Thursday, July 28, 2005

Kid-Lit Thursday: Tagged!

Once these bloggy blog things get started, they make their rounds fairly quickly. I received mine earlier this week over at Revolutions Per Minute. Here’s my results, with a twist:

Twenty years ago: I was working as a publication designer and wanna-be children's illustrator at Perfection Learning Corporation in Des Moines, Iowa. After being warned by my dad, grandfather, college instructors, as well as more than one boss that commercial illustration/design was off limits to blacks, I accepted this job at a very low income. I considered myself lucky. I really don't think anyone meant any harm, and in fact, I know now that in Des Moines, pre 80s, this was sadly true. So, how did I get the job? I put into action that squeaky wheel anecdote, and squeaked and squeaked like a rusty wheel on a Radio Flyer. I drove that man nuts begging him for that job until he finally hired me at a less than standard income. After accepting the job and proving that, yes, I would show up at work, yes, I would be on time, yes, I would work hard, and most importantly, yes, I was just as talented and capable as my white counterparts, I received 5 raises in a 9-month period. "I guess it's probably time that I get you up there with everybody else," I remember my old boss telling me. This illustration was one in a series of posters that taught Spanish words at a time in my life that Mexican people only existed in National Geographic.

Ten years ago:

After working my PFC gig for 7 years, and illustrating numerous products for children, my name started to get around. I hired an agent and more work from other children's publishers started coming my way. But, that presented a conflict of interest. When I started making more money from my freelance business than I was at my full-time job, I acknowledged the clue, quit my job and freelanced full-time. Work came from all over the country from companies such as Busch Gardens in Tampa, Chicago Chamber of Commerce and educational publishers throughout New York. Pictured is a 15-month calendar that I designed for Crayola Crayons and Payless Shoes. I had no idea about pricing at the time. The art director asked me to submit a bid. Mine: $2.000. He paid me $13,000. Within the first two years of my entrepreneurial endeavors, I tripled my salary.

Five years ago:

Tripling your salary also means tripling your debt to Uncle Sam. It soon started raining tax bills that sent a brotha running for full-time- take- the- tax- out- of- my- check cover. I quit my freelance business and took the first job that just happen to come my way: a graphic artist at a newspaper, The Des Moines Register. In retrospect, I should have simply hired a good accountant. But I never gave up on my dream of illustrating a children's trade picture book. I continued to pursue this dream until finally in 1998, I was offered my first contract with Jump at the Sun, and imprint of Hyperion Books for Children. Say Hey! A Song of Willie Mays was my first book and it published early in 2000.

One year ago:

I received a phone call from my illustration agent. I knew that she was also a licensing agent, but I never considered product licensing. "Licensing? Driver's licensing? What's that?" I thought to myself when she asked me if I'd be interested in developing some bedroom and bathroom designs for Lowes Home Improvement Warehouses. Now originally, this idea was sold to me as a multi-million-dollar windfall. I wasn't to make millions, but considering my 60-percent cut with my agent on 5-percent sales, I stood to make a whole lotta money. So when the contracts were signed, and my designs were sent off to China to be hand sculpted and mass produced, I was elated. We're paying off the house. Were sending the daughters to college (fighting and screaming, but on my dime). I'm buying my Hummer! However, I quickly learned the same lesson I should have learned from my experience with children's books: you're not gonna get rich quick. Sales take time.

Last week:
I was busy finishing off the finals for THE HIDDEN FEAST which will publish with August House. All twenty paintings are due August 1. I have been granted two extra weeks to finish these paintings. Just in time to take a four-day Mexican cruise. Ahh, life/income at a newspaper ain't so bad afterall.Also, as pictured, I started developing personalities for the My Peepz characters, which will first appear on a 2006 calendar.

Today: I scanned in this image of an African American Santa Claus that I created for a company that produces Christmas window clings.I'm submitting these designs to Houston Tillotson college, and with the help of the wife, will possibly design their 2005 Holiday cards.

That's all. I had to cut this tag with its five more questions of five answers each in half.

Whose the five I'm taggin'?
Mz. Gig, of course. Greg and Spooky Cyn. Ok, they're not gonna like me after this, but maybe they could approach it from the kid-lit standpoint. Varian Johnson, a children's author here in Austin and is new to the blogosphere, and, hmmmm, Jhera. I miss your sex, drugs, suicide and dad-bashing stories.

Unrelated thought for the day: I was recently told that the mother-in-law asked for my blog URL. Oh my gosh, Darwin, we are evolving!


Campfyah said...

This is such an interesting and inspiritn blog. I know nothing of publishing but from reading your blog, it gives me lots of insights. Sounds like quite an interesting career. Stupid question. Do you actually do all those drawings and designs yourself. I'll call you an artist moreso than a publisher.

The Gig said...

When I come off of cloud nine, I will ask you a question.

Question to self -- did I really grace the world with this talented brotha? The LORD has been gooooood to me. I am so elated that my trip on cloud nine will be postively a lonnnnng one. Son, you are GOOD! *tears in eyes* Yes, you are definitely living up to the name DEVAS(TATE).

Great post, great illustrations and I love the names for your peez characters, they are absolutely beautiful. You need one more character -- "Tamaria" I love me some DEVAS!!

Question: (still on cloud nine though) -- what do you mean you are going to tag me? Enlighten me.

The Gig said...

Name change for peeze: "Tamika" as opposed to Tamaria. Dat's all folks

Kim said...

Oh my gosh! That is all so awesome. The My Peepz remind me a little of the Bratz girls my daughters love so much (just got back from a trip to Toys R Us and bought some Baby Bratz). Your Peepz are beautiful! And, what cool Lowes stuff! Congrats on the window cling and card. You are just sooooo cool!

Nikki said...

Love the illustrations, Don. You do such great work.

Luke Cage said...

Hey Don. This particular meme has been making it's rounds (I hate memes!-lol) and it seems to be gaining steam. But I haven't seen one quite written in detail like this one. Leave it to my artistic brother to break it down the way it should be broke. Very interesting take on your 20, 10, and 5 years ago summary. What a path you took my friend. Nicely done. Shame on you though. Should'a finished the rest! -lol

Jheris said...

lol whatever dad

captain_howdy_girl said...

I liked the "one year ago"pics the best. I wish I had that kind of talent.

Friar Tuck said...

This is what I wish we would all do more after getting to know each other a little bit. Sharing our life stories, faith journeys etc.
Thanks for sharing yours.

Aziza said...

I love the artwork. Let us know where your work (books, calendars,etc.) will be available for sale so that we can purchase it for the kids we know.

The Archivist said...

Wow. You've had an interesting past few years, man. Congrats!

Meka said...

Beautiful illustrations, good post!

Brea said...

Your artwork is sooooo amazing!

ManNMotion said...

Keep it up, don't give up on your destiny, it's calling you WAY too hard!

Rinda M. Byers said...

Yes, enjoyed looking at the photos of your illustrations VERY much indeed, Don. A lot of loving humor in them...very nice.

I was puzzled by the tag thing mean they have to write a lot more stuff on their blogs now? Or more than they were?

Jdid said...

mother in law asking for your blog address. oh oh, thats not good.

wow i like your tagged report. you're an inspiration with the art and the publishing.