The Teacher is The Client

Tue 9/19/2006

I had this epiphany in class the other day. Almost every one of my teachers this semester at some point has emphasized that we are in "advanced" classes now. And across the board, they seem to define that status by two factors: 1) We no longer have to paint or draw exactly what they tell us to, we are supposed to let our own "style" come through and take shape with each of the assignments and 2) We need to start thinking like professionals, not students, because soon, that's what we'll be!

But I have found in a lot of my classes that the teacher just wants you to draw or paint something the way THEY would do it. Which can be really frustrating. You get started on a piece, you have a clear idea of what you are doing and how you want to accomplish it. Then the teacher comes over and says, "Why don't you try painting this section BLUE" (or whatever) when you really don't want to. And they're not really asking, they're TELLING you.

This situation comes up a lot. More than you'd think. And up until now I have taken a mental stance of "Well, I'm in school, and this person knows more than me, so I should at least try what they are saying so that I can learn from their experience." But even with this outlook it's easy to get grumpy and then end up with a piece that you don't like "because of that one BLUE section!" (Grrrrrrrrr...)

But in some of my classes we are talking a lot about what it's like to be a professional illustrator, and how you constantly have to deal with The Client who will change their mind or ask you to tweak your art after it's done, etc. etc. And so then it hit me!

In school, the teacher is The Client

Coming up with the ideas and thumbnails is all my own process (my favorite part) and no matter how I draw or paint it, it will inherently look like "my" style because I created it! So really, why split hairs over little things? Instead of begrudgingly doing what the teacher says, but still harboring resentment that I didn't get to do it "my way," my mental attitude has now totally changed. "You want that blue? Fine! It's your piece that you have 'hired' me to draw for you."

Granted, I don't want my illustrations to SUCK, and if I have a real problem with a suggestion I speak my mind, but practicing my skills of patience, accommodation and compromise will probably serve me better in the long run than getting pouty.

Sorry to get all "DEEP" about illustration and its inner workings, but sometimes I need to remind myself that I'm trying to do this as a professional thing, as a way to support myself. COMICS will always be mine. My secret creative place where no one can tell me what to draw. And as long as I have that, I'll draw whatever The Client wants!

8 comments on this entry

So very true- and this is a really hard thing to actually do. It's so much easier to accomodate someone when they're paying you to work, instead of you paying them to do your work. But what you say is exectly the right attitude to take in school, ESPECIALLY in regards to illustrations.

Matt Sep20

Hmmm . . . as a teacher (granted NOT in art school) I wonder if I'm so demanding of my students. Maybe they'd rather turn in their lab reports in different formats and I'm stifling their creativity. Damn!

Tom Sep20

I think you hit the nail on the head Alec. The single most difficult thing about being an illustrator is accomodating a client's odd request when it really doesn't fit into your vision of the final. I can't tell you how many times I've had to put in that "blue" that I didn't really want in there. The digital age has made this type of occurance even more frequent, because the client/AD knows you can change things quickly and more easily. I think you've got a good attitude about it though. Learning how to deal with that type of request in school will probably not lessen the pain of when you have to do it on the job, but it will prepare you more for it- for sure. COMICS is the anwer.

Cam Sep21

"I'd like to do an interpretive dance regarding hydrogen bonds in food-grade petrochemical manufacture."

Matt Sep21

I think that you can approach this in another way, too: that of the SELL. Your "client" is always subject to persuasion, and often in the commercial world the more persuasive designers (I just work with designers, not illustrators) who have a strong logic for their composition, colors or visual organization will be accepted by the client. You can spin anything any way you want, or convince anyone of anything. Some designers refuse projects because it utterly conflicts with the standards they have for their own work. IMHO, I say, don't give them what they want, but persuade them to see your side. If you have strong opinions and stick to them, that will make you unique, and "specialized" in the market, which in turn makes one more marketable.

jqln Sep22

sigh, an addendum - what others in "positions of power" have to offer are suggestions, and they should always be taken with a grain of salt. if they are helpful, and it seems like a good idea, then you should take. but if there is some bias that you don't agree with, then don't do it! everyone is entitled to their own opinions (substantiated with "logic"), and i personally think you should stick with your own ideas.

jqln Sep22

That's esaily done with teachers. There's no consequence to not taking a suggestion, unless they're big assholes, and even then, there's not really going to be any actual career damage.

However, taking the same tactic with an actual client, especially a big one, could a great way to be effectively blacklisted by everyone that client knows. Which, if it were, say, the NYT, who are famous for their rediculous deadlines and finnicky art direction, could be really damaging indeed.

I don't want to put words in Alec's mouth, but the way I read it is that he's taking a "practice client" approach to teacher advice he might mildly disagree with, rather that saying he's just going to lube up and take it hard from any moron with an opinion.

Although the latter would, in fact, be even BETTER preparation for the professional illustration world.

Matt Sep22

Oops! I thought my role was the art director... did I play the client!? I get mixed up sometime. hehe

Great postcards... hmmm...they look so familiar.

yumi Sep28

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