In 1979, I was attending California State University, Northridge. My major was undecided. I was taking art classes and developing my watercolor technique. My first illustration class with Nancy Ohanian as my instructor was extremely rewarding for me.
I took a more advanced illustration class with another wonderful illustrator, Barry Jackson. Barry’s work was fascinating, complex, and very different from anything that I had learned. I continued to advance my knowledge of illustration in his class.
Barry gave our class an interesting assignment. He had gone to Petersen Publishing, Company, which was a well-know publisher of numerous magazines. This company published a significant number of magazines in the medical realm. Barry’s class assignment was to create a magazine cover for a cardiac magazine. If the publisher decided to use it, they would pay $400.
My painting was chosen and I received my first payment for an illustration assignment while I was still in college! Up until that point, my major was still listed as “Undecided.” Upon receiving that job, I decided to become an art major.
The process of working for Petersen Publishing was such that it was on “Spec.” Basically, that meant there were no guarantees, and all the work might be for nothing if the illustration was not purchased.
I continued to create magazine covers for Petersen Publishing Company over the next few years. Six of my illustrations were published. Eventually, one of my illustrations was rejected. After that, I decided working on “spec” was not in my best interest.
Designing these covers was very interesting for me. I utilized the montage technique of blending several images upon a gradated, airbrushed background. Because airbrush gradations didn’t work as well on watercolor paper, I often had to cut out the watercolor elements and mount them onto illustration board. It was a very complicated and challenging process.
It was interesting for me to paint the last cover of a man in a “biohazard suit.” I took photos of a friend’s husband, and the likeness wasn’t bad! Another early job was a brochure I illustrated due to an art director liking these magazine covers. My husband served as my reference, and it was very funny to see him on that brochure.
I ended up deciding that there was too much pressure for me illustrating anything human. When my illustrations of food seemed exceptionally well received, I decided to stick with illustrating what was my strongest genre. There was also a huge difference in the pay scale between advertising and editorial illustration. Whereas a magazine cover paid $400, an illustration for an advertisement paid ten times that amount.
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