Deadlines or Lifelines?

I know a lot of other freelance artists, and it’s pretty much a given that without a carrot dangling out there as a reward, we tend to take our time. We’re not goofing off, oh no. We have the incredibly tough job of making final decisions about how a book is going to look in print. The more time we have, the more we ponder and worry. Writers go through the same thing, true, but since I do both, I vote that illustration is harder. See me after school if you want to argue about that.

This is the end spread for Paul Bunyan, completed this morning. I had a blast coming up with my own version of these folk characters and hope the book does well. The story is linked to one of Rourke’s science titles, which made the project more challenging and fun.

Early on in my career, decisions were tough because with watercolor, there was no going back other than starting over. My first illustrated book, Pussycat Ate the Dumplings, was agonizing to complete. I needed help. We had an Amiga computer at the time, so I tried making a few color decisions using a cool $40 program called Deluxe Paint (this was in 1985). It was great! I could try out colors and make those excruciating decisions before committing to real paper. While I could spend hours deciding about colors, at least I could try them on for size. Once I decided, for instance, on a red dress and pink undies for the Queen (that book was published in the UK by the way), it was much more fun to paint!

Now that I’m creating illustrations on the computer almost exclusively, not only can I experiment with color and lighting, I can move objects, re-size and flip characters on their heads, and erase without white-out! It gives me a lot more confidence to try on different approaches, but truth be told, it is more time consuming than traditional painting. Why? Because there are so many freeking options!

So, that’s why a deadline can be a lifeline. Deadlines are not written to be broken or the carrot will go away. My recent projects have had some pretty fast deadlines, but this kind of schedule has taught me to stop waffling and make decisions on both the writing and the illustrating. This four-book project has a four-month deadline. I’m half-way there and making time for other projects. Funny how when time is precious, we make better use of it.

7 Comments Add yours

    1. Robin Koontz says:

      Thanks Shari! I’m loving your new illustrations. Will we see you in May?

      1. SL Schildan says:

        Thank you so much, Robin. Kind words = encouragement. My life was put on hold for mom. I am glad this one is a “spec project”. It was a tough year and it was my lifeline even though it was on the back burner off and on.

        I sincerely hope to see you (& everyone) in May. I so missed the conference, the learning, enthusiasm and the new friendships I had forged the previous year.

  1. Lisa Nowak says:

    I’m still trying to figure out how to manage the deadlines with all the other stuff life throws at me. One email can throw everything out of whack by shoving it’s way to the front of the list. No matter what I work on, I feel guilty for not doing everything else. Really, I would prefer to just be concentrating on the writing deadlines. I’m glad someone’s figured out how to manage them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Robin Koontz says:

      Well, don’t hit me, but I think you could be allowing that email to shove its way up front and keep you from your task at hand? Been there from fielding several hundred a week via SCBWI Oregon. I let them take over my priorities because I’m just putting off some really tough work.

      But my secret to regain focus is to walk, every day, and no phones or devices come along, just my dog and my husband. If you have a great idea, you’ll remember it, but I think our brains need a break especially when juggling so many things at once.

      1. Lisa Nowak says:

        Well, admittedly, sometimes it’s that. But just as often it’s something like, “I need a bio and class description for the conference brochure,” or “here’s my guest post for your blog that you agreed to post last month,” or “I need this Tweeted right away.”

      2. Robin Koontz says:

        Or answering comments on blog comments. ๐Ÿ™‚ Two of these examples seem to be someone else dropping the ball and expecting you to pick it up for them. And anyone asking for a bio and description hopefully gave you some time to get it done…we did, right? Thought we did!

        I realize that you’re doing far more in your working life with all the networking/marketing and these tasks, including dealing with people who don’t follow through on their part, are vital to your business. I know you’ve figured out that it does take away from your creative time in a huge way. That’s what the publisher does, if they are worth their salt. Talk to Barb sometime about schedules. She amazes me how she organizes her time. She’s got five indies out now!

        Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I’ve been reading your interviews and just posted Lisa’s blog in the newsletter, which you can download if you like. Yours was in there last fall. ๐Ÿ™‚

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