#13 BILLBOARDS & NEVER BORED

ILLUSTRATION FOR CHICAGO BROTHER’S PIZZA. THE SLICE WAS PASTED ON OVER THE FIRST ONE I DID.
A PHOTO OF THE ACTUAL BILLBOARD FOR CHICAGO BROTHER’S PIZZA.

This art blog is unfolding with a myriad of tips, technical information, stories, and job examples.

I have a lot of job examples I could share over the last thirty years. I’ve decided to start with my earlier jobs and work toward the present. My style has certainly evolved, and sharing the process is quite fun.

Making “after-the-fact” revisions was one of the greatest challenges involved in my technique. I tried to solve that by doing a great deal of preliminary work. Sketches and colored, marker comps allowed the art director and their client an opportunity to give me feedback. This process was necessary and was usually very helpful.

In addition, the preliminary work gave me confidence about how the final painting would actually appear. If there was a problem in the early stages, solving it before I began the final painting was imperative.

Presently, even though I utilize the computer, I still do a great deal of preliminary work. The computer has been fantastic, because it allows for quick transmission of color images. I still remember when the first fax process became available through Federal Express.

It was called Zap Mail. I used to pay $25 to send a black and white sketch. Just remembering how complicated this was makes me grin. The driver would pick up my envelope, and then later in the day he would return it. It was still well worth it to use Zap Mail on a tight deadline, because I would get immediate feedback. That translating into more painting time.

Before I learned how to utilize the computer, I was using cutout, photocopied line drawings. I had all of the elements of my illustration on scraps of paper, and I moved them around to figure out the most desirable composition. Sneezing was definitely out of the question!

Once my line drawing was approved, I rendered it in color using markers. My marker technique truly evolved over time. Eventually, as I’ve shared earlier my marker technique was able to be utilized for final paintings.

On many of my job examples, I might share the art director’s comments about my marker layouts. Occasionally, I’ll share what I was paid, as well as invoices that give information about usage and pricing. The price for commissioned work has gone down in recent years. There is a lot of competition between commissioned illustrations and the usage of stock imagery. Stock imagery is more readily available (the art business always wants something quickly), and certainly much cheaper.

I finally relented and put my work in the stock venue to achieve a small source of revenue.

I’ve decided to categorize some of my old jobs. On this post, I am sharing the wonderful examples of seeing my work enlarged on billboards. I remember distinctly parking and simply savoring the ability to see my work so large. I work fairly small, so you can imagine how exciting that was!

I’ve illustrated pizza on numerous occasions. One of my very first assignments as an illustrator was a billboard for Chicago Brother’s Pizza.

There were revisions on this painting that required me to repaint the slice on top and glue it over the first painting. The art director wanted more “strings” of cheese hanging underneath the slice. I didn’t have a chance to make a transparency of the revision, so my painting reflects the first version.

I’ve illustrated for many banks, and I’ve done illustrations of ATM cards and Visa cards. Many of the banks I’ve worked for such as First Interstate and Crocker no longer exist. Here is an example of a billboard I did for Bank of America. I enjoyed “solving the texture” of the leather checkbook holder.

PHOTO OF MY BILLBOARD FOR BANK OF AMERICA.

One of my most interesting clients was AM/PM Minimarkets. I worked on four illustrations for them. For this assignment I was paid $4,000 per illustration. The burger was allowed to be messy, which made it interesting. I learned a lot about photographing food from this job! It was here that I began experimenting with acrylics to help me paint the sesame seeds on the buns.

This job was a prime example of why illustration was definitely superior to photography. The actual product was not very attractive! An artist’s rendition was much more allowable than an artificial, photographically enhanced version (as far as legally depicting their product goes).

I GUESS AM/PM DECIDED NOT TO MENTION MCDONALD’S IN THEIR FINAL AD.
DON’T THESE BURGERS MAKE YOU HUNGRY?
MY MARKER COMP FOR THE AM/PM BURGERS
NUMEROUS COMMENTS MADE BY THE ART DIRECTOR OVER MY MARKER COMP. CLICKING ON THIS IMAGE MAKES IT LARGER AND ALLOWS THE COMMENTS TO BE VISIBLE
THE FIRST FINAL PAINTING OF THE AM/PM BURGERS. THERE WERE REVISIONS MADE THAT FOLLOW.
FINAL ILLUSTRATION WITH REVISIONS FOR AM/PM BURGERS BILLBOARD.

On the hot dog illustration, the art director was very specific about the lettering and their logo colors. I followed his layout exactly, as far as the lettering went. I hated doing lettering. Doing organic images allows for far more flexibility. Lettering always needed to be perfect!

PHOTOCOPY OF THE ART DIRECTOR'S LAYOUT ON THE AM/PM HOT DOG.

MY PHOTO REFERENCE FOR THE HOT DOG. (I DIDN’T EAT IT AFTERWARDS)
THE ART DIRECTOR ON THIS JOB HAD EXCELLENT AND CLEAR FEEDBACK.

ARTWORK FOR AM/PM HOT DOG BILLBOARD.

When I illustrated a billboard of “feet” for the YMCA, I received $3,000. it was helpful to have the separate legs rendered in markers and cut out to “move around.” Many of my marker comps have yellowed over the years, and I’ve tried to correct that with Photoshop. The major change between my marker comp and final artwork was the addition of some “ethnic” legs!

On this illustration, I incorporated airbrushing for the background. It was often annoying trying to create the perfect gradation on my watercolor paper. Sometimes the spray would texture the hairs on the watercolor paper, and I would need to take a tissue to rub them down. The imperfections that would show up, such as a fingerprint, used to drive me crazy!

MY MARKER COMP FOR THE YMCA BILLBOARD.

LAYOUT BY ART DIRECTOR FOR THE YMCA BILLBOARD.

FINAL ART FOR THE YMCA BILLBOARD.

I think the illustration I did for the 1-800-Conroy’s billboard was one of my most memorable. This assignment paid $6,500.

PHOTOGRAPHS OF FLOWERS FOR MY 1-800-CONROY’S BILLBOARD.

I made my color comp out of the cut photographs. I became very adept with my exacto knife on this job!

Each letter of the billboard was an illustration onto itself. The final illustration was on three separate sheets of 22×30 watercolor paper. Each letter was a foot high, which was fairly large for me. I had several students working with me as assistants on this project. I worked over my students’ work to make the entire painting look like my style. Because the artwork was on three separate panels, it was possible for me to do this.

A CLOSE-UP OF TWO NUMBERS FROM THE 1-800 CONROY’S BILLBOARD.

The last billboard project I’d like to share was done for Crystal Geyser. It was challenging as it involved the metallic cap with lettering. Illustrating ice and liquid was also very challenging. The numerous, large raspberries were quite exhausting to paint.

My fee on this project was $13,000. It’s important to mention that I had an artist representative involved on many of my projects. My San Francisco rep, Barb Hauser, handled the Crystal Geyser and YMCA accounts. Her fee was 25%, which was standard.

There is an interesting story I’d like to share about this particular assignment. This job for Crystal Geyser required some revisions. I finished making those changes on a Saturday. I wanted to save my client a little money (there is an extra charge for pick-up on Saturday) so I went to a nearby Federal Express drop off. I made my changes in time, and drove over to the drop off in the nick of time. I pushed the sturdy, wrapped package holding my artwork into the Fed Ex slot.

On Monday, my artwork did not arrive. Federal Express was unable to track my package because they did not have any reference number in their system. It had not been scanned!

By the middle of the week, the art director, Barb, and myself were frantic. I spoke with a lawyer in our family. He told me I was liable for the loss, and would need to replace it. The thought of repainting that entire illustration had me very anxious.

My husband said to me, “You need to retrace your steps. Are you sure you sent it properly? Where did you put it?”

I described for him the Fed Ex drop-box. I followed his advice and drove back there to “look around.” It turned out that my illustration was still jammed in the slot! I reached in and pulled it out. It would never have been delivered! The Federal Express person takes packages from the bin; not the slot. My practical husband saved the day.

I WAS RESEARCHED PHOTOGRAPHING DROPLETS FOR REFERENCE. I ENDED UP USING GLYCERIN ON A GLASS.
THE ACTUAL BILLBOARDS FOR CRYSTAL GEYSER.

Since I’m willing to share some job disasters, I am also happily sharing nice letters of commendation I’ve received upon completing some of my jobs. I received a nice one from the art director for the Crystal Geyser job.

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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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