” of being self-employed. and for some cons where i am not a sponsored guest, i’m paying my way entirely in terms flights, hotel, food and convention fees. from the moment each artist sits down as the doors open the first day, there may be a lot of red ink that each artist is anxious will be mopped up before the show is over. so charging for sketches is one way to erase the red ink. when there is no red ink to be recouped, i’m usually at an event where, primarily, people will want things signed. lots and lots of things signed. so, my first duty anyway is to be sure everyone gets their stuff signed, and a sketch can back up a line like nothing else can. charging then has the benefit of keeping the line moving for signings.
so, don’t be too offended if you’re asked for a paper lincoln or whatever in return for a small sketch. other artists may give away their sketches and have their reasons, but i hope it’s not assumed that all will. i don’t really drink, but i like to think of it as, “buy me a drink, i’ll do ya a sketch.” after all, hotel bars typically charge a fiver for a drink that most people will readily down in less time than it takes to sketch something, and with no lasting benefit.
the only way to console myself after spending time and precious carpal tunnel usage deleting spam is to get something positive or at least mildly entertaining out of it. a year ago we reviewed some of these and so, once again, a few gems culled from my inbox:1. software at low pr1ce!: on the face of it, this is a fairly common spam. i mean, it’s still pretty cheap to distribute pirated software, and cheaper still to simply rip off your credit card information and not ship you even pirated wares. but one thing struck me about this one: in the “sender” column, the name jonathan edwards. now, to think that the solemn puritan preacher of “sinners in the hands of an angry God” fame is ready to peddle me oem microsoft office or something is really quite entertaining to imagine.
3. dead people are cool: this simply isn’t news. corpses are indeed cold and it’s fairly cool 6 feet underground. there’s a joke about joan rivers that could be made at this point, i’m sure.
and a winner! though i was 95% sure it was spam, the following email got me to click it:
6. some art sure is dumb and awful: this was actually the subject of a spam. brilliant! what to do? nevermind that the statement is true in and of itself, but i’m an artist and run an online art gallery. could this have been feedback regarding either of those? the vast majority of email that comes through my gallery, daydream graphics, comes through contact forms so i know to look at it. if someone emails my personal address, i’m bound to recognize the name even if it was a past customer. that’s what tipped me off that this was probably a spam: not from my webform, not a customer or fan that i remember. but given all the above, i had to click it lest i later be accused of having bad customer service. congratulations to this spammer who got me to click their spam out of thousands. of course it took me half a second to notice the telltale text signs of spam: random words, misspelled things, etc.. so i don’t know what they were actually hawking, and once again i’m left to ask: does spam accomplish anything?