Usually on this blog I like to talk about the methods of my work. The inspirations, sources, procedures and tools for creating my art. These topics are to help advise newer artists, to prompt suggestions and wisdom from other artists, and to inform, entertain and inspire non-artists.
In this episode, however, I plan to simply tell funny stories of some of the most bizarre contracts I’ve done. Be prepared… this may get weird… and PG-13.
Let’s start here: For a little over a year I was a full-time staff illustrator for an adult toy company. Yes, that’s completely true. I drew naked people for a living. How did I feel about this? Well…. GOD I miss that job. Although erotic art is not my 1st reflex, it’s certainly one of the most enjoyable occupations I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, the departments decided that working with photos was just plain easier, and my brief stint ended.
Ready for the punchline? One month later I was illustrating children’s books. Needless to say, the client requested I use a different pseudonym. …I’m still laughing about THAT one.
Next up: Sexy stripper fish.
That’s right, I said sexy stripper fish. Well…. technically the strippers were bait, and the strip club patrons were the fish. The company was called “Red Light Bait Company.” So…. it makes perfect sense, right?
The real challenge was that all the patrons had to be PARTICULAR types of fish, more specifically, the most common fish sought after by fisher… people. Then I had to find some way to capture each fish’s “personality” (?) somehow. I’m particularly proud of making the flounder, who has both eyes on one side of his head, a creep in a trenchcoat.
There’s also the shark bouncers, barracuda gangster, sexy-cop shrimp waitress, and sailfish…. sailor. The client had the brilliant idea of having them all tipping with “sand dollars” (can I get a rimshot?).
The next previous project I can’t speak too much about, as it’s still in production. I can, however, tell that I was asked to draw… and even animate…. an anthropomorphic pot plant. Among other “stoner” related imagery needed for the project, the feminine humanoid/pot plant stood out. It was especially tricky to get movement out of her since she was rooted to the ground. There’s also the irony of showing her smoking a joint (would that qualify as cannibalism?).
Continuing chronologically backwards (as I am often wont to do)… was the 4th sexy welder pin-up girl. As strange as that may sound, let me point out that this was the FOURTH. No, they were all different clients. The first came to me because she saw my Character Portraits and pin-up art, and thought it would be
fun to have herself drawn as a pin-up girl dressed as a sexy welder, since that was her husband’s occupation, as a gift for his birthday. Makes a certain amount of sense…. until another came along. Granted, I can give some credit for this concept from the following three clients, to the fact that they probably saw the first one on my website. But still… how many welders are out there? Each one has been fun to work on… and tricky, being as I know absolutely nothing about welding (well, I know more NOW).
Now let’s talk about shows. Here’s some crazy things people have asked me to draw in PERSON. I used to perform/sell at certain collector’s expos, trade shows and conventions. Primarily this was to promote my freelance work, but also to sell some limited edition matted prints of my fantasy art. Part of my draw was that I offered “Character Sketches.” These were pencil sketches of customers, however they wanted, in a generally realistic (or comic book) style.
The first stumbling block was when somebody wanted to be drawn as Iron Man. Okay… how do I make it so he can tell that it’s HIM. Then it dawned on me, have the helmet in his hand! This worked for several heroes and other characters with face-covering masks and helmets. Eureka! Then comes the kid who loves Bumblebee from Transformers. Um… All I could really do is draw him wearing Bumblebee-like armor, also holding a helmet. Hey, it made him happy!
Then comes the guy who doesn’t want me to draw him, but his favorite super-heroines. Cool. One hitch… he wants them naked. As eyebrow-raising as this may have been, I have to admit it was a nice change from drawing little girls as faeries. No, I didn’t ever mix those up…
Going back many years I somehow (no, I honestly don’t remember how), got contacted by the local leather gay bar to produce their annual Christmas cards. You may be saying to yourself “Hey! MY town doesn’t have a leather gay bar!” This is Austin, though. Also… you’re probably wrong. Anyway, the first design involved caricatures of the employees on the inside, and Rudolph putting nipple clamps on Santa on the front. Wow! Can’t get any weirder, right? Wrong. The next year, the client has me draw all the employees sitting in a urinal with Santa peeing on them. The caption read “Urinal our thoughts this holiday season.”
You win. You’re the weirdest.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more bizarre stories from the archives of Jay French!