Keith Klein OFFICIALLY announces his retirement from the world of work-for-hire commercial art.
I began doing art for a living 32 years ago, in my bedroom at my parents house, when I was 16 years old. The first professional project I did was in 1985, creating a logo and catalog illustrations for a guy in California who had located the manufacturers of all the actual costume items worn by Indiana Jones in the first two Indy films (at the time, there were only two).
In exchange, I got Indiana Jones bullwhip and shoulder bag… the REAL ONES… both of which still hang on my wall, today. It was then I realized that I could get stuff (and make money) using my talents… and I haven’t looked back, since.
I won’t bore you with a litany of projects I’ve done over the years. That’s not the purpose of this post. I want to be real honest with you about the state of things today and where I see things going for those in the business of earning a living doing artwork for other people and their projects.
The truth is, IT SUCKS!
I’m not talking about the myriad of completed projects I’ve done, the home runs I’ve hit over the last three decades and the acclaim I’ve received. I’m talking about the current state of freelancing your services out to the general public and to corporations.
Never have I seen such a TOTAL DISREGARD FOR THE ARTS AND ARTISTS as exists, today.
It used to be that art directors and even the public, wanted to hire someone with the experience and skills necessary to give their project the best chance at being a visual success as they could find.
Nowadays, it’s the EXACT OPPOSITE!
And if the terrible jobs, terrible clients and shitty pay isn’t bad enough, there’s a total disregard for what it takes to be an artist, how much it costs to run one’s own business and keep going, so that there are artists available for shitty clients to hire.
Part of the blame (at least 50%) falls squarely on the heads of the artists, themselves.
You’ve allowed yourselves to be herded, like sheep, onto shitty sites like e-Lance and Behance and Fiver.
Instead of clients shopping for the best artist for the job, they are now engaged in a bidding war to see how far these artists will lower their prices to get work. That’s has always been and shall remain the wrong way to hire an artist.
On top of which, ladies and gentlemen, you can’t compete with people in India and the Philippines who are using pirated computer design software and can survive on $5 a week.
Artists, you’ve done this to yourselves and, in doing so, YOU’VE KILLED THE GOLDEN GOOSE.
There will be no going back to the way things were and the respect and dignity and money you WILLINGLY threw away, is GONE FOREVER.
Since moving to Cali, it has been a real roller coaster ride trying to get decent jobs that are worthy of my time and pay for my level of expertise. Honestly, I made more in my 20’s than I have since moving here, despite having 30 years experience and having touched nearly every market there is with my work. Cashiers at Target make more than I have, annually, since moving here. Seriously.
And the idiocy I’ve had to deal with from the ignorant public has really rubbed salt in the wound.
I could write an entire book full of the moronic phone calls I’ve received from potential clients the last 5 years and the utter ignorance of the arts and artists that people have demonstrated in that time.
I have rejected 90% of the jobs that have come my way because the person was either an idiot, their idea/project was terrible or the job didn’t pay well enough. Then there were the projects that fell into a sink hole mid-way through the work and went nowhere.
Working for corporations was it’s own set of headaches. Mainly, that there are always too many chefs in the kitchen vying for control of the stew, and to see their input made manifest, regardless of whether their ideas and input were going to ruin the project as a whole. They pay late and when you have to chase someone around for money, it makes you less interested in working with them, again.
BASICALLY, THE ENTIRE COMMERCIAL, WORK-FOR-HIRE, ART WORLD IS OVER... and this is me, sending flowers to it’s funeral.
The future for artists is not in doing work for others, but in finding your voice and doing your own thing.
That’s what I’m going to do.
I put everything I came here for on the back burner chasing after shitty jobs just to earn a living. It’s time to stop doing that COMPLETELY and just chase my own dreams; putting together a team, finding funding and either finding an outlet for Surfur Gurl or building one myself. Designing my own T-shirts. Illustrating and publishing my own kid’s books… and, my latest past-time, DJ-ing!
So, today, May 3rd, 2017, I am officially retired from commercial art.
May fortune favor the bold!