Art & Design Magazine

Commercial Caricature Commission---a Tale the Working Process

By Karl @cartoonistdiary
Commercial Caricature Commission---a tale the working processIts very rare that I get asked to produce commercial caricatures.Normally I produce the birthday, anniversary, wedding and Christmas gift ideas; and I'm happy to do so.
But every now and then, I do get approached either directly by a commercial client or via a PR company or designer.
In this case a PR company had been tasked with the job of producing an annual report for a management company and making it look fun.
Now management is one dry area by definition, but add to that the fact that they were all accountants and financial advisers, and therefore see a sense humor as an affliction of which they are immune. So what must've seemed like forever and a day of brain storming, trying to extract a joke out of counting beads, Pythagoras or double entry book keeping, and after about the 5,000th cup of coffee the PR people must've thrown their collective arms up in despair and called in the only nutcases on the planet capable of finding humor in an accountant. They called in the Cartoonist (Que the theme tune to the A-Team).
So I took the call, read the brief, studied the subjects, realised they were all money people---not known for their hi jinx and general wacky personalities---and began to come out in hot sweats and palpitations. I immediately began to make excuses why I couldn't do it; at one point I even produced a fake note from my mother excusing me from caricature duties.
But the PR people were having none of it. They saw a way out and with their knuckles white with determination not to let me go, they pushed on.
They told me that they would be supplying the script. They had given up on humor as, it would appear, had their clients. So they had written what the clients had thought hysterical, and all I had to do was lay out the artwork. I sighed greatly at this encouraging news; when clients write the script for you then that is at least one thing they can't complain about, but still I wasn't completely taken in. I asked if I would have full artistic say on layout decisions. Yes they said. You are of course the professional whose advice we seek.
I ticked that one off. We discussed budget and they assured me that that was covered and dangled a juicy check in front of me. I salivated and accepted the job like the cartoon tart I am.
Once I had agreed, and they had finished fist pumping the air in silent elation, they proceeded to tell me what the client wanted; I produced the rough caricature layouts and the PR company sent these off to the clients.
After a few days I became acutely aware that something big was about to happen. Was it the darkening of the sky's? Was it the baromatic change in air pressure or was in the sound of a computer groaning as something exceedingly large was attempting to arrive via its back portal? The Accountants, it would appear, had written back.
Commercial Caricature Commission---a tale the working processThe accompanying cover note---from the PR company---stated that within the attached file were a pointers from the client. I knew things didn't bode well when I had to enlist the services of an e-forklift truck to extract this monolithic 400GB tome; in all honesty if I had printed it off it would've put the entire set of Game of Thrones to shame.
When I pointed out about the artistic direction agreement we had made and how I would have final say, they came out with the usual 'Ah if it was only up to us we would green light it right away'.
Don't get me wrong, I fully understand that a client may want a few important changes made, that's why we submit roughs. But I also expect the PR company to let the client know what is a reasonable demand and an unreasonable demand. Changing the hair color to a lighter shade of blond is acceptable. Making them a little taller would've been a reasonable amendment, but turning a little overweight, be-speckled, snotty faced accountant into Brad Pitt was not.
Anyway we too'd and froo'd with memo after memo and whittled down their requests into something more like Lord of the Rings and I proceeded to produce the page roughs. Now here I felt I was on more solid ground. Here, I felt, the PR company would say to the client 'Look this guy has been producing comic pages for a long time and has worked with some very big names in the business. You don't need to pick or interfere, he has this under control'
That's what they should've said. What ever they did say had nothing to do with that because back came what can only be described as the Encyclopaedia Britannica of emails. These jolly little accountants and management demagogues decided that fiddling figures was no longer enough for them. They had decided, between waking up in their stockbroker belt houses that morning and seeing my layouts, that they were now eminently qualified cartoonists.
A few more emails whizzed and fizz-banged around the Internets' ether and a few choice words and hard decisions were made. Eventually and within budget---their budget because no way was the money they coughed up ever going to pay for the constant re-draws, nit-picking, unreasonable demands and endless minor changes that they wanted, ever going to pay for the time I wasted placating them---but the cartoon was eventually completed and emailed over.
I have no idea what their clients made of the finished job, all I know is that although their budget was on target, mine was way under the hours worked in relation to the price paid.
But then we don't draw cartoons to make money. No cartoonist EVER draws to make money. We start out with that plan but somehow the client and their endless meddling and pointless changes soon scuppers that dream.
Anyway. Having heard me describe some of the pain barriers I hit, here the finished page.
Enjoy...some one's got to.
Commercial Caricature Commission---a tale the working process
On Friday we have part II of the Brabbles & Boggitt story that I'm submitting to publishers, comic European Bande Dessinee publishers. Next Wednesday I'll be showing you some pages from a new comic I've been asked to create characters for. So please come back for more of the same.
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