In November, I was approached online about a potential art commission by a lovely woman named Rachel Uviktig. She was looking to have me design artwork for a tattoo. I don’t advertise this type of work, so it’s a pleasant surprise when a virtual stranger reaches out and says, ‘hey, I want your drawings on my body.’
I met Rachel the previous month on The American Wake Tour. There, she asked me to doodle on her arms, arms that were already well-inked with tats. It’s hard to say no to a woman with rolled-up sleeves, so I grabbed a pen, found an available patch of skin canvass, and doodled away.
The arm scribbles were fun, but nothing to make permanent. I learned the hard way that fans will sometimes get random squiggles and jots inked without warning. I don’t mind this, but I prefer to be prompted about tattoo gun intentions so that I can grab a decent pen, and at least try to make the lines pretty.
Considering the above, when Rachel asked me to doodle on her arms, I asked all of the pertinent questions—how many walkers have you killed?, etc.—but she assured me that the exercise was just for fun. She did, however, say that she might reach out at some point in the future about a tattoo commission, and there you have it.
It’s been many years since I’ve worked as an illustrator. I began my career drawing and still sketch somewhat regularly, but usually it’s for my own projects. In these instances, I’m not in a position where I need to please a client, so it’s a very different beast.
I used to draw for animation studios and pretty much anyone who was willing to help keep my then starving artist existence just a little less starved, but I’ve since switched from being a hired pencil to more of a full-time writer and performer.
Art is such a subjective field that there’s always a degree of anxiety when it comes to interpreting a client’s wants. I don’t miss those days of being a young storyboard artist and sitting in a room with a scatterbrained director and trying to decipher his or her vision, knowing that if I got it wrong, it would be hours—and often weeks—of additional work for me. And these lengthy revisions where usually unpaid.
I’ve matured a lot as an artist since those fledgling days as an illustrator, but I still feel a slight pang of worry whenever I present a finished piece to a client, or the the world, as well as when I take on a new gig. This worry stems from good place—a desire to please—but can be nerve-racking nonetheless. Even when working with friends.
When Saar and I needed some stop motion animation for an American Murder Song video, we reached out to our friend Harry Chaskin. Harry’s an award-winning director and animator who’s directorial work can currently be seen on the Netflix animated series Buddy Thunderstruck.
Harry agreed to help us with American Murder Song if I in turn would draw and ink a chapter of a graphic novel that he’s producing called The Happiest Place. It’s about an undercover theme park detective who’s embroiled in a web of cartoon corruption. I haven’t yet seen the completed work, but I’m happy with the way my contribution turned out. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the panel art.
On American Murder Song, Saar and I were able to collaborate with another established animator, veteran Disney artist James Lopez. James agreed to generate some brief cycle animation of Mary’s shadow dog breathing and snarling for our Six-Mile Inn music video. He just asked that I provide a template of what said dog should look like. No pressure, right?
American Murder Song has afforded me the opportunity to draw in some new styles as well, including illustrations for a nineteenth century deck of “killer” playing cards, which is available on our online store.
We’re tackling the Donner Party with the next phase of American Murder Song and there is going to be a hand-drawn component to some of it that I think you’re going to enjoy. Be sure to follow all of American Murder Song‘s socials to stay in the loop. We definitely have some exciting murder-nouncements coming down the pike, so stay tuned!
Speaking of news, I’m excited to announce that in June I’ll be a featured guest at Sinister Creature Con in Stockton, California. If you’re going to be in NorCal the weekend of the 10th, please come by and say hi. I’ll be at a table all weekend.
Back to the subject of permanent drawings, I’m happy to share that Rachel’s tattoo art turned out well. She asked me to draw a heart that was infested with cockroaches, and the more blood the better. Since these crawly and gory ingredients are already fixtures on the TZ menu, I figured it’d be hard to screw this one up. Thankfully, Rachel seems pleased with the finished work, and I look forward to seeing photos of the final tattoo’d piece.
On the subject of artwork, I could use some help from you, dear reader. I’m thinking of bringing some original art with me to Sinister Creature Con in June. If you were to visit my table, what would you want to see? Are there any works from the TZ collection that you’d like to own? It’s a pain in the ass to drag big and fragile items to conventions, but I want to offer something more this go around than just autographed 8” x 10”s. I’ll have those too, but what else would you like to see at my signing table?
Please share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.