I’ve been organizing old files, and I decided to take a break from portraits and fine art to feature an illustration assignment. I’ll have a few more in the next few months—if I’m not too embarrassed at my minimal skills with pen and ink at the time!
In the late 1990s, while I still worked my day job, a friend who had found her freedom in self-employment already sent a few illustration assignments my way. They were a natural for me—pet sitting businesses. We were both animal lovers, and people who love animals tend to gravitate to us.
It’s interesting that although we had and used email, not everyone did, so most communication was done by phone calls, and these customers were long-distance so calls were rare, maybe one at the beginning to discuss the project. The rest was done by…snail mail. Ah the pace of life in the good old days, equal parts frustratingly slow and comfortingly slow, take your time, think things over thoroughly slow.
The customer above wanted just line art with an oval for the business name. At that time digital printing was rare and nearly everything was still black and white or monochrome, so just an outlined subject was really best for many applications. She wanted a big goofy dog and a pretty cat, wearing crowns. I used my niece’s American Eskimo dog for the dog and my Sally for the cat, both white animals and easy to to make a simple outline drawing. I initially had them both behind the oval, but when she saw the proof she asked for one of the dog’s front paws to be on top of the oval and the cat’s tail to swing around it. And so it is!
The logo below was way more complicated! There are two illustrations, the first idea and the second. This was a multi-animal pet-sitting business in a rural area so they not only took care of dogs and cats, but also took care of horses, and even other animals sometimes if necessary, and a few exotics. At that time birds were considered exotic pets, but this business included them all the time. At one point we had a bunny in the illustration too, but we didn’t end up with it. But the first illustration, below, was a cat and a dog in a baby carriage and a horse pushing it.
She had asked for a “cartoony” style and used a caricature of herself and her horse as a sample, then a few other pieces of art. The illustration above was, at the time pretty standard fare for “cartoony” with just a little exaggeration here and there; I’ve never been good at the kind of exaggeration that makes for a good caricature.
Then for the second and final illustration we took a complete turn on the illustration style and used a sketchy drawing pen style rather than the bold black and white so the carriage looked like wicker and the shadows were softer. I know I did a few changes to the new one before we finalized it, but I don’t have a record, but this is how it ended up.
The whole thing was too exciting for me as I neared my time of freedom. These were from 1998 and I wasn’t ready yet, but this gave me a nice taste of the type of work I could be doing, and also my level of skills at the time. I desperately wanted to be able to draw better in ink. My older drawings my look okay, but I toiled over them and never had confidence they’d turn out right. And plenty of attempts ended up in the paper recycling bin before I got a good one. It’s one of the reasons I focused on ink when working my daily nature sketches years ago and my daily cat sketches even recently. A lot of practice, there’s nothing like it.
If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and at assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, each week I feature a piece of artwork on Wednesday and a new product on Thursday. Choose the category for featured artwork.
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Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
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