Those of you who know me are well aware of the fact that there was never a Marc Ericksen style. I was wildly all over the map when it came to accepting commissions. Beyond that I worked in every medium and with every agency and design firm creating illustrations for any and all applications: complex cutaways, and technical art for tech companies. I was commissioned to do Video Game cover art for 30 different companies, and Toy Packaging for 6 different major companies, including Marvel and Tyco Toys.
Marc Ericksen: The 8 Bit Artist | Presented by Chex Quest
There was advertising art in pen and ink, acrylics, gouache, oils, brush, airbrush, pencil, markers, watercolors, dyes – – you name it. Storyboards, comprehensive sketches, brochures, logos, and prints, editorial art for magazines and book covers and major newspapers.
My career covered 40 years, from my days as a student at Art Center in L.A. (where I needed to freelance storyboarding at agencies while a student to supplement my meagre GI Bill funding.)
All that said, you might think problems with one illustration would not stand out. You would be wrong.
As much as I loved every moment of my career, and nearly every client, I would like to tell you the story which was the single worst experience I ever had as an illustrator. As far as I can remember it occurred around mid-career. I cannot say clearly because I looked without success for days for any residual information, but I would guess: 1995 or so.
I was contacted by Letraset to do an illustration that they wanted for the cover of that years’ catalogue of all categories of the products offered by the corporation. I of course was familiar with the company, as I had used their numerous products in various ways since art school. In a face to face meeting with their advertising team, we conferred over their wish for an illustration that was exciting and perhaps in the vein of a number of my video game pieces. They also requested that their products not appear. It was a terrific opportunity because the client was releasing me from the need to clutter the composition with devices. As we continued conversing, I was sketching ideas and came up with a sketch of a robot hand sweeping across background of stellar space in close proximity, and on each fingertip of the robo-hand there would be the form of an individual tool that referred contextually to the various Letraset basic departments. The tips would be in the forms of an exacto-style blade, a rOtring style inking nib, a paint brush, an AD marker nib, and the business end of a rub-down tool.
They loved the concept and I was excited to get started. The budget covered execution and buyout for $2,500.
The process I used was to mount (with two sided tape) a cold press 20” X 30“ illustration board (work side up) to a slightly larger foam core rigid board. I placed a light acrylic sheet and its attendant (very light). Then, in the form of a large flat book, I attached a foam core rigid cover board over the illustration board. I did this to all of my airbrush pieces.
A day later, I had carefully drawn the graphite illustration and attached it over a large piece of frisket which covered the entire surface. Then I carefully cut the entire drawing into the frisket. Finally, I spent the next few days airbrushing each delicate frisketed area. Then a day of removing all of the frisket and cleaning up edges. And the day following, meticulously painting edges and spots that could be considered rough.
Ready to deliver the illustration, I called the client. On the planned day, I showed them the art. My routine in delivering art was to place the art on a table before the clients, and first to lift the top foam core cover, then, to lift the the clear acrlylique flap, allowing the art to be seen for a moment through the tissue sheet, The art was greatly enhanced by lifting the final tissue sheet.
The client loved everything about the piece! They were ecstatic. I was very pleased, and they loved every aspect. When I left the meeting I was walking on air.
Two days later I received a call from the group. In our conversation they were very clear on how great they felt the art was for their applications… they simply wanted to confirm that I had used the corporation’s own Letra Max illustration board. The blood drained from my face… Hadn’t I? Certainly I must have done…. Asking for a bit of time to look through my supplies, I came upon the box from which I had drawn the illustration board…It was Crescnt Board!!
My only course was to own up to my error, which I did in my call that day. The client asked for a day to consider our plight. Next day’s call was as I suspected. The team was not angry, explaining two aspects: they reiterated their love of the art, – – but clearly, if leaked, that their illustrator had preferred Crescent board – – it would be catastrophic!
I assured them that I had always used both Letra Max as well as Crescent, usually buying in bulk boxes…but I knew I was doomed. I prepared to return the fee.
They called me a week later, asking if I could paint the piece again, and they were willing to pay $2,500 a second time, due to their feeling that they had had a responsibility to make clear to me that LetraMax be used, and that they had, in fact, stated that their tools were not desired in the illustration. I felt their kind offer required my acceptance. I felt they were being more than generous.
The result was my requirement to repaint this illustration, which was a thing I had never ever done, The next week was agony. Despite my frustration, I had to insure the art was (if possible) even better than the last. I couldn’t cut any corners and it was a week of frustration for which I could only blame myself. I was so frustrated with myself, I didn’t eat or sleep until it was finished. The art began as one of my favorites – – – and then began to feel like a bone stuck in my throat.
LetraMax proved themselves to be a fair and conscientious client, but I swore to be more aware, hopefully never to have to ever repeat having to do a repeat piece again.
I do not recommend it.