Hip to be Square


Let me tell you a story. . .

The other day I was killing time at a discount bookstore by browsing through titles and sifting through stacks of Readers Digest. Popular Mechanics, Time, etc. I came upon a good art book, one that needed opening not just beyond the introduction page. Needless to say, book hunters are often nice quiet people, those that usually are polite and give way to others who might want to reach a well placed copy underneath a huge stack. People who exclaim in muted ahhs and oohs as they caress lovingly a long sought after book or publication.

But not on this day.Today, I’m forced to play nice to a young woman on wedgies, shawl and fake tattered jeans.

I say forced, because, right after seeing me open the coffee table book (it was a coffee table book) she came right over and asked to see if the artwork inside are good. I told her yes they are, and added it’s something Norman Rockwell might have done, or a student of Rockwell art. Quickly, this young woman, as I have surmised, may have been enrolled at some point or another, in the arts, started expertly dissecting what seemed like textbook definitions and  boy she did sound like she knows what she’s talking about. She even pointed out the best pencils and coloring pens, how she buys her materials from Powerbooks and not NBS because NBS is so “masa”.

So I, still civilized and semi-educated, listened and waited for my cue to jump in the conversation anytime soon.

Out of curiosity, she asked me what I do, and I told her that I am looking to start my own art studio of sorts. The lady dropped her several copies of Cosmopolitan on the middle bin and showed me a rather expensive looking sketch book with an inlaid title on the leather cover “sketchbook” in silver leaf.

She showed me her doodles.

Hearing her talk, she could be an expert. Seeing her doodles, well…

Let’s just say, her work is something anybody could have done, when they were in fourth grade. She’s no different from those people who think doodling deserve an organmization and a t-shirt, and a page on Facebook.

She asked me if I have some of my work with me. I was embarassed to embarass this young woman but it would be wrong to decline, so I showed her my large portfolio which I had scanned hours before. I saw her jaw drop. but for for a moment got her mojo back and commented that I need to add more texture, but otherwise my work was, as she said, wonderful, as her cheeks turn a little crimson.

I left the discount book store with the young woman fussing about her shawl while pretending to look at novels when all she had in her hands were just women’s magazines.

I love these hipsters. They can tell themselves a lie that thay are artistic, and believe it. And they playout the part by wearing what internet calls bohemian look, or artist fashion, and buy expensive drawing materials so they can flaunt them while sipping overpriced coffee and leaching wifi somewhere. At least it’s how I visualize them.

I got home with barely enough money for the next day’s expenses.

Go And Tell Yourselves That

First of all, things would not have come to this sort of venting online if anyone of you in the high management had learned to talk. Well, of course you talk a lot, just not the words people need to hear. Want and need has very different meanings, I assumed since you are in the industry of publishing books.

Not just books, mind you, but values books. Literature that is aimed specifically at teaching children the meaning of the word, nestled neatly among others such as honor, understanding, humility, rationality, spirituality and being assertive. All of which are very commendable indeed.

Oh, the pep speeches were even better, how you won’t stand for mediocrity, how you expect people to share the same enthusiasm as you have shown. How “we are all family inside the office” really can get that “one-for-the-team” spirit roaring to get things done.

The issue is not the money, if it was, I could have asked for a bigger pay, very much like , my previous work, but you told me  you are a startup company, and I love underdogs. I love drawing. I love illustration. I brought my own laptop because the office has a shortage of computers to work on. The promised light box was not built so I made makeshift light boxes out of cardboard and glass to save the company on expenses. heck i even volunteered to do your AVP and training module videos, if you people had only taken the time to appreciate the fact that most of these things that I have done and offer are mostly premium services that would cost an arm and a leg. But I love underdogs, and I believed everything  you said. And often I put my work at the forefront, cancelling my trip home to the countryside just to troubleshoot problem spots in production. I thought If I take care of this, the work will take care of my family.

Or so I thought, darn gullible me.

They look professional enough though. Even won an award for these values books. Tall talkers and big spenders when it comes to dining clients and book launchings. Even provides food for employees.

But the delays and the seemingly inconsiderate manner you have treated people is what’s bothering me.  If salaries are to be delayed, would the rational, decent thing to do is to tell the employees that it will be? No, we waited and waited  only to be told “today is not payday, maybe tomorrow, okay?” . And the only time we spoke of any contract was during my interview. Up until the last day I finally got fed up, no one came to me, no sms, no email was sent informing me of my contract. The accounting is so lousy, I cringe every time the pay gets there on time, and errors are evident.

I was fool enough accepting that last folder of illustration as freelance. Again, I thought, well why not? But you evade the issue of that signed NDA copies that never came my way.  The late issuing of the folder was a red flag I dismissed. Until I finished the whole project and like a broken record – no one is asking me that the balance is ready if I’m finished with the drawings. Because that was the agreement.

I keep repeating  I need the copy of the NDA I signed, but if fell on deaf ears. I numerous times asked for a re-accounting of my salary when I was still a regular employee without a contract. Before hand I even moved from Novaliches, from which I was beginning to love, and found a  vacant room for rent here in Mandaluyong , so that I can be at work quickly.

Well, I swallowed my pride recently, because I left friends in your office that was tied to that balance payment. I had to accept it without the NDA I was asking for, so that the guys can make do of the unpaid debts.

and the most bothersome is the late reply, after all the emails and text I’ve sent, which I never forget to mention I need that copy of the NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT I signed days before I even managed to remind them that I haven’t received the stories to be illustrated, this letter I got was so pissed off at letting down my conviction of not accepting the balance payment without the NDA, because my friends are in financial trouble, same as me. The letter was so . . .condescending, that I feel I need to include it here:


Again, that NDA issue was evaded, very cunningly, although I have been mentioning it. You probably know by now, since I sound like a broken record already.

How can you teach values, when valuable people get undervalued by your mismanagement? Writers got tired of it all much earlier. Some are staying for fear of not finding another job. Those computers never got bought, even though it was badly needed. And worst of all, you don’t have a Creative Director, nor a direction. You just hired a semi-creative wannabe as an editor, who if you have half the brain to discern, has taken production way back there since he came in. face it, you don’t have a system, and when artists get angry, you blame him for being unreasonable.

It’s your problem now. Good luck with the rest of the illustrations and writing you need for it. I’m tired of gritting my teeth. I blame myself for getting sucked in to your idea of production.

Looking In

The Outcast Outsider

Nowadays, it’s rush up and finish what I have on my work table so I can jump to the next project that comes along.

Most of the time, it’s a waiting game of sorts.  Most of the people I deal with on my freelance gigs tend to act like they couldn’t be bothered, yet, they take up much of my time when it comes to negotiating with my skills for their project.

Illustration jobs for books tend to be somewhat shady. Lot’s of grays. My idea of  sourcing out your illustration needs is this: it’s either you have a Creative Director and list down instructions for the illustrations you require – point by point, angles, number of characters , etc – or you could give me the script and let me draw them how I understand the story. When you give me a script it is bound to be an artist’s interpretation, not someone else’s idea of how the drawing should be.

And most of the time I followed this line of thinking, it worked.

Now I’m holding onto some scripts with the illustrations done with and inked. Sure I got my down payment. Had to make sure this project doesn’t end up like what most freelance jobs I did – botched payments, rates scaled way down, and worse, some are still unpaid. The last I heard from this project was “OK”.

Which is not okay really, because with my experience with this publishing, there are gray areas that need to be addressed.  So I finished this stack. And I wait for someone to inform or ask me when can I submit the finished illustrations.

No calls.

No emails.

No text.

Last Sunday I sent sms telling them that I’m done, which is really a dead giveaway that they have to prepare the balance for this particular gig.

And all I got was “OK”.

Like I said, lots of grays.

That was last Sunday. Monday came and went – no calls.

You’d think accepting jobs for a publishing firm will give you black and whites.

So this morning I missed a call. And the reason was, I was in transit and I was informed, that someone in management wants to “talk” to me.


They know I finished the job already. An email would have sufficed since I scrimp and save just so I can keep myself online. Asked them to call me in the afternoon, but, and I hate to repeat myself, they act like they couldn’t be bothered. If someone wants to “talk” to me, only means they want to negotiate something.

Values books.

How can they teach values if they don’t even value the skills and talent of writers and artists? Those in their employ are dwindling in numbers. I only accepted this freelance job because the old lady is nice enough, but to have cut the rate down, and now  I’m skeptical about the balance, it’s just so insensitive of them to think they can just call me in the middle of something and drop everything so that they can “negotiate” the terms again.

Feels like a commuter patiently waiting in line at an MRT station, for a train to come, only to be told that there are no more trains.

I find ways to do a project, even take the necessary measures to finish early. But to have this one done and not getting any calls for balance payments, whew, I have got to get me some new projects.

I don’t have to go and tell them what I think.

But I think I’ll hold on these illustrations for the meantime.