A commissioned journey

I don’t know if artists generally shudder at the above term. I’ve found recently it’s a pretty steep learning curve, but the result is sweet.

Two things that helped me to see my recent project through were that I was doing the commission from someone I love working for and respect (I freelance for her) and also a couple of years experience in one of the hardest types of customer service – a call centre for a municipal council! Believe me, people get damned upset if their bin doesn’t get collected … seriously … so trying to satisfy someone else’s aesthetics was relatively stress-free in comparison!

I was asked to do a custom Christmas card for the local newspaper to send out to regular clients. My client had a vague, almost translucent idea of what she wanted. So I started with this little gem

As my friend RoyBarry so readily points out, it looks like a scene from Priscilla and although I didn’t mind it to start with, those lips began to look rather disturbing. Needless to say, the boss rejected it out of hand (and with no comment so I guess she didn’t want to offend).

I had a couple of ideas myself – after a call out to some Redbubble friends who came back to me quickly with a few inspired visions. I knuckled down and tried for something a whole lot less “cute” but I’m afraid I didn’t avoid the cute or personal factor and designed something that I will certainly be using for some of my greetings this year.

Now, despite my client also dismissing this one with the comment that it was very cute, I enjoyed the process and learnt a couple of little tricks with reflections and maybe even going a bit subtle. All was not lost with this version toward the final goal either. The client loved the kangaroo sleigh and it survived to the final card.

Next, I suggested to the client that I use a photo of the old, restored newspaper office (not currently used by the paper, but of local interest). “Perhaps,” I suggested tentatively, “we could have Santa’s sleigh crashing into the side of the building.” I was thinking of the ‘newsie’ angle and she liked the idea so I got to work using a file photo.

I have a lot to learn about digital art and the learning process is a bit slow for me, but I learn best by ‘just doing it’. I thought the result was quite funny, included a pic of the boss with a ridiculously large camera and presented it to her proudly.

I got a bit of a chuckle but certainly no commitment.

“Don’t worry,” I said to her. “I’m not done yet!”

Next was one of my old chestnuts – a parody newspaper, including a humorous front page story about an elf forgetting to put the magic handbrake on the sleigh which, surprisingly, somehow ended up in the roof of the newspaper office. A bonus was being able to use the previous design as part of this new card. I was rather pleased with the result and felt a little self-congratulatory. But nope. It didn’t fit the bill.

Okay, my ego is not rock solid although I know these could all do with some expert treatment (or starting from scratch). But I still valued the experience of the doing, finding that if you wanted to do something in particular, generally design software has the capacity to do it – you just have to figure out how.

But I didn’t mind the client saying no. At this point, after four attempts, I was still determined to get the winning combination. And I think my client was starting to form an idea of what she wanted by seeing what she didn’t want.

She sent me some clipart of paperboys she found on Google. Although I didn’t like them much, I understood that I had to put my own feelings aside to deliver what my client wanted. But rather than use the clipart, I decided to create my own, original image.

This little guy took some building up. The first version (number 2) got the thumbs up from my client; I’d finally got past ‘Go to jail’ and was heading towards ‘Bond St’. Then came the stream of 8 versions – change the words on the tshirt, the Christmas Greeting should read …, and can he have a hat? I’d like the hat to go on top of his head instead, and I’d really like that kangaroo sleigh behind him somewhere. (I really have to figure out how to save an image without merging layers … is it possible?)

… and “Wallah” my first completed commissioned ‘art’ piece.

Okay, now I did promise to tell you about the sweetness of this: other than the learning curve, the hours it all took from start to finish, the new techniques and the practice in putting aside my own taste and desires to accommodate someone else’s – the very sweet part of my journey was today seeing in my activity monitor that the card in question sold 100 copies.

This is my single largest sale to date. While I’m not yet shopping for a new car, it has given me a dose of the warm fuzzies (along with the sale of a Grim card to a very dear bubble friend AND the sale of a ‘happenings’ calendar to the local constabulary). In all it has been a wonderful bubble day for me.

This isn’t all a lead up to a gratuitous boast although I am very proud of the achievement. But I do hope the story of my customer service journey has been a little interesting and informative. And if I can do it, so can you.

Journal Comments

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