posted: December 13, 2006
Just wanted to share this image I completed a few moments ago. I actually assigned this to myself from the kid's magazine I design. I figured if no one wants to hire me, then I'll hire myself.

I know many of you here are established illustrators that get work. I, however don't. I've taken great efforts to get work... but nothing is happening. I bought an expensive page in Directory of Illustration and got zip. I sent out hundreds of postcards, nothing. I've got a rep and the last thing she sent me was back in August and after she takes her cut, it's almost not worth it.

Once in a while I get an email from an AD that says they really like my work and want to use me, but they never send anything. I'm curious. When did most of you consistently have jobs coming in and building up your client base? I started really focusing on my illustration career almost 3 years ago. Granted, my style has evolved quite a bit since then, but shouldn't I start getting work after 3 years?
David Flaherty December 13, 2006
Brandon, I think you should be getting lots of work if you directed it to the right markets. That's how it seems to me. Laura? Tween??
Linzie Hunter December 13, 2006
Agreed, on the kids and tween front... also womens/parenting mags too.
Bob Staake December 13, 2006
the kid magazine market has changed considerably in recent years, but i used to do TONS of that stuff (and made enough to buy a vacation home on cape cod, thank you). media consolidation really reduced the number kid venues, but they too are part of cyclical swing within the market. be persistent in your promotions to these markets, try and infuse a little more "edge" into your kid-friendly aesthetic, and you'll find success within this niche. don't confuse kid magazines with picture books though -- or kid literature in general -- two completely different beasts. terrific piece, brandon! (from your biggest fan), bs
Noah Jones December 13, 2006
Brandon, Your work is awesome. Really. This illustration in particular is so nice. The hardest (but also one of the most important) part of getting freelance work is developing and maintaining personal relationships with ADs/producers and whatnot. Keep at it. Use the high quality of your work to get your foot in the door, but then nurture those connections and I'm certain work will start coming your way.
J.D. King December 13, 2006
Your work is WONDERFUL! Hang in there! Target your mailers, as they've suggested. Things do seem to be coming back. You entered the field at an awful time, the worst time ever. It's not your fault. Your work is terrific!
Robert Hunt December 13, 2006
Brandon, you really need to focus your efforts on finding those people who use work in your genre, then offer them an alternative to what they are already using. As a parent, I feel like your work would really resonate well with kids. Bob's comment about having a little more edge is a really good point, just please don't interpret "edge" as meaning that you should change your work to look like the opening credits to the movie "se7ven"- but just so that you provide a clear alternative for these publishers to consider. These comments are coming from a fan who wants to see your work reach a wide audience.
Brandon December 13, 2006
Thanks everyone for all of your encouraging comments (and emails). I debated about posting after I wrote it. I didn't want to sound like a whiney baby but in the end I figured this is a venue to share with your peers. Good and bad. Whenever the good happens, you'll be the first to know :)
Scott Bakal December 13, 2006
Hey Brandon: You have some great stuff there and on your web site. I wouldn't worry about it too much. It'll take time and everything that people have written above is right on.
Brandon Reese December 13, 2006
oh, and some really wonderful suggestions too! You guys are the best. Thanks.
David Flaherty December 13, 2006
Brandon, it's easy to post here when one's completed a plumb job. It's very hard to say you are in a place you don't want to be in. The payoff is you already have some great ideas from some top people. Find mentors in your field who work in markets you want to work in. Do what they do, (within reason).
Edel Rodriguez December 13, 2006
Brandon, I've really liked your work since you got on here. Fresh and original. I pretty much just assumed you were off making crazy toys, banking cash, and hanging with Jay-Z and the crew. I checked out your site and the best suggestion I have is to organize your different subjects into categories. You have softer, more kid book and kid friendly stuff, some more haunting type work, and also some really cool and very graphic things. Those should be separate I think so that an A.D. has a better idea of the things you offer. I'll keep an eye out for something you'd be good for. Get in touch if you want some contact info for other A.D.'s in my office, I think they'd like your work.
Edel Rodriguez December 13, 2006
Oh, and yes, it took me a few years to get assignments. The best thing you can do is continue harrassing anyone that has ever showed ANY interest in your work. Send them e-mail updates and samples, don't rely on your rep, you have to do things yourself. I've never had a rep.
John Dykes December 13, 2006
I agree with Heidi - If you can create and promote some b&w pieces, it might be a big help. Perhaps a series on one subject... give yourself a deadline and try for a quicker turnaround rather then a longer one. One way of finding subject matter is looking at what is out there - in bookstores, etc. Keep the radar focused on where your work should be, or how you might do it better.... Treat the contacts you have like gold! Especially any art director that has expressed any interest. Then keep mailing samples to them regularly. You can print out your new samples on nice paper and cut it in thirds - getting 3 'mailers' out of one sheet, then do a tri-fold.... (accordian) (small envelope). If you sent samples regularly - (every 2 months?) to a list of 50, or 100, or hopefully more, something WILL come of it. It is a lot of effort, but worth it. And the samples can be very simple.... Your work is fabulous! I especially like the header piece you have.
Harry Campbell December 13, 2006
Brandon, This is a great piece, love that pose on the boy. Marketing is tough. I once spent around $20000.00 dollars on marketing in Workbook in one year, their main book and specialty books. Know what I saw in return (0) That was a turning point for me. I'm with Bob, used to do quite a bit of work for Disney Adventures, Nick, Scholastic etc. The market has changed and I think that's what sort of killed me in my previous life. It's all about return clients, get a couple good ones and build on that. I used to do a lot of text book work, it wasn't a bad experience, lower pay, work for hire, but it put bread on the table. Bob is right, you work is really proficient and nice but there may be just a little something else you can do. My more humorous art was a little edgy, a little off, That's the kind of thing Nick and Disney liked. Also, I worked in NY as a hack designer at apparel companies before I started making a living as an illustrator, course those hack jobs led to better jobs at Nick and Warner Bros. Just an example, that sometimes you need to do something else. I drew Mickey Mouse for pajama sets to be sold at K-mart, 43rd floor of Empire state building though, good view and I could draw micky like crazy. I must be on speed tonight. Keep your debt to a minimum! and keep on truckin'
Harry Campbell December 13, 2006
Second thought, checked out more of your stuff. Looks perfectly marketable and definetely can see it in children's books. Problem with childrens books is you need to get past the slush pile.
Leo Espinosa December 14, 2006
I just looked at your site for the first time and found great pieces there. (trunk wrestling rules!) Woman thinking donuts and Zen Santa don't really add anything to the mix and distract you from doing your stuff right. So no need to put those in your book. Any chance the viewer could have a couple of next/previous buttons? Opening one image at the time is kind of a pain. I see your work being good for licensing but trust me it takes a lot of time and dough to start and to remain alive. I would keep pushing with the tweens/teen girls market because that's your strongest work. (those kind of melancholy kids with scarfs are very marketable). Maybe doing some limited edition prints, or hooking up with a t-shirt manufacturer. Where do you wanna be? I see beautiful diaries and stationary for teens. There's a nitch out there for you, man. Don't give up. I'll pass along your info if I meet the right cat for you.
rag December 14, 2006
Good post Brandon. I agree with everyones high opinion of your work. That is not the problem. The fact is that you, a lot of other illustrators, and I are facing an extremely competitive and saturated market. There are more highly proficient illustrators (now globally competitive) going after a market that has fewer corporate players and a online market that is leaching big bucks from the print market. Supply is great and demand is even and/or declining. The challenge for us is to seek out and create new markets for our work. The markets for licensing ones images are in very good shape. The cell phone markets are in their infancy. Creating your own children's book and graphic novels are a way to establish a unique niche (ask Staake). The fine art world and illustration are merging. And any other niche in the world you can think of is fair game. If you double your efforts to diversify and keep pressure on the marketplace, you should see success. Its very hard but very rewarding. And hopefully, a little luck will help.
Zina Saunders December 14, 2006
I just looked at your site, too, and I think you have a lot of terrific work there. I especially love the Yeti one! I think the suggestions to target your marekt and to organize your site into themes are really good ones, too. Keep the faith, Brandon! You will triumph!
Brandon December 14, 2006
Thanks again everybody for the thoughtful, insightful comments. It helps very much.
Adam McCauley December 14, 2006
Brandon, hang in there. Your stuff looks really great, it's only a matter of time before some good regular work comes in for you.
laura December 14, 2006
hey brandon, i'm coming to all these threads too late... great advice all around. you've got great work and the mix of digital/texture stuff you've got going is very popular. i'd def target the kids and parenting and teen magazines- try cricket, they're pretty cool. animals are great for kids magazines stuff. education would be a good market for you... also, have you considered doing some pro bono work for a charity? they're usually happy for the free art, and it gets lots of press and exposure, and it's a cool name for your client list. regarding your rep, i'd go ahead and sit down and have a serious chat with her regarding your partnership... might be time to re-focus or move on and pursue another rep, if you want one. one last thing, putting your images in categories on your site might be helpful for clients looking at your stuff- kids, tweens, animals, etc. quick browsing = happy websurfer :)
David Gothard December 15, 2006
Everybody - check out Brandon's dead santa in my holiday card show here at drawgtown. It rocks!!! It's a long, hard haul, Brandon, and sometimes it doesn't feel worth it. Trust me, it is. Keep producing the good distinctive work that you do and time will honor you with a steady flow of work. DG