art supplies available on a given date (left): art supplies remaining in perpetuity (right)
As artists, we all spend much of our lives developing our medium. The proper term, from what I know, is our (fr.) "metiere". For those here smart enough to stick to the basics- pen and paper, pencil, acrylic/oil paint - I commend you. Like when you learn an instrument you pick something small and easily transportable, yet full of potential for your vocabulary - like a ukulele. Not a drum kit, or a grand piano, or a harp.
Well, I picked drums.
As for the visuals, I've spent many years developing and combining media to come to my method of creating my own "final art". About sixteen years ago I came to the perfect blend of media; scratch board, liquid acrylic paint on w/c paper, and the xerox machine. It's done well for me, and although I've been protective of my process due to some imitators, it's not rocket science to figure out how I produce my work.
This said, entropy has been chipping away at my technique from the moment I crossed it's t's and dotted it's i's. As the laws of physics state, entropy is the ruling force in the universe.
Thank god I found this guy who had these.
The first signs came about eight years ago, when the liquid acrylic paint I'd grown accustomed to using - made by Rotring- all of the sudden; overnight, actually; became hard to find. A few inquiries educated me to the fact of it's discontinuation. I started snatching it up whenever I was fortunate to find it in art supply stores. When that dried up, I began buying the one alternative brand that was available - FW - absolutely inferior. Finally I was searching Ebay. I lucked out and purchased a lifetime supply from a guy on the internets who had an odd yet thoroughly complete leftover lot.
Some of the last line work done on my supply of Canson scratchboard. Canson made an excellent board, and it was much more affordable than Essdee. It's been discontinued.
Next came the scratch board. Becoming an ever more arcane medium, it seems that only one or two companies are making it anymore, and it's going down in quality even as it goes up in price. Yes, I could make my own - but who the hell has the time?? This ain't the era of Michelangelo grinding his own pigments, it's the era of texting your grocery list to your wife while you're stuck on the freeway! When I'm lucky enough to find an available batch, I buy it, but I'm no fool; the days are numbered as to it's availability.
Update: 40 blades left
More recently, it's the X-acto blade I've grown accustomed to use. No.19, the best for me to scratch away on scratch board with. Usually I have a drawer full of these on hand. Recently I found my supply was empty, so I went to the store to pick up more. "We're all out" they told me, "and it's been discontinued". After spending the remaining afternoon driving to every store in town with no success, I found a place online and bought their remaining stock. 50 blades left now.
I love this lil' feller. Yes, it's in my closet on top of my 3/4 size flat files.
Earlier this year, the final nail arrived in the old coffin: my beloved Xerox 5314 copier had been showing signs of cancer. I'd been pretending it was just specks on the glass that would wipe off. They didn't. In fact the copies were beginning to look awful and causing me some serious stress, not to mention a lot of extra work to deal with. There were two things in the manual that said should fix the problem: change the toner and change the copy cartridge.
I tracked down a new copy cartridge on Ebay ($150) and put it in. No luck. Shitty copies, jobs due. I replaced the toner. Same shitty copies. Many calls to Xerox, searches on the internet: I'm screwed. Copiers are now 100% digital and no one works on these machines anymore. Anywhere.
Just when I started feeling like I'm a dying breed, I found World of Fax. These guys, in upstate New York, are amazing. Not only do they maintain a complete inventory of parts for hundreds of random and semi-arcane copy machines and fax machines, but they help you figure out your problem and fix it. All via fax (of course) and over the phone.
They pin pointed the two parts that needed replacement, which I promptly ordered, and guided me over the phone as I operated on my machine. Furthermore, they guided me through the precarious act of cleaning the three prism mirrors deep in the bowels of the machine in order to sharpen the copy quality. The result? Back to business. Sort of. There are still less than ideal problems with the copy quality.
Ironically, it seems the art supply business is forcing out commercial artists. Either you're a student and you work with sub-par materials, or you're a crafts person and spend hours making surfaces that used to be manufactured. You become an acrylic or oil painter, or, you go 100% digital.
I want to look on the bright side. Perhaps the only way to look at this is that it's a sign from the universe to not be dependent on your media. I'm 100% behind that. Unfortunately, the way this business works, one of the main ways an art director needs to reference the artist is by the media - or more often than not, the "look" of the media, meaning a digital representation of it.
In my ideal world, art directors would first think of an artist by his mind: how he/she might think about approaching an assignment. Of course, I understand this is ridiculous given the constraints of deadlines, editors/marketing people breathing down their necks, etc.
I'd like to think the answer must be in straight up great drawing, thinking - and picture making. Perhaps all of this technical "Mercury Retrograde" melt down stuff is a message for me from the great Kahuna.
Is it a photograph? Or perhaps a Photoshop design?
I know, it's a scientific diagram. Or maybe a board game?
It's brown, and shiny, like drops of fresh wet poo.
Actually, this is the cover of this year's Workbook, an image chosen to represent this past year's illustration industry. Man oh man.
Thankfully, once one gets beyond this stunningly odd cover, they can find a whole host of great illustrators inside, and many hard working source-book supporting Drawgers.
Sterling Hundley and Brian Stauffer's gorgeous page divider's beg the question: why aren't they on the cover? Or Zina? Or Harry Campbell, whose spread pretty much leaps off of the paper it's printed on?
The Workbook has always been THE class act in an often dubious world of source books, but this cover has really made me stop and wonder what in the frikken world they were thinking?
I'm glad Steve Brodner is stirring up politics a bit here on Drawger. He and Robert Hunt's posts inspired me to put this image up, a send-up of match-book art that I did for a show back in 02.
I'm not sure what this piece means. I was so depressed and angry, and frustrated I wasn't able to voice my opinions more in my daily work as a commercial artist. I guess I was imagining that the whole thing was manufactured for us, Orwellian, simplified. I'm still not convinced I was imagining things.
What's been good for me throughout these crazy times is that I've learned a lot, about history, about religion, and of course politics. I've become a lot less doe-eyed about the way the world works. Yet, fortunately I feel extremely hopeful.
I'm not much of one to partake in the gloom and doom talk of the illustration industry, as I think there is a lot to be hopeful and excited about in today's illustration and art scene. But every now and then I'm taken aback.
Today my rep called and we talked about a bid on a job offer from one of the biggest and most sophisticated toy companies in the world. Twenty six drawings to be used on building-block like toys and sold in it's world-wide store chain. We put together a price that we felt was reasonable - good for us and good for them - and submitted it.
An hour later I get a call back from my rep saying it was 2 pm and he was all ready now for his martini. The buyer was shocked at our price. Apparently the one other bid they got was for less than one third of what we asked for! Not only that, but apparently it was a bid from a "well known regular-contributing New Yorker artist".
He may have been b.s.-ing. But if not, why is a "well known regular-contributing New Yorker artist" bidding so ridiculously low? We're talking a fee that when parsed out amounts to less than what a regional newspaper would pay for a b/w spot. I'm trusting it's not one of you guys here. If so, please talk to me and help me understand your logic!
It's not that I don't understand and respect each person's need to pay the bills and get what they can and whatnot. But at some point we really do need to take some responsibility for our prices, no?
The client explained they're used to using artists in Asia. I guess that explains it...