What Analog Artists Do When the Power Goes Out

I am an easy-going person and I get along with just about everyone, but occasionally I will run into someone who seems to feel that my face is a face born to slap. When I was younger it would cause me a lot of distress and it’s still not much fun at sixty, but the most stressful aspect did not know what the cause of this rancor was…then one day the last Lego snapped into place.


There are a lot of frustrated artists in the world, people who would like to be creative but lack the skill to do so. There are also people with talent that would like to be working with that talent full-time, but can’t quite make the jump to freelancing. In either case soon after they learn I am a freelancer illustrator I start getting red faces, clipped word and baleful stares aimed in my direction.

Unfortunately on one occasion I had one of these people as a client.  The minute I walked through the door the drive-by sarcastic quips started up, beginning with the “Computers are putting guys like you out of a job” and ended with the usual stale “you want fries with that” jokes shouted out the door as I walked out to my car. I wasn’t in much of a mood for the comments but when I did the math it turned out to be a very cushy assignment. The company made custom campers and trailers for the telephone and cable industry and they needed a dozen line drawings of their product. Between the great shot reference photos I shot in their yard and the fact that I can render hardware in my sleep it was going to work out into one of the better dollar-per-hour rates I had ever made, so I sped home and got ready to start work…but the minute I sat down at my studio desk there was a knock at the door.

It was a representative from electric company; because they had to replace some aging transformers or framistats or whatever in the neighborhood they were going to shut the power off from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon for the rest of the week. I chuckled for a minute, then took my drawings to a desk in another room, pushed the desk close to a window for better lighting, then continued working.

On Thursday I called the client and made arrangements to meet. He had heard about the power outage in my neighborhood and was very brusque, telling me that he was a business man with deadlines to meet and he couldn’t be expected to “carry someone else’s load”–which I assumed meant he thought I was going to be asking for more time on the project. The other shoe hadn’t dropped yet–he had been so caught up in being caustic that it didn’t occur to him that I didn’t need a computer to do the work.

I wished I’d had the proverbial camera with me when I brought in all the drawings, complete and a day early. His expression telegraphed his internal reaction so obviously that all I could think was how quickly I could pay off school loans if I ever got in a card game with with this guy. As I turned the illustrations in and the check was being written his face never ceased its ballet of disappointed twitches and tics …though he did get in a parting shot by rejecting one of the pieces as something he supposedly had “never asked for” and docking me a hundred bucks.

I had my own dilemma to solve as well.  The adult in me was urging a kinder attitude, but the teenager in me was hopping up and down in a celebration of reverse-schadenfreude, ready to trade some extra time in spirit prison in exchange for watching that face-tango for another 10 minutes. Yes, computers are the future, but for now I’m happy drawing with my pencils and pens as an “analog” artist, whether the lights are on or off.