The example below is utilizing my new, digital process. I use the computer to create the composition from my own digital photos. Once the composition is approved, I create the “under-painting” as a light print onto my watercolor paper. From there, I paint over it. It sure works! And it is much faster than I used to work before. In this business, speed is essential. That has especially been the case with the easy availability of stock images that are “ready to go!”



A few weeks ago, I was supposed to start on a new art project; which in my case is usually an illustration of something that will be used on a food/packaging label. Normally I would share more, but this is one of those confidential things – I’m anticipating that I’ll have to sign a paper saying I will not share any information about what I’m illustrating. I find it interesting how clients really worry that their competitors will find out that their unique product is coming out early! Nowadays with the advent of stock photography and illustration, it is so much cheaper to buy existing work. However, thank god there is still the mind-set of wanting something unique for their product – that will keep me in business with commissioned work.

When I didn’t hear from this art director, I decided to follow up. I sent an email saying, “Hey, whatever happened with that project you had where you desperately needed my samples? Did your crazy client ever decide?” Okay, I actually just wrote the “whatever happened” part. I received a message saying that I should call her immediately!

I did not hear from the art director, despite leaving a message, until 8 p.m. this evening. I found out I am “off the hook” for working this weekend. I wish that would mean that the “drop dead deadline” would be extended to compensate, but in this line of work the deadline often remains fixed while the art directors and clients bicker over minuscule details of the assignment.

I listened to this art director launch into a whole story about her crazy client, but the end result is that the client is actually back to going toward a realistic style like mine. I’ve done a few paintings of this job’s subject matter over the last few years, which is beneficial. I also have a tremendous amount of photo reference that I’ve gleaned from magazines; certainly I will be able to find something to work from.

In the end, most clients are absolutely clueless about what goes into creating a painting and how cheating the artist of time actually lessens the quality. Like anything, more time spent is usually a better result.

With the advent of the computer, destroying so many careers like mine, I actually am benefiting by reaching even a faster level of creating art. I can actually recycle elements from my huge library of images, and create new paintings that are “originals.”

A motto that I used to teach my students in illustration classes was – are you ready, “Whatever works!” Hmmm, that might actually be something applicable to the rest of my life, as well!

This project that began in mid-February is still ongoing. There are three illustrations, and I’ve completed two of those. I am still waiting for the go-ahead on the third painting.

Just yesterday, I received a call to bid on another project that involves nine illustrations. I guess there still is a pulse to this art career of mine!


I want to share an email exchange I had in March. It was with an art director that was out of the country.

By sharing this, I’m hoping to give some insight into how much the business has changed, yet still remains the same.

I never know where these things go, but it was so nice to correspond with someone that appreciated my style of illustration!

On Mar 3, 2010, Jon wrote:

Hi Judy,

I’m looking for an illustrator to do some fruit and flavour illustrations for a Liqueur project we are working on and I came across your beautiful website.

Initially I need an illustration of peaches in a similar configuration and style as the one attached from your website.

The product is a Liqueur spirit and the illustrations should reflect the natural nature of the flavour, be suitably serious for the category and realistic whilst retaining the crafted feel of an illustration.

This is just one of about a dozen flavours and we will be looking to have the others done in a consistent style, they include various fruits and a chocolate option.

Would you be able to give me an outline of the costs involved? We would like full copyright assigned to our client with no restrictions on reproduction etc.

I look forward to a response. Please e-mail me if you have any questions.

Kindest regards, Jon

Hi Jon,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the illustrations.

I have illustrated flavors for several liqueur companies, so I am familiar with many of them. I recently learned what a “sloe” berry is for gin!

So often, stock illustration is preferred due to price and time limitations. Commissioned work has been infrequent for me; I would love to work on a project like this. I’m definitely your artist; it is my specialty! The main issue for commissioned work is that with a dozen flavors there is considerable time involved. So my first question is, what kind of time frame do you have? Twelve illustrations would probably require about 4-6 weeks for me, possibly sooner if I have elements of the flavors in my “library” of images.

I hesitate to quote a price until the time element is confirmed.

I do not sell the copyrights to my work. I can give you an exclusive. If I sold my copyrights, then I would have competition for my own illustrations. You could sell it as stock, too. I can definitely give you a buyout, exclusive, and unlimited usage.

Since you are in the UK, I require money as we go along. It can be wire transferred, but my fee would be in full – no service charges shall be deducted from it. Once again, thank you for considering my work.


On Mar 3, 2010, Jon wrote:

Hi Judy,

Thank you for the speedy response.

I agree due to price limitations stock illustrations are used an awful lot; indeed I am guilty too. However on this occasion I think it would be beneficial to have commissioned illustrations, yours are so beautiful and a consistency across the product range would strengthen the brand to no end.

The brand I’m working on is an Israeli liqueur. Up to now their focus has been very local but the redesign would elevate them to a much bigger market and I need the label to reflect this.

At this stage I’m looking at getting buy in from the client to commission Illustrative work. I think it would be best to have a ballpark figure for an illustration such as the one attached would cost. They are all of an equal scale and I can go into further detail as and when, but for the time being a quote for peaches would suffice.

I appreciate your retention of copyright and exclusivity and unlimited usage is probably the route to follow.

Accounting should not be a problem.

Kindest regards, Jon

Hi Jon,

My prior liqueur illustrations ranged from $1,000 – $2,000 each. However, those illustrations were very simple. The art consisted of 1-2 fruits on most flavors. The peach example that you sent me is much more complex, so it would be the $2,000 fee. This includes the buyout.

I would love to work with you, however my largest concern is regarding time frame. If you can give me the time I require, I can be more flexible on the price. It is ironic that my schedule has been open for months, but at the moment I am working on two projects simultaneously. I could still address your project with samples to share from my library of images, but couldn’t actually start working on it for at least 2-3 weeks.

I have been illustrating for 29 years and fruit and flavors are exactly what I enjoy painting. I hope we’ll be able to work together.

Sincerely, Judy

Ps. I’m attaching other flavors related to the peach art you sent me.

On Mar 3, 2010, Jon wrote:

Thanks Judy that is very helpful.

At this stage we have no timeline to work on but as soon as I have buy in from the client I can let you have more information and a timescale that we have agreed.

Hopefully we can work together, I really love your work and your passion for the subject exudes through your work. I’ll let you know how the project develops.

Have a great day. Jon

Thank you, Jon. You’ve made my day.


PS. I have not heard from this art director since this exchange.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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