Play Ball!!

Over the course of what feels like a very short career despite having been a member of the full-time creative field for 16 years, have drawn in many styles to please many clients. That is what a freelance illustrator/cartoonist does. You always bring a little of yourself to the table, but if somebody needs Yogi Bear, they don’t want him to look like Mickey Mouse. You need to work cohesively with the other players. I get that.

Over the past number of years, the animation business has adopted the philosophy that if an artist’s portfolio does not look like their product, the artist must not be able to draw their characters. And if they think there is a glimmer of hope in the pencil wielder, the studio will require a remunerationless drawing test that usually is a good week’s worth of work. In essence, they make the artists try out for the team.

Perhaps these ideas came along because artists would lie on their resumès, or maybe it’s because hiring is usually handled by human resource agents that don’t truly understand the drawing process. I don’t say this as a slam on them by any means. With budgets being slashed, with many animation jobs leaving our borders, and with a local workforce greater than the amount of available jobs, companies want to know if you can draw what they need. I just wonder why, when a resumè has legitimate claims of having drawn things as diverse as characters for Disney, Pixar, Warner Bros., Hanna Barbera, Mercer Mayer, Fisher-Price, and superheroes that one would assume that artist cannot draw new things? Just last year I was turned down for a job with the stated reason that they didn’t think I could draw their characters.

So, that being said, when I apply for a new job in animation, I try to find out a little of the style of a show and see if I can quickly add some drawings to my portfolio that would key the bosses to the fact that I can draw their characters. They need to know that I can play ball with them.

The following is an example of just that. You’ll notice that this baseball boy is not exactly like the style of my other personal work here on the blog. He was created as a part of my portfolio customized for a job application earlier this year. Started as a rough sketch in my sketchbook, he then became an inked drawing with some color added in Photoshop for good measure. I didn’t get that job, but I did have fun trying to broaden my horizons a bit.

This baseball boy is a rough sketch taken directly from the pages of my sketchbook.
This baseball boy is a rough sketch taken directly from the pages of my sketchbook.
And here's a more finished look at the sketch. Click on the image to see it larger!
And here’s a more finished look at the sketch. Click on the image to see it larger!

Ironically, despite what I wrote above, I didn’t have to “try out” for a character design position I currently hold. Based on the reputation of my past work, I am grateful to be helping bring Zhu Zhu Pets toys to life in the animated realm. Sometimes the resumè and a good pitch from colleagues alone can help get the game play going. Then you have to step up to the plate and prove you deserve to be swinging the bat.